Report on tenant unions, with various interviews and commentaries from advocates. They speak on housing issues and related laws.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
When a landlord goes in the industry to business to be a landlord, he accept the risk of being a landlord is that his primary reason for being is to serve the tenants and a risk question is personal profit if you can serve tenants and meet tenants needs and give tennis what they pay for and make a profit good and if you can't tough, that's not a problem. That's the risk of man who accepts when they go into business. The landlord's primary job is not to make a profit the rather just serve the people who organized the people who are most oppressed in other areas besides tenancy and that is people who were poor or her low income or working people on and those are people that attend Union has an interest in working with landlords and tenants we find course that it's not possible to negotiate in the absence of a position of power. And so we simply saidIf you wanted me to negotiate and if two if the landlord is dealing with is not a sympathetic type simply go on strike and when the money Runs Out he'll talk.What does almond take my Mother's Day? Longer will I waste my daughter to have over 8% of the loan? I understand her mine cuz she's the one. Landlords and tenants are natural adversaries like wolves and deer damage of The Sovereign landlord in the timid tenant isn't necessarily accurate. But survival of the fortunate has long been a shared housing is a boom-or-bust business in America and maybe our most important consumer commodity a product and a service perhaps a future utility landlord-tenant relations are changing now, however, as tenants organize Nationwide lawmakers are responding to a new consumer Force the tenants movement at the recent Central Minnesota Forum on housing John Hampton associate director of the national tenants organization, like the industry's crises with a crisis of democracy, July 1776 was supposed to be a democracy. Supposed to be that the ordinary citizens like you and I would elect representatives who understood us who were like us who are peers elected them to go to wherever they decided to pass the laws to represent our interests and help work on our problems. And that you know that that that worked pretty well for a while. Was always assumed that in American democracy the citizens you and hate you and I wear and aware and informed electric and we knew what the issues were. They were talking about in Washington. We know what the issues were they were talking about insane for and so when our representative came home, we can say hey, I understand you're talking about this that or the other let me tell you what I think about that and he would listen very carefully and take that back the same Paul take that back to Washington and represent us. That's what it's supposed to do in the Siri in practice that doesn't happen because in practice the nature of government in this country is so complicated. Nobody can represent anybody. Let me explain what I'm talkin about. During the first two weeks of any session of the US Congress. The House of Representatives alone introduces over 2000 pieces of legislation by the end of the year was that between all of the 93rd Congress 2nd session by the end of the year when they recess sometime around the end of November the House of Representatives and the US Senate bill of processed 23000 pieces of legislation. They pay our Congressman $42,000 a year to represent us. The problem is number one. There's no human being alive. Even at $42,000 a year who can keep track of 23000 pieces of legislation. The load is so bad on Capitol Hill the technology start a computer talking about Bill status, right Bill status is not a person Bill status is a phone number that you call to talk to the computer. And if somebody there in the office the bill status office you say give me the bill status on HR 4291 and they type into the computer HR 4291 and it prints out just like at the at the airport you get a ticket for an airplane ride. It prints out where the bill came from who put it in what it says what comedian got referred to hasn't been invented all that kind of stuff. Are congressmen at 42000 a year with a staff for 7 to 10 people can't keep track of all those bills 20000 piece of legislation. I ask you this question if they get paid to work full-time and they can't do it. How can we be aware and informed to tell them what we think so they can represent us? We can't. Too many belts if we worked all the time just reading the bills. We wouldn't know enough to really be able to tell the congressman our thoughts so we can go to Washington and represent us which means that the mock receipt is in trouble. One of those are serious crisis that the average citizen doesn't even know about that. The average Congressman doesn't understand and hold particular area of house in the industry the construction industry tenant landlords are all having a hard time and nobody really knows how to deal with it. I would argue that the bottom the economically bottom and simply dropped out of the Housing Industry. Department of Housing Urban Development in Washington DC has stated clearly that unless you make $17,000 a year or more you cannot buy a house. Without some kind of subsidy. I was going to try and say it is certainly our folks to make $8,000 a year ago by a house not right, but they're going to have enough food maybe cut back on something because unless you make $17,000 a year, you can't afford a house without a subsidy and in fact the government the US government the quiet as it's kept subsidizes everybody who makes less than $17,000 a year and by the house because the bottom has simply dropped out of the Housing Industry in many parts of the country. The housing shortage has been aggravated by the current economic squeeze costs of land labor and material of Sword coupled with tight Capital policies, which affect both Builders and buyers. The industry has slowed time calls this the year of the building stopped. More multiple-family buildings in the form of apartments and Condominiums are under construction the theory being it's more practical to rent then