What is the Purpose of Organizing?
Sometimes tenants’ rights can be enforced through simple communication with a landlord or individually through legal action. Other times, it takes the action of an organized group of tenants to make their voices heard. When rental problems affect more than just one person’s unit, organizing may be the best method for solving the problem.
A group of tenants can collectively exert more pressure than an individual tenant can on his or her own. A group of tenants speaking with one voice is difficult to ignore. A landlord has more difficulty intimidating a group of tenants because the landlord cannot easily single people out. In subsidized housing and manufactured homes, formal tenant associations have stronger protections from landlord retaliation.
Chances are that if there is a problem a single tenant thinks is serious, others will share the same concern. The most common rental housing issues that HOME Line has worked with tenant groups to resolve include:
- Shared repair issues among neighbors.
- Emergency repairs or loss of essential services such as running water, hot water, electricity, or sanitary facilities.
- Loss of heat or inadequate heating.
- Utility shutoffs due to landlord nonpayment.
- Poor management, bad record-keeping, abusive or retaliatory behavior by management, and privacy violations.
- Possible loss of affordable housing.
- Tenants who successfully organize to address these issues in their buildings are often able to use their organization and experience to work as strong advocates to strengthen renters’ rights and provide more affordable housing on a local, state, and federal level.
Tenant Organizing is a powerful resource and activity that renters use to improve their housing situations. Whether it be in response to substandard living conditions, poor maintenance or management of rental properties, efforts by landlords to convert affordable subsidized apartments to higher market rates, or simply an interest among neighbors to build a stronger community, tenant organizing results in safer, more affordable, decent rental housing.
During the past decade, our organizing work has focused on the “preservation” issue. We have spearheaded efforts to organize tenants in more than 50 federally subsidized apartment complexes when the owners of this housing have announced plans to convert to market rents, threatening the displacement of the low income residents. Tenant leaders working with HOME Line and other state advocacy groups played a major role in securing major state appropriations for preservation in 1998.
We also work with residents of market-rate apartments, many of whom contact HOME Line’s tenant hotline for individual assistance. We have worked with tenant groups in numerous apartments across the state to address housing livability issues such as: utility shutoffs, landlord foreclosure, emergency repair issues, general repair issues, accessibility and elevator access, mismanagement and rent ledger issues, condo conversion, privacy violations, wrongful security deposit withholding, and many others.
If you are a renter and you have questions or concerns about your housing and how organizing can help you and your neighbors form a stronger community, please contact our lead organizer: Eric Hauge (612) 728-5770 @ x119
Current Organizing goals
- Continue organizing tenants in federally assisted (HUD and USDA Rural Development), privately owned housing where the owners are attempting to leave the subsidy program that keeps their housing affordable and work to play a meaningful role in the preservation process.
- Reach out to tenants in at-risk buildings and their communities before their housing is threatened with the loss of subsidy.
- Prevent cuts to the Section 8 Voucher Program by working with affected tenants, landlords, housing agencies and elected officials.
- Involve tenants in the statewide and federal policy discussions that affect their lives by strengthening tenant protections and increasing resources for affordable housing preservation and new development.
- Respond and react to emergency and collective rental housing situations as we become aware of them via our tenant hotline.
- Work proactively with tenants and local governments to address rental housing licensing and code enforcement as it relates to improving rental housing and protecting Minnesota renters.