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D came to SeaSol because his apartment was making his son sick.
For years, D has lived in a low-income housing unit with mold problems, but he couldn’t afford to move to a market-rate unit. At certain times of year one wall would turn black and give off a nasty smell no matter what he did. D and his family started leaving the windows open day and night, even in the winter, to try to keep humidity from building up in the unit. But it didn’t work. D’s newborn son began developing respiratory symptoms from the mold.
D contacted property management multiple times. They would first suggest the mold was D’s fault, then eventually send maintenance to clean it without making any repairs. A few months later mold would return, and the symptoms would start again. D asked to be transferred to an equivalent apartment without a health hazard, showing them photos and doctors’ notes, but they refused to even look at the documentation. It was easier to ignore D and do nothing, so that’s what they did.
With a new baby on the way, D knew his family’s health was still at risk and something needed to change. That’s when he found SeaSol and asked us for help. Together with D we wrote a letter from SeaSol to the property management company, and sent it to multiple key people in the organization. We also called them many times to keep the issue fresh in their minds. We started making plans to escalate further if necessary.
At first it was the same old story – the property manager thought it wasn’t their problem. Was D sure he didn’t do something wrong? Maybe it could be D’s problem instead. But after more than four years of persistence by D and two months of help from SeaSol, we got the happy news: D and his family of 5 were being transferred to a new, healthy apartment! They have now moved in and left the (m)old problems behind.
If you’re suffering from a landlord bureaucracy that’s designed to make you give up and go away, you’ll need allies to keep up the pressure. That’s what orgs like SeaSol are for.
Seattle Solidarity Network had a busy 2020, and it was wonderful to cap the year off with a win. At the end of last year, we were approached by a young family who had been living in an apartment in White Center. They had recently moved out but were told by the property manager that they would owe several thousand dollars of bogus fees in excess of their security deposit. About a year ago, we delivered our demand that these fees get dropped.
We had other fights going on at the time, and we still do, but what we didn’t anticipate would be the impact Covid-19 would have on all of our fights. Just as we were preparing to move from postering and tenant outreach into physical protests at the landlord’s offices, virus restrictions made that next to impossible. Though there was a short period of little action as we adapted to new realities, we are happy to announce that after some months of creative new strategies we have succeeded and the fees are rescinded!
The landlord in question was also the owner of the property management company, which owns a couple dozen large apartment buildings in Washington, Oregon, and California. The landlord and his family live near San Jose, with only some leasing offices in the local area. We planned initially to follow up our posters at different apartment buildings with demonstrations at leasing offices, but Covid made this impractical. Thus, we found ways to put pressure directly on the owners.
We expanded our postering a bit, then we began a “slow-roll” phone zap. Every week a couple organizers contacted their phone tree list to encourage texts and calls towards the owner’s cell phone asking them to drop the fees. This was repeated week after week, with a rotating handful of members being asked each time. After some time, we prepared to put pressure on the owner’s gated community neighborhood, sending letters to neighbors exposing the situation. This was planned to be followed by posters and, pending contacts in the area, more actions in that neighborhood. However, soon after the letters were sent, we received word that the landlord had enough.
When we have each other’s backs and put up a smart, sustained fight, we win!