sell. There's hope that a boom in multiple housing units could please the housing shortage and get the industry back on its feet that may be good news in the long run for those of average income. But John Hampton is skeptical about the prospects for upgrading and increasing housing for poor and moderate-income. People Hampton is with the national tenants organization, which lobbies in Washington for nearly 500 tenant unions a low inflation has driven a number of high-income tenants to nto low and moderate-income tenants still comprise a majority Hampton Seas current government policy as a shot in the arm for the Housing Industry at the expense of his constituents. He says it hasn't been possible for Americans to get a decent house at a decent price for quite some time. The Housing Industry is one of the most highly subsidised Country subsidies, of course take many forms subsidies for the middle class which happened to be more than subsidies for any other class of Americans. Does those families making $20,000 or more receive more housing subsidies a year than all the families making less than they make combined. Those kind of subsidies take many forms certainly example under the FHA programs the Federal Loan Insurance in Federal Loan guarantees represent a subsidy and it's stimulating the industry and making the industry keep on operating the income tax regulations, which allow a homeowner to deduct the interest rates in the property taxes to pay on their houses from their federal income taxes are in fact a subsidy the further help the industry. Keep keep going and help people buy houses not for a long time. Have we ever talked about a real independent Housing Industry in this country were talking about an industry which because we conomic reasons is no longer operating on its own but it's subsidized from top to bottom. So we're not talking about a a decent house at a decent price anymore or talk about a subsidized house that's decent. We hope we're finding now that I just went to 68% of all units built. In 1974 will be rental units the Housing Industry is more and more renting or trying to get people to rent units versus trying to sell them units because it simply cannot afford to build units for sale anymore nor can the average citizen buy a favor and more complicated situation where landlords get houses built in Renton the latest gaming of course, it's not a condominium conversion of the condominium house, which is where they build a series of apartments and then sell them independently while maintaining the landlord controls over the structure, but we're really in a serious economic crisis in this country. And in terms of housing housing was one of the first and most target areas. Would you care to single out any one section of of the the industry private or public housing which offers the most hope for the poor and lower-income people the elderly well, certainly the in terms of the elderly. The federally subsidized programs for the elderly off of the greatest hoped to that particular segment of the country public housing for the elderly for a long time. It's been a very successful and highly desirable program. Unfortunately, simply at this point not enough public housing for the elderly and not enough subsidized housing for the elderly. But at the point now for sure this point some 10% of the American population is elderly and 10% of all the people in the country over 65 and I expected that that's that segment of the population begins to feel its own political muscle and McGinnis to pressure congressmen and Senators to meet their needs by begin to see a lot of new housing for the elderly built. So they can live in it at a decent price decent rent. What about low and moderate-income families still working back that in the near future low and moderate-income families going to be really facing serious question of condominium conversion. Ronnie In real situations, we're beginning to see on the East Coast where landlords are simply converting buildings with your now rented to tenants into condominium units to be bought by tenant and they're making me very cold ultimatums and either you buy this unit that you're not living in or you lose in Washington DC my hometown. The industry is already predicted that was in the next five years. You're going to convert 50% of all the rental units to condominiums. That means that the family is now living there. I have to either buy or move and forgot to convert that many there in fact will be no Market. No way to find a rental house at least be none available until we're not talking about in the face of this kind of New Economic pressure. Forcing the government to weed unresponsive and to develop new guidelines new regulations to manage what we expect to be a serious serious threat. There are some 15 million families who now just by sheer economic definition qualify to live in public housing in the junk supposed to that serious need there only 1 million public housing units for everyone family in public housing. There are fifteen families who should be and those fifteen families using living in the slums someplace or substandard house someplace in the face of a serious housing prices for low and moderate-income people on the one hand and then the supply The housing construction industry is in a serious crisis cuz nobody can buy what they will take what they're able to build until just recently the administration announced they were going to give that industry 10 billion dollars over the next three years to stimulated. And help it build houses. So it doesn't collapse nowhere in the description of how that 10 billion dollars would be spent was there any indication that that was earmarked to meet the housing needs of low and moderate-income people who now live in substandard housing rather than 10 million dollars was pumped primarily in the Savings and Loan institutions and will be primarily used to help subsidize the mortgages on houses for families making more than $15,000 a year. So here I think we talked about at this point approach to the housing crisis literature is something is reprinted from a magazine that I've never known to be a political magazine before now and that's Consumer Reports on consumer reports is now in the