TIPS FOR ORGANIZERS

The following has been adapted from texts by the Autonomous Tenants Union (Chicago) and Parkdale Organize / Keep Your Rent Toronto. Thanks to both!

 

1. Make connections with your neighbours.

Whether we are experiencing a public health crisis or not, the first step of tenant organizing is always talking to your neighbors. The best way to protect yourself and your neighbors against retaliation from your landlord in the future is to form a tenants committee as soon as possible.

This will look different for different people:

  • If you live with roommates, first talk to them about whether or not to make the collective decision to keep your rent.
  • If you have a ‘small landlord’ (live in a basement apartment, duplex/triplex, or mid-rise), talk to the other tenants in your building. But also try to make connections with other tenants on your block or in your neighbourhood. You could do research on the Land Registry Office website to find out if your landlord owns other units across the city, and try to connect with those tenants.
  • If you live in a high-rise, focus on connecting with the other tenants in your building.

Do you already know your neighbours? Great!

If you already know your neighbours you have a real head start, especially if your building already has an email list, WhatsApp group, or Facebook group. Get the conversation started! Use the form email from Keep Your Rent Hamilton or write your own. Emphasize that keeping our rent is something everyone can and should do.

If not, you will need to build connections.

Stay safe. Don’t knock on doors to talk to people or pass flyers hand to hand. We need to be very careful not to spread COVID-19. Instead, put up posters on the streets in your area. Prioritize busier areas like major intersections, around grocery stores, convenience stores, and bus stops. To reach tenants in your building, put up posters in your building’s lobby, laundry room, and garbage room. At a safe distance, have brief conversations with neighbours you see. Collect tenants’ phone numbers and email addresses on your own phone.

If you take the necessary precautions, you can also consider leaving notes for your neighbours, introducing yourself and sharing your contact information. See template below. Rather than taping a note to the door or in the door frame, try to slip the note under the door. That way the landlord or property manager can’t steal it before your neighbour has the chance to read it.

How to do this safely:

  • Wash your hands before taking papers out of the printer.
  • Put papers directly into a Ziploc bag.
  • Do not leave your apartment if you are unwell at all, even if you’re only experiencing mild symptoms.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you start.
  • Sanitize hands after you touch an elevator button, stairwell banister, door handle, etc.
  • Stay two metres back from anyone you encounter.
  • Wash your hands when you get back to your apartment.

 

2. Set up a group communication channel.

This can be a phone tree, group text, email thread, WhatsApp group, Facebook group, or whatever tenants are most comfortable with. Remember that not everyone may have a cell phone, access to the internet, or be on social media. Experiment and find out what platform works best for people. If the group is multilingual, commit to translating the most important points for monolingual speakers. If no one is able to translate, you can use Google Translate for quick translation.

You can use materials from Keep Your Rent Hamilton to help address any concerns your neighbours may have. A group of tenants communicating about their common concerns is a building committee.

 

3. If time allows, try to schedule a meeting (not in person!) to discuss the issues as a group and decide on next steps.

Although in-person meetings are not a good idea, tenants can still meet using Zoom, Google Hangouts or a conference call. Make sure to check in with the other tenants to make sure you choose a medium that they are comfortable with.

Remind everyone the day before and the day of the meeting. You want as many tenants as possible to be involved.

Meeting tips:

  • Have a simple agenda.
  • Have someone facilitate the meeting. Their job is to keep conversation on topic, include all participants in discussion and make sure every task has someone assigned to it.
  • Have someone take notes. Their job is to write down at least the most important points, any decisions, and who commits to doing what. These help with knowing what happened as you move forward and with keeping people in the loop who missed a meeting.

Goals for the meeting:

  • Check in with everyone. How is everyone feeling about rent being due on the first of the month?
  • Relay important information. Has everyone heard the latest updates on the Landlord & Tenant Board being closed and evictions being suspended?
  • Discuss option of collectively keeping your rent and come to a decision.
  • Discuss option of sending a letter to your landlord as a tenant committee and come to a decision.
  • Discuss how your landlord might respond to everyone keeping their rent and what your building committee can do to be prepared to support each other.

 

4. As a tenant committee, prepare for the landlord’s response.

 Your building committee should be prepared to respond if your landlord tries to retaliate against tenants. Keep Your Rent Hamilton is here to take action alongside tenants against landlord retaliation. Keep in touch!

Your landlord may try to undermine your organizing by offering rent deferral plans to individual tenants. Your building committee should respond by clearly stating that tenants should not have to pay rent April 1 and that no tenant should have to repay it in the future.

Your landlord may threaten legal action against tenants (see FAQ). Keep Your Rent Hamilton has members who are lawyers and paralegals who can provide tenants with information and advice.

 

5. Link up with other organized tenant groups for support.

Join the Keep Your Rent Hamilton group on Facebook. You can also reach us at keepyourrenthamilton@gmail.com or 289-779-0758.