Oregonian: Southeast Portland tenants mount rent strike
Oregonian, August 1, 2018: Southeast Portland tenants mount rent strike
Tenants at a Southeast Portland apartment complex are mounting a rent strike after they say their landlord raised rents while failing to address maintenance concerns.
Twenty-five residents of Holgate Manor, an 81-unit complex near Southeast 36th Place and Holgate Boulevard, say they won’t pay rent until a series of code violations are addressed. The residents have complained of pest infestations, mold, leaks and other damage that’s gone unrepaired, and a city inspector determined parts of the complex were in violation of city code.
Participating tenants, backed by the tenants rights organization Portland Tenants United, announced the rent strike outside Portland City Hall on Wednesday morning.
“We don’t want to cost them monetarily,” said Holgate Manor resident Sara Brassfield. “We want them to understand the cost of renting us homes that aren’t 100 percent habitable, especially when they’re giving us rent increases.”
State Rep. Rob Nosse, a Democrat who represents the residents’ district, spoke Wednesday morning in support of the strike.
“These tenants are engaging in a righteous struggle and fight,” he said, adding that the owner of the complex should allow them to stay.
Attorneys caution against withholding rent because it can backfire if tenants don’t follow steps outlined in state law. It also “almost guarantees” the landlord will attempt to evict the tenant, according to the Oregon State Bar.
The residents said they’ll pay into an escrow account during the strike. They hope the strike will bring their property manager to the negotiating table, but they could also end up facing an eviction in court, where they can plead their case before a judge.
In that event, the city code violations and money placed in escrow should protect them from eviction, said Margot Black, an organizer for Portland Tenants United.