process of running a three-part series on tenants rights and the lack of them and you'll find that in those articles are not only Very sort of strong positions taken about the fact that tenants have very few rights under the statutes and then most leases extend the limitations of the one the rights that they have but also in the second of the three articles on encouragement for people to go out inform tenant unions and if necessary to do things that are illegal in Most states like rent strikes on and it seems to me very interesting kind of sign of something that you're the existence in the reality of poverty has been acknowledged for a while at least in this country and the Perils of unemployment and dissatisfaction with working conditions are beginning to be acknowledged as a reality. And now at last on tenants rights or the lack of them is something is becoming well-known to and if people are organizing around John Bloom of the Madison Tenants Union was consulted as resident organizer during the conference. He also discussed the private and public housing. The higher the percentage of your income you pay for rent on people have to live somewhere so money that they were to use for food and clothing goes to pay for rent on decent housing simply isn't right in our society the way it's structured and getting decent and cheap housing at the same time is becoming less and less possible housing authorities and the federal government give inconsistently over and over again to the accusations of private landlords that you know, what they build and own and operate and subsidized on is competing with the private sector on housing authorities in the federal government failed landlords insistence that they can feel the need. Producing housing to offer government housing policies dictated by a shot in the arm, which was the colorful way that the president put it a few weeks ago. You're rather than according to the needs of tenants. It's a shot in the arm for the Housing Industry is the priority of federal Housing Programs, you know, it seems that the only good thing that the government provides is tax shelters and not shelter for people the friction between landlord and tenant is not new is a professor Lawson, New York University on Manhattan. Who's writing a book just about the history of the tenants struggle on Manhattan? And he says that there are five different waves five distinct periods of Canada activity and landlord friction on the Isle of Manhattan that go all the way back to the 1890s to the 1890s that beginning with that inflationary. Around the Spanish Civil War era. That was the first major area of conflict between landlords and tenants and at that point in New York City the bottom again to drop out of the New York City Housing Industry. It didn't reach the rest of us until the Great Depression. However, I'm saying. The conflict between landlord and tenant is not new. Number one is no great mystery number to and that in fact, it's a really neat, question that affects us and them on the one hand you have landlords who had some point or other decided that one to buy a house and rent. It would be nice investment nice investment house pays for itself plus a little on the side lights investment. And I guess somewhere in the back of their minds. I'll give them the benefit the the people who bought houses felt they making a nice contribution. We buy a house and a nice lady. We know who hasn't doesn't have a nice house. We can live in our house or my house and pay a little bit of red and I was going to be all right, and she'll be all right. We're talking about to go back to the foundation of landlord tenant law which is which is holding his common-law. We really talking about the tenant having no rights at all. Let me explain that the word Lord in landlord is derived from the medieval concept of the lord of the manor and the word and the word peasant. I'm not too far apart Rizzoli. The Lord of The Manor rented to the English peasant a farm in the laws, which regulated that relationship today regulated many places the relationship between a landlord and a tenant about that relationship. Legally Aoki. The real key is legislation, which clearly defines legislative responsibilities of landlords and tenants around Washington, DC or New York, New Jersey in the Boston area the Miami area Chicago area, Cleveland, Ohio area st. Louis area tenants were organized by leaps and bounce. What kind of train is a coming together which town is poorer tenants black tenants white tennis high-rise tenants low-rise tenants public housing tenant private housing tenants subsidized 10. It's all coming together. We want to get what we pay our rent for no more. No less Rock coming to get the same very clearly. It has tenants. We want Justice 1 equal justice with landlords at a time. Of course, the skills are very heavily balance in the in the favor of landlords. And that's the kind of problem which is which is really those kind of problems are moving 10. It's all over the place. I quit Carson landlord tenant common law offered by John Hampton Well, the laws are still one sided in many states and communities and aren't uniformly enforced. There is a clear national and local Trend toward change with a housing shortage. It's simply impractical to resolve differences through the traditional means moving to another apartment. We're likely as not tenants and landlords in powder similar problems. Landlord tenant cards in Minnesota conciliation Court, we're often cheap collection agencies for landlords, but are now utilize by tenants as well. Robert Limon Mperks tabloid explained recent landlord tenant law developments at a workshop on legislation and legal rights. He began with security and damage deposits. First of all, I might mention and I deposit you are so much face and pass just recently. About deposits to landlords and what it set up as a structure by which you're guaranteed to get your deposit back the history behind it and the immediate cause of this legislation wasn't landlord to making a lot of money on the side just by virtue of the deposits of people either forgot to collect figured. It was too much of a hassle to collect for the landlord's held off so long and just head of household the