Advocate Groups Concerned Landlords May Exploit Covid-19

All over the nation, tensions are increasing among renters as the numbers of infected with coronavirus continue to go up. One of the chief concerns among people who rent their apartments and homes is that they’ll be evicted with no one there to offer them any sort of protections. In the Los Angeles area, such is the case with many tenants, namely Barbaro Rodriguez, who was threatened with his eviction at the worst possible time of his life. Last month, Rodriguez contracted the novel coronavirus and was thus out of work, forced to shelter in place until he hopefully got over the virus. But just as he thought things were going well, he received an eviction notice from his landlord.

In the notice, his landlord had claimed that Rodriguez was a “nuisance” due to the fact that several other tenants in the building claimed that they did not feel safe. It wasn’t that Rodriguez wasn’t paying his rent, or that he was a troublesome man; it was purely because others in the building were afraid of also getting infected with the virus. For many, this hysteria rests solely in the hands of media, as they do whatever they can to drive panic for ratings. Though others contend this is just what comes from a society that demands so much from renters but offers nothing in return, no sorts of protections against these unwarranted evictions.

To make matters worse, Rodriguez, who lived in the apartment with his partner, was only given three days to vacate the premises. The couple denied rumors that they had left their apartment without wearing the state-mandated masks to prevent the spread of the virus, though nevertheless the eviction notice made it clear that they had to pack up and move within three days. Advocates cannot seem to wrap their head around this. “Imagine you’re paying your rent, going to work, and you get sick, and then someone tells you that you have 72 hours to uproot your life and leave permanently,” said an anonymous source from an area housing advocacy group.

Matt Shapiro chimed in with “It’s a complete and utter crisis,” stating that in his tenure as president of the New Jersey Tenants Organization, things like this are happening all over and in 49 years, he hasn’t seen a “situation as dire as this.” People are being evicted left and right, and most of them are actually paying their rent. Though because the flames of fear are stoked so wildly due to this pandemic, people are panicking and trying to oust sick people from their homes.

Advocacy groups have had Winstar Properties on their radar for quite some time, the company that owns Rodriguez’s apartment complex. Some tenants have complained of a $500 rent increase amid this crisis. While some people are fighting tooth and nail just to feed themselves, some companies are trying to extort tenants, and there are many groups trying hard to fight back against this plague of greed.

The Rising Tides of Change

Most of these advocacy groups for tenants’ rights don’t want to bankrupt these landlords; they merely want what’s fair for everyday people. On a more extreme end of this spectrum, there are quite a few groups under the banner of the Democratic Socialists of America who are fighting to ensure that all Americans get to live in housing for free, as they believe it’s a criminal act to charge anyone rent. With so many landlords acting greedily during these tough times, these socialist groups are gaining some serious momentum.

More and more tenants are also coming forward with their stories of hardships. One has to understand here that this issue isn’t about people who are refusing to pay rent, or people who brought drugs or crime of some kind into these complexes. These are just normal people trying to live, and landlords all across the nation are either upping their rent with huge increases or evicting tenants for getting sick. It’s a very scary time in this nation, especially if you happen to be a tenant in a big-city building. Imagine getting sick through no fault of your own and then being served an eviction notice. No warning; no one asking you politely to consider leaving; just an eviction notice on your door that says you have 3 days to vacate.

The fight wages on in many cities across America, with advocacy groups gaining a lot of momentum in what could lead to huge changes.

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