Rising rental costs have prompted some tenants to Los Angeles to take part in rent strikes, something they view as a last resort in an effort not to be priced out of their homes.
Rent strikes see tenants withhold their rental checks in an attempt to put pressure of their landlords to renegotiate their rent, and in some cases improve building maintenance as well.
By holding a rent strike, renters force landlords to either comply with their demands or take them to court in order to try and evict them, in which case both parties to get argue the toss. But for tenants the move is risky, as they could well find themselves homeless if the judge backs their landlord.
“A rent strike with one person isn’t going to change anything,” Trinidad Ruiz, an organizer with the Vermont Beverly local chapter of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, told LAist.com. “You need an entire complex to do the rent strike.”
Ruiz said that this has been happening, with tenants in several buildings in the Los Angeles area agreeing to back the strike action. One example is a community within Boyle Heights, which recently came to a settlement with their landlord following a months-long strike.
But rent strikes aren’t always successful, and if they lose, tenants could find themselves getting evicted.
Still, says that tenants feel as if there is no other option to avoid being priced out.
“When you’re in a no-win situation, you fight,” Ruiz said. “They aren’t able to pay the rent, so they’ll end up on the street. If they lose the rent hike, they’ll end up on the street. Only if they win the rent strike, then there’s a chance they’ll stay.”
Sometimes it helps to have ammunition though, and so some tenants are citing a decline in the condition of their apartments as a reason to hold a rent strike. Californian law says renters can withhold their rent checks if their landlord fails to maintain the property, for example by not dealing with mold, insect infestations and other issues.
“The rent increase is legal, but [the landlord] also has to maintain the apartments,” Elena Popp, a lawyer with the nonprofit Eviction Defense Network, told LAist.com. “The lack of maintenance gave the tenants the opening to do a rent strike."
Some landlords argue, however, that the rent increase is to cover the rising maintenance costs.
Tenants may need to brace for more rent hikes ahead. Many landlords say they plan to raise rents even more over the next few months.