tenant enough when you've gone from one place to another you leave the city move the other side of town that you just forget about you to say, it's not worth. It was only 60 bucks in there. Now. It's going to take me at least three or four days to get it out of the guy the heck with it. So what you doing is a passing legislation. Which said a number of things first of all any deposit that you make which is not an advancement on rent and there is sometimes you will pay. What's called an advancement of rent, which is paying your last month's rent at the time you move in. And has to be specified as such which is an advancement on rent. It's different than the deposit what you put down and is sometimes used as the last month's rent by set of mutual agreement. Whereby you're just not paying the last month's rent you to say well in the other guy can take my deposit money to skip and that'll be the last month's rent. Any deposit, which is not that specific advancement on rent they have to pay 5% interest on. And return to you any amount over $1. So if you're 5% interest comes out to $0.90 they don't have to pay you anything over a dollar most of it is they have to pay you interest rate on the deposit. You give him at the beginning of the year. The Cubs types of deposits will be included would be a damage deposit and security deposit at 5% can add up if you're in a couple years if you're paying over $100 rent. That's why I start that up a little bit of special needs in a decent place and every day's it's not as though you're ahead of the game and even with the guys When you move make sure and submit to the landlord your new address so he can mail it the deposit to you. He has two weeks in which to look at the apartment assess any damage and notify you and if it doesn't notify me of any damage within two weeks, he has to pay you your deposit back within two weeks in at the statutory. So, I'm going to wrap up the thing on the deposits on if he doesn't pay you within two weeks, you're allowed to go to conciliation court as a tenant. Sue for Recovery of that damage and is a punitive damage of up to $200. If you can show that the deal is a presumption against the landlord if he doesn't pay or give you notice within 2 weeks and you've left your address, there can be a punitive. Damage assessed by the judge a tenant is not responsible for normal wear and tear which may result in expenditures by the landlord but must pay for any other damage. Retaliatory eviction that is threatening or carrying out eviction of a tenant who has reported housing code violations is also now illegal in Minnesota. There is recently been passed. retaliatory eviction law in Minnesota also Statewide because it's part of the Stateside just now. And they Define retaliatory eviction as a tenant being evicted from his promises. For any for either of two reasons on the more obvious one is making a complaint to a public Authority about the building. So the obvious one being if you make a complaint to the the health inspector for the building inspector about the toilet not working and the fact that the landlord that has refused to fix her won't fix it or had it's been a week and he hasn't fixed it. If you make a complaint on a landlord finds out you've made from plane as well as of course, he will, and tries to throw you out because of that and not because you haven't paid your rent or something else, but let me come back without a minute that's called a retaliatory eviction was just say that he's throwing you out because you made a complaint about a complaint to a public Authority. The second section of that is little bit broader and a little bit tougher to interpret and we've been a case going up on a pill now. It's a good-faith attempt to secure or enforce rights under contract, which is it say an oral contract release or under law, which it's a municipal help laws or State Building laws or whatever. So you make a good-faith attempt to a report something and you get thrown out because of that that is called a retaliatory eviction and landlord cannot throw you out for that. And I know we had a case come up recently. Where some people had some complaints down in Anoka about it by the trailer court and they had some complaints I-45 complaints under an oral contract and also because the landlord was proposing a new lease early very strict lease and also they had some minor complaints about health violations on a municipal lot like the garbage was uncovered and there was a town law in Anoka or actually blame the said you have to set aside a certain percentage of your land in a mobile home park as a recreational area, and this had not been too under for five things like this. And so one evening, my client went out and went knocking on doors to get people together to talk about this and an hour and a half later after I came back from knocking on doors to get people to come to the meeting you got an eviction notice. And his wife would also help them in and this thing was so upset that she called the landlord that same night and said why you throwing this out, you know, we haven't caused any problems here. You know what we're good people and we don't cause noise in our place is clean and we followed every one of your damn rules kind of a thing and he said you were trouble makers. I don't like troublemakers and I know about your meeting tonight presented all this that I mentioned to you as evidence in the court including this admission, which is uncontradicted and the judge still would accept that as a good-faith attempt to secure and forth right now if it doesn't fit into the statute, I don't know what does but the judge and leave it on the bench for about 3 months and done. I don't think you really listen to our quesadilla falling asleep. I don't know what but we're going to appeal it. It's kind of hate that we should win and it's something that's particularly important for Tenants Union is a good-faith attempt provision is a very strong Vision the people I don't know about because again, it's something that that's a real problem with people have it thrown out and because they are calling Health Inspectors and some landlords. I'm going to have the money or the time with concern to fix up their places and they just