Jeff McAdams' Tenant Protection Tips
How to Organize a Rent Strike:
A Superior Strategy for Hard Times – Part 2
Once you’ve taken the initial steps outlines in Part 1 of this article, you are ready to set up the Tenants’ Association, hire a lawyer, and collect money to pay for representation and other activities. Here’s what to do next:
Step 5: At the meeting, introduce yourself, and state that the purpose of getting together is to force the landlord to correct building problems, and to honor the terms of your leases. Tell people what you’ve learned about legal fees, and approximately what it would cost each tenant to contribute in periodic dues.
Ask the group if anyone present wants to lead the tenants’ association, or to suggest someone they would support, so everyone can vote on a leader at the next meeting.
The success of any group initiative depends on solidarity and leadership. Someone has to be in charge who others trust and feel confident in, and who is up to the task. That person will coordinate the combined effort of the tenants. The individual who starts the ball rolling in these discussions may not necessarily be the best person for the job. If that’s you, don’t be offended or hurt if someone else is eventually chosen.
The strike process is time-consuming. It requires patience and the ability to keep track of many different elements. If you’re not a well-organized person, it’s in everyone’s best interests for another individual to take the job. Step aside gracefully, knowing that you’ve provided an extremely valuable service to others by being the initial coordinator. You can continue to be a source of support in other ways.
Next, ask for volunteers to help with coordinating activities. The most effective rent strikes employ a “contact tree” approach. This is how it works: The leader coordinates with the selected attorney, then notifies the assistants, each of whom is responsible for calling a group of tenants. This method allows meetings to be called and information to be disseminated quickly and efficiently, without over-burdening any one individual. Multiple layers of communication are necessary.
The reason only one member communicates with the attorney is to avoid unnecessary charges, because when a lawyer has to repeat the same message to different people, additional time and expense is incurred. It is also so that the tenants speak with a unified voice.
Vote on a date for your next meeting.
Step 6: Elect your leader at the second meeting. The leader needs to select two or three attorneys – members will choose one to represent the Tenants’ Association. Once those selections are made, a third meeting is set up, and each lawyer is invited to address the group individually. The group then votes on the lawyer who’ll handle the case.
Initiate a collection to raise the money for the attorney’s retainer and for administrative expenses.
Step 7: Going forward, your lawyer and tenant coalition leader will coordinate all lawsuits and other legal activities, and future meetings.
Organizing a coordinated tenant effort is not easy, but it’s a powerful tool and sometimes necessary. Improving conditions for everyone, making the building safe, peaceful, and livable for each tenant, and getting the landlord to shape up and act like a decent human being, are goals worth winning.
Please Note: Every McAdams Law Tenant Protection Tip and article is for informational purposes only and cannot substitute for legal advice. Before taking action, consult an experienced New York Landlord Tenant attorney about your situation. Beware that being a party in a lawsuit in New York City’s Housing Court can subject you to blacklisting. Please see more details here.
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