On May 1, tenant activists are expected to make good on their threat to start rent strikes in California and elsewhere in the United States.
Groups are calling on tenants to withhold rent, even those who have suffered no financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. These groups also are calling for property owners to cancel rent for all tenants, regardless of need.
Some of the California Apartment Association’s largest members have received letters demanding that these companies either agree to the activists’ terms or face a national housing strike effective May. 1.
CAA recognizes that some tenants may be unable to cover all of their rent at some point during the COVID-19 crisis. The association urges its members to work with these tenants and find a reasonable plan to recoup unpaid rent when the crisis is over. CAA has also sponsored legislation, SB 1410, that would help cover rent payments for tenants who have suffered financial setbacks due to the virus.
But tenants who have the money to pay rent but refuse to do so in the name of a politically motivated rent strike are a different story.
“Calls for a general rent strike — where nobody pays the rent and back rent never gets paid — are irresponsible, unethical and illegal,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer for the California Apartment Association. “Any organization that is promoting general rent strikes is reckless, and either thoughtless or incredibly self-serving. Rent strikes will have a detrimental impact on housing opportunities for everyone, especially for working-class families.”