relying on people's passivity and apathy not to do anything about it. Potentially one of the most effective new laws concerns rent withholding self remedy certain to elicit some sort of response from the landlord. This is probably the most controversial new law and stands on supported by legislation vacation by the name of the fruits of the war than came down out of the Minnesota Supreme Court. And I have to do with rent withholding which is very very important. The history of that very briefly is in that same year and 73 believe it was was legislation passed Minnesota saying that there is an obligation on the part of the landlord to maintain decent housing for for lack of a better word, which is sort of like up to code housing or and habitable housing whatever you want to call it and the statue of left it at that it said nothing more the theory that the Supreme Court developed as they said this is a mutual obligation. The tenant has an obligation to pay rent to the landlord landlord has an obligation to maintain habitable housing and the court said this is a mutual obligation. If one doesn't do one the other doesn't have to do the other. Needless to say if you don't pay rent and get thrown out let alone what the house is like but if the landlord doesn't maintain habitable housing, you don't have to pay your rent. You have to be careful in this area, but it is new and it's important to know about and what you want to do is take the steps that a reasonable person would always take to try and put in a concrete situation say something comes up is wrong with your apartment like the you're not getting your hot water or the toilet isn't working. Do as you always Woodforest go to the landlord because nine times out of ten you can settle with the landlord and get it fixed and are in pretty quick order when it doesn't get fixed. And then you want to make a complaint if you giving a guy say to Chances and he still not responding go to your building inspector 8 housing inspector in trying apply a little leverage that way. If it's still not working in this going to apply to a number of things as to what the habitability of your housing is, and it couldn't be broken windows. It could be lack of screens could be lack of a proper heat. Any number of things you are allowed to withhold rent. And the best thing to do is to put in that into an escrow account go to your bank or go to a bank if you don't go to a banquet really and put them on a new account in your own name and just Call or write down on your on your bank book that it's an escrow account, which is your deposit which is in security to pay the landlord when he pays when he fixes your premises or that money can be used to repair the thing yourself and then deducted from the rent would otherwise go to your landlord. Now the next step in might happen in that concrete situations, of course is thinking this doesn't always happen but it happens enough that you got to be aware of it landlord by that time might be saying okay and I'll play ball with you. He still might not an especially in the case of absentee landlords where managers are just running the place in the in the landlord is out in Florida. They might file against you and trying to fix you. When you go to go to court you can present a defense and it's a valid defense to present that you have put your money into escrow. The housing is not habitable. And that the repairs out of be made because there was a mutual obligation on the part of the landlord and the Tenant and bergstaff lawyer Robert Limon the Minnesota public interest research group as material available on new and previously existing legislation, including a tenants rights handbook and a Consumer's Guide to Minnesota conciliation courts. Play in Louisville. Please don't put a price on massive. map of music night dreams about Young Please hear these words. I know you suck. all about the X Remix Do you have it to fast action movie? Please don't dismiss my case. I'm not about to argue. I'm not about to lose. The national tenants organization was founded in St. Louis in 1969 by and initially for low-income tenants at that time low-income renters were practically the only tenants who needed the Union as the nation enjoy the low rate of inflation and general Prosperity. Now that inflation has firmly settled on all renters more nto Affiliates are buildings housing renters in high income tax brackets as as the time passed. Of course, we begin to pick up higher and higher income tenants because the Crisis began to affect higher and higher income people example, we have 110 working in the State of Florida who proudly tells everybody that he became involved with organizing tenants when he got a $90 rent increase one month $90 a month if that sound surprising it's even more surprising to hear him say that you had went up from $500 a month to 590. He's a whole organization. In that in that 400 500 600 700 $1,000 a month bracket well-organized hard water bad Services rent increases management attitude at cetera excetera. So we talkin about a movement to the economic crisis in housing and economic crisis facing the country generally and I think you're talkin about a moving which ultimately will become a permanent fixture in the American housing scene. Let me say that in Sweden. There is a tenant organization tenant Union of Sweden is 50 years old. Two-thirds of all the tenants in the country of Sweden belong to it. And it's a permit organization in in size and an impact in detail. What is a shim Sweden is comprable to the AFL-CIO in this country. So you start your local Tenants Union what's in it for the landlord much more technical area. There is in the country at the present time in major struggle within the housing management industry that start with centers around the difference between old style housing management and new style housing management old style housing management approach that states clearly that there is a specific responsibility for landlords a specific responsibilities for tenants and course never the twain shall meet at a tennis major responsibilities to pay rent and do what he's told to do when the landlord cracks the whip move. The landlord's responsibility is to make money old style management is