Rent Strike! A Call To Action

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The Philadelphia Tenants Union calls for citywide collective rent strikes on May 1st.

Philadelphia cannot pay rent. In the face of the COVID-19 Crisis renters need protections, but demands for relief have not been answered. One third of tenants could not make rent in April, and even more will be unable to afford payments for May. Since mid-March, 1.1 million Pennsylvanians have filed claims for unemployment, and many in the city were already burdened by rent payments before this crisis. People should be allowed to save their money for food, medications, and other basic necessities, without fear of eviction, displacement, or houselessness. Nobody without a reliable place to stay can afford to social distance.

The Philadelphia Tenants Union embraces the slogan “FOOD, NOT RENT!” 

A rent strike means tenants stand in solidarity, in a united front. This is not a call for individuals to withhold rent on their own. It is a call for us to show our landlords and the government that if they will not act then we as tenants affected by this crisis are prepared to act together. We urge renters to organize with other tenants under their same landlord as soon as possible.

To get started, talk to your neighbors! Fill out our form to get connected with other tenants who share the same landlord and for ongoing support from members of the PTU. Work with your group of tenants to come up with collective demands for reduced or cancelled rents, and be prepared to keep your rent until these demands are met by your landlord. If landlords refuse to provide relief for tenants who cannot pay, that’s when we call for a strike. 

Why is a rent strike necessary? Our city, state, and federal governments have failed to adequately respond to this crisis.  Renters have been left to fend for themselves and encouraged to enter unsafe negotiations with landlords. Eviction courts are only temporarily closed and we anticipate a wave of filings as soon as they reopen in June. The more tenants involved in organized strikes around the city, the more likely they are to win concessions from the landlords and build political pressure for city and state intervention. 

By striking, we raise the stakes for local, state, and federal authorities to act now!

We demand Governor Wolf, State Senators and Representatives draft legislation to:

  1. Cancel rent and mortgage payments for 6 months, with no debt accrued and no back pay required.
  2. Enforce rent and mortgage forgiveness for missed payments starting from March.

And demand that Mayor Kenney and Philadelphia City Council: 

  1. Make all eviction filing, evictions, and foreclosures illegal for at least 6 months.
  2. Freeze rent rates at the current level for a year beyond the end of the crisis.
  3. Enforce comprehensive rent control.
  4. Take immediate action to provide housing for the houseless people of Philadelphia.
  5. Build city-funded public housing that will meet the city’s need.

The Philadelphia Tenants Union will also be offering support in three forms:

  1. Emergency Anti-Eviction Task Force: We will use all the methods at our disposal, including using legislative methods and people power, to prevent evictions.
  2. Rent Strike Fund: Monetary funds for legal support for collectives of tenants on strike. Click here to donate.
  3. Organizing Support: The PTU will provide resources and guidance as you prepare for May 1st. Click here to get connected with other tenants in your group and with the larger network of tenant groups.

We recognize striking comes with considerable risks, and that many people may not be able to strike safely, such as undocumented workers, people with disabilities, and people with criminal records. We also recognize that many in those vulnerable groups have already been unable to pay rent in April, and will be forced into more dire circumstances without our support. Consider your individual circumstances, but also consider the needs of your neighbors at serious risk of eviction at this time. We strongly urge those who are able to stand in solidarity with strikes to do so.

“WE CAN’T WORK, WE CAN’T PAY!”

  1. If you can’t pay rent this month: contact the PTU, reach out to your fellow tenants and see if others cannot pay rent. Collectively negotiate for rent reductions. If the negotiations fail to get a rate your neighbors can pay, it’s time to strike. 
  2. If you can pay this month, check on your neighbors, see how they are feeling, and prepare to work with them in solidarity!
  3. If your fellow tenants go on strike, we ask that you respect that strike regardless of your ability to pay. If you have the means to pay in May and want to strike with your fellow tenants, you can put your normal payment amount in an escrow account instead.
  4. If you are unable to strike and plan to pay your rent, we ask that you donate what you can to our solidarity strike fund.

The housing market in Philadelphia has been broken for a long time, and this crisis is exposing the cracks. Between the moratoriums in other cities on eviction and the closing of our own landlord-tenant courts, it has become clear that eviction is not a devastating fact of life but an unnecessary and preventable cruelty. If we stand up together as a mass of renters, with all our shared dignity and diversity of experience, we can force this broken system to respond.

Now is the time to ensure housing is finally treated as a human right.

Philly Tenant’s Union statement dated April 15, 2020

GET STARTED:

  • Fill out this form to get connected, then join PTU for more support and strength in numbers!
  • Repost our statement on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and stay tuned for more flyers, graphics, and info to spread far and wide.

FAQS (check back for more!):

Q: My landlord will not respond to our collective letter, and wants us to talk to us as individual units. They’re also asking for bank statements or proof of income. What do I do?

Landlords may respond to these collective letters by asking for individuals to contact them one-on-one if they need help, and they will often ask for a lot of private financial information. We encourage groups of tenants to deny landlords their personal financial information, which can be used against people later. You are not required to disclose any of this personal financial information. We recommend that tenant groups only agree to a resolution that will allow all tenants across the board to remain housed. It’s easier for the landlords to come to a solution that favors them when you are isolated from your neighbors. And there’s no guarantee that they will not act to evict your neighbor who might be in a worse financial position. There’s strength in numbers. We say, stay strong!