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Oakland, CA: Tenants Demand Repairs, Declare Rent Strike

Above Photo: Ronan Furuta via Unsplash.

Tenants in Oakland, California are announcing a rent strike starting on September 1st, in protest of living conditions and rising rents.

Oakland, California – Tenants of 180-unit Oakland apartment building Merritt on 3rd are collectively refusing rent Sept. 1 until the landlord meets demands related to chronic habitability issues.

The Merritt on 3rd Tenant Council and Tenant and Neighborhood Councils (TANC) present speakers and banners at a rally at the 1130 3rd Ave. building on Tues., Aug 30, 6pm.

The Merritt on 3rd Tenant Council formed in June, 2022 to address building deterioration, mismanagement, and high rent imposed by landlord Kennedy Wilson and FPI Management.

Habitability issues resulting from the landlord’s neglect include a rat infestation evident up to the 11th floor; hot water and elevator outages; code-deficient fire safety; mold and sewage leaks.

In July, the Merritt on 3rd Tenant Council delivered Kennedy Wilson and FPI a letter signed by more than 100 tenants of the building demanding collective negotiation with the council, rent reductions, and timely resolution of outstanding habitability, security, and management issues.

“We’ve asked individually and been ignored for years — now we’re angry,” Ali Uro-May, a Merritt on 3rd Tenant Council and TANC member, said. “We formed a tenant council for the power, organizing with our neighbors and TANC, and we’re going on rent strike to finally be heard.”

Kennedy Wilson, a $23 billion Beverly Hills asset manager, acquired the 1975 building in 2012, telling the business press that rent-controlled units would be emptied and raised to market rate.

Kennedy Wilson now appears to be maximizing the profits of displacement and neglect by selling the building to Trinity Property Consultants, a pattern typical of finance sector landlords.

The consolidation of property ownership since the 2007-2008 foreclosure crisis further empowered landlords in the United States, including private equity firms such as Blackstone.

In recent years, and especially since the outset of the pandemic, tenants have responded by developing our own organizational and tactical capacity to fight back — including the rent strike.

The TANC-affiliated Ivy Hill Tenant Union withheld some $650,000 over the course of 13 months, winning the partial cancellation of back rent as well as permanent rent reductions.

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