not concerned about anything but money and if it send it rocks the boat. Management says he New style management which is very much related to the economic crisis in the Housing Industry understand this first of all that there's not enough money to solve every problem. And in fact at 10 operation, it's as good as money in the bank. Secondly new style management clearly understands that the roles of landlords and tenants and I'll be getting to merge they're not so distinct the teeth that you can't talk about a merger certain things can only be resolved by both groups cooperating together ultimately if the landlord has any any kind of of Savvy any kind of vision, he will understand that operation is one of his major assets if tenants are cooperating with the landlord or tenants are respectful of the property and concerned about making the property a decent place to live showing pride in the property. The landlord finds a number of things happening which in fact save him money and thereby helping make a greater profit tenants when they're cooperating with the landlord. Normally don't move as many times for the landlord finds out. His turnover rate is greatly reduced his redecoration payments. And the number of Apartments have to redecorate per year are greatly reduced the landlord finds that his legal fees are greatly reduced. His reputation is greatly enhanced and Tennis begin to seek him out because they heard he has a good reputation landlords find that things such as vandalism is reduced excessive wear-and-tear is reduced tenants who were who were who were satisfied with the unit begin to invest their own money and improving the picture is improving the apartments a plant flowers. They plant shrubs. They redecorate they put on no new kind of fancy light switches new kind of shades curtains and really begin to make the units much better. And that in the long run benefits the landlord. I said I was really talking about in an in the in the new style management approach landlord was enough Vision to really understand that tent organizations offer or not a threat. But in the long run the offer is serious promise for better management greater profits and greater stability in the industry in some areas turn into leading leading the way and major struggles to to influence those kind of decisions seen for a long time when America was basically a a country of families that own their own homes. It was assumed that the homeowners in the neighborhood would have some say what happened to the neighborhood now as we become a country of renter's it's assumed that the home renters we have nothing to say that the landlords will just make all the decisions and we need to see a reversal of that extended to choose a neighborhood to rent in and then decide to sink their roots in that neighborhood and stay there and build Neighborhood to make a better pay rent but make neighborhood better cuz it's their neighborhood and we're getting the C10 and organizations play an active role in neighborhoods in PGA or other ways to make the neighborhood. They've chosen as they are home a decent place to stay in people to be someplace to stay and that they pay rent versus paying mortgage and no way influences that dedication to that neighborhood John Hampton and Teo talking about what he calls 10 of Consciousness and the new style housing management and Teo does some field work with Affiliates on a local level, but the responsibilities for organizing lies primarily with the tenants. Most tenant unions are models of labor unions on a smaller scale with locals organized around particular landlords in urban areas. There are often several locals with stores representing each in the Citywide Union. There's no blueprint available outlining how to organize a Tenants Union but certain recognizable steps and conditions usually appear in the midst of organizing efforts with the help of John Bloom of the Madison, Tennessee Union staff. We've singled out five of those steps to help get you on the way first to organize and you are building you'll need a hard core group of good listeners that understand the problems people who will volunteer their time and services at setup will probably have an office and we'll probably have a telephone and the people who have become involved in working in the end. You will have become involved out of either direct experience or knowing a lot about the kinds of grievances the tenants have in the particular locality that they're working in so they will generally spend a certain amount of time handling 10in grievances answering a telephone which may ring very consistently and very frequently talking to people who come in and want to know Solutions individual problems. And sometimes people will come in with the idea not only of having their individual problem solved but a forming an organization to deal in the long run a long-range basis with the problem of the problems with a with a problem that these consistent kinds of things come up. Okay. So that's I guess the first step in the formation of an individual local tenant you on that is that people who live in the place get the idea that an organization is something they need them to broaden your base of support talk with fellow tenants who have previously expressed interest in organizing but don't spread the word too far not before your first meeting or series of meetings, depending on how many problems you have at the organizing meeting or meetings. It's important to air Grievances and freedom of petition that speaks to the issues. It's also important to start researching find out what your landlord owns. What kind of mortgage is he has How he makes his money learn how to use the Register of Deeds office and the city assessor's office. And the first meeting. I really think should be not a general meeting announce to the to the public Raven the people who rent from the particular landlord that you're interested in organizing around but rather a meeting of people who are particularly interested in this idea who have thought about it to some extent and at that meeting that many may be the most interesting meeting in the whole process of the organizing because if that mean you successful you will get a profile of the place where