A Fight for Tenants’ Rights
Tenants’ rights groups are taking action to protect renters from eviction when banks foreclose on property owners.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, renters make up an estimated 40 percent of the families currently facing eviction because of foreclosure. Nearly a million properties are at risk of foreclosure, a number expected to more than double in the coming year.
Renters can be evicted with only a few days notice, even if they’ve never missed a rent payment, and they are frequently unable to recoup security deposits and advance rent without suing. Vacant rental buildings are often targeted by vandals, and entire neighborhoods can suffer.
Lawyers for New Haven Legal Assistance (NHLA) threatened a lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, forcing them to allow renters to stay in their apartments. Advocacy groups are now pressuring other lenders to do the same.
Groups like the San Francisco Tenant’s Union and Boston’s City Life/Vida Urbana are helping renters challenge evictions in court. They are also organizing public protests against banks and urging policymakers to stop lenders—many of whom are benefiting from federal bailout funds—from evicting tenants in foreclosed properties.
“The current situation is a lose-lose situation for everyone right now,” says NHLA’s Amy Eppler-Epstein. “Banks can make more money on a full building than an empty one that’s trashed. Shareholders, neighborhoods, communities, and tenants are suffering. It’s crazy, and it’s got to change.”
—Daniel Fireside is book editor at Dollars & Sense magazine, www.dollarsandsense.org.
“We’re matching homeless people with peopleless homes.”
Max Rameau, directoy of Take Back the Land,