you're organizing people will come and I'll talk about grievances that they have that they've talked over with maybe one to other people and they'll be able to talk about them for the first time with a larger group on and off in those meetings run for for 5 hours at a time because people have so much to say that they've often been building up for so many years that it's just it just becomes a j Airing of grievances meeting and that's good. Now that you're past thinking of solving your problems individually, it's time to contact the others who rent from your landlord for The credibility of your union, you'll eventually need a majority of renter's supporting it in a visible way preferably by signing your petition and contributing financially if you've listed the issues clearly and if the issues exist, you should Garner more than a 50% response. That's a general working percentage at which landlords begin considering organizers as a force to be dealt with hopefully you can get around fairly quickly and get a sense of how extensive the support is performing a tenant Union. If you carry around a petition the petition should be in the form of a bargaining authorization. That is the people signing the petition authorized representatives from the tenant Union or the tenant organization is for me to go and bargain on their behalf of the people who are going to sign this petition and I want to know what their bargain Bargain was going to be bragging about and sew along with that authorization. There should be a list of things that the union wants to raise with management a list of items related issues. If your prediction is good the people who you will be talking to will take one look at it and they will pay their eyes will go to one or another of the issues on the petition and they will begin talk about their experiences with that. Yes. I've had that problem on. Yes. That's an enormous problem is something I've had over and over again for years and sometimes people will say I'm really surprised to know that everybody else was having that too because tenants are atomized tenants are isolated one from the other is to the landlord for his advantage to keeping that way. The chances are that your landlord is aware of your organization by now after the next step your first open Invitational meeting you'll be well aware of you at that meeting. It's important to begin functioning as a unit composing leaflets petitions doing research. Folding letters licking envelopes are relatively simple jobs in which as many as possible should participate divide the responsibility or it may divide. You should be held regularly to try to find a place within the apartment complex or apartment building or group apartment buildings that you're organizing in to have those meetings rather than having them in some kind of public hall. That's far away, you know meeting people's living rooms let people point to the cracks in the walls or take you on a tour the apartment or point out conditions that they're talking about. That's fine. But having meetings on a place that is his clothes and that people can get to you are trying to get to build organizations where the leaders are people who are leaders as long as they represent the will of a constituency and they should be accountable to the people that they're representing in a good way to do that is to have meetings on a regular basis the last step collective bargaining. Play the first step in another process which hopefully will begin a new era in tenant landlord relations in your building. You can't legally force your landlord to bargain with you and in effect recognized the Union as bargaining agent the landlord me willingly agree or it may be necessary to take advantage of your union power through such means as rent striking. But once you reach the bargaining table your research and hard work should pay off. Have you gotten this far the landlord may or may not agree to send out of bargain with you. But if he does if he recognizes that you have visible support around real demands run real issues on the landlord will hopefully see noun and agree to at least talk to you another Maid Park in with a very firm attitudes. He's not going to change anything in the landlord comes in planning to say absolutely no to everything and he will be as you know, you will be amazed at the end of the meeting that he came to the meeting at all because you so hostile and the medicine Experiences like that, but the important thing from the changing his point of view and going into bargain. Mr. Be prepared. Bargaining is a whole area. It has to be learned and studied. also on a bargaining team should consist of a lot of different people who have a lot of different things to say and what we've often does had one person actually play Crazy on the bargaining team one person goes in prepared to be the one who's going to stamp his fist on the table at a certain point the meeting and who's going to watch I sort of imply that on the other two tens are going to take drastic action and people is important for people to play different roles after you've reached an agreement in some respects. You begin a new constructing a stable organization that fellow tenants hopefully will support when you Muster that support you should also have gained some measure of political muscle contact your legislators and get in touch with other tenants unions and coordinate your efforts and speaking at the legislative Workshop. Harry fleagle of the dfl Central Committee said that as many as 50 tenants rights resolutions, maybe introduce this session legal said that Statewide rental registration is a priority issue, especially important to Rural and small-town renters. Every Community is required to have a rental unit registration. I am so in not every Community do landlords register there. Units with any governmental agency now, this is a really unfortunate situation in that. Okay. If you live in Saint Cloud, that means that There's a regular registration in a regular inspection of the property you're living in if you live in Sauk Rapids, this is also true if however you happen to live in Waite Park or in a trailer court in the Suburban areas or on a farm or some other type of rental unit outside of the city limits. This could be a large rental unit or just a small single-family dwelling. There's no registration. And so the government agencies have no idea of which units are being rented out in which not They get some idea for home unit is because of the taxes. But they have no idea whatsoever. If someone's running out their seller or their basement or something like this. There's absolutely no way for them to know and as a result of that there's some very poor. rental I don't know very poor places made available for renting. I mean really Shawty plays a few people living. So what we really need is rather than a hodgepodge of City. and Village and and Dunn County Rental registration has some form of Statewide rental registration and we'd have state inspectors would inspect rental property have standards that would be you know, similar standards throughout the state not in one particular small community spent particularly in small communities were often times City administrators are some of the owners and aren't too inclined to pass restrictive. Or what they consider restrictive rental registration ordinances in their own cities. And so the gate you get into some of this I really feel strongly that some form of Statewide rental registration should go into effect. So we first of all we need registration in with registration goes inspection. And so I would say that's the most important thing then I would you know, as far as space is concerned land use and recreational areas and all the other types of things are things that I really would like seeing you in a much more work done with I think with this legislature coming up we should be able to get a pretty thorough and comprehensive will get the on the registration hopefully and into some of the more specifics tougher regulations on health and Housing ordinances and things like this. I think that will come how do you visualize the tenant-landlord relationship at its best ideally do relations have to be strained. Do they have to be adversaries? Yes. I think that is long as housing is a market commodity there going to be tensions between landlords and tenants. You know what I think it isn't just sort of feature of City Life or town wiper something that people are going to learn to live with and it's going to survive us all but that it comes out of very real Market relations and structural and legal relations that are a result of that than an outgrowth of that and they will eventually we're going to have to make lamb words obsolete now in the long run. We do hope to challenge the idea of housing is a market commodity and very seriously, you know, where are one of our basic thoughts is that housing is a right and not a privilege, you know that it's it's a basic need of people and the people should have it available to them and we feel that there really isn't away within the structure of having a Is a market commodity that people can get decent housing and cheap housing at the same time just isn't possible on and you know, it gets to the point. If you know the market very well that you know, it often isn't on even a political position anymore as a mathematical position on and on more and more landlords are finding this too and will admit it to you on that. I'm providing housing for particularly the the growing number of low and moderate-income people is just not worthwhile as a business venture. It just isn't on and that's the kind of housing that is more and more needed and we think will continue to be needed in the future and so relations will be strained. On so, you know over the short run on what we're interested in doing now is building organizations on having them survive getting some legal protection for extending tenants rights on and in I guess the Middle Run were the middle range run on we're interested in those organizations on a Citywide bases are challenging their counterpart that is organized landlords going to see why bases and in the long run. We're just didn't questioning and challenging the whole concept of housing is a market commodity and changing that is something that we believe is fundamentally more human. About to question of tenant rights and housing and I can certainly say that. One of the things we all should have picked up from these sessions is this there is no secret strategy. There is no secret plan. There is no secret manipulation technique. You can be taught it boils down to a question of hard work serious dedication and above all the three things every 10 organizer needs to remember and always do the foundation Center movement is knocking on doors giving out leaflets and talking to people If you talk about building a tenant Union in Saint Cloud. You said we have to decide to build it and go out there and do it. That's it was just that blunt. a lot of folks compare organizing to Modern Art, you know what model are to paint against the big bucket of paint and he turns his back on the canvas and throws it over his shoulder and it hits the canvas and splatters and he signs it a lot of folks think we're organizing is like that you just got tossed a bucket over your shoulder organizing is like knitting 401 take to stitch 3 and you just leave slowly over time a tenant organization with which has an organization with the kind of influence in the kind of respectability and the kind of tendon support which allows it to go out and take care of the problems with cenotaph. I think it's that kind of organization. You're talkin about building in Saint Cloud is my secret for that. There is no blueprint for that. It's not easy it takes time and the only way to do it Is to do it. So you start tomorrow? And do it. John Hampton of the national tenants organization speaking at the central Minnesota Forum on housing. He was concluding the priority Workshop toward building a Saint Cloud area Tenants Union most likely as long as inflation and rent Rises. So will the number of local Citywide and state tenants unions. Meanwhile the national tennis organization is monitoring Congress and working on a comprehensive model rent control bill for Affiliates to use as a guide in drafting local rent control legislation. I'm Tom Stewart. Please don't dismiss my case. I'm not about to argue. This is Minnesota Public Radio.