Car hit building, Landlords demand rent increases
:: by Leorah Gavidor ::
Tenants and organizers gathered on the grass in front of Morley Street apartments in Linda Vista on May 1 to protest—again—the $200-$400 rent increases, imposed by new owner MC Properties, that could force some families into homelessness. Rent hikes come despite documented cases of rodents, water damage, and needed repairs. Michael Contreras bought the apartment complex in 2018.
“This is one of the last affordable areas north of [Interstate] 8,” said Raphael Bautista of San Diego Tenants Union.
Residents staged the first protest in March and requested a meeting with Contreras to negotiate rental contracts. Requests were met with refusal. Tenants paid their rent on May 1 (minus the increases); property owner MC Properties took the money and letters that accompanied the payments. But landlords insisted that tenants were living there illegally because they had not signed updated rental agreements.
Natalie Contreras of MC Properties did not reply to requests for comment.
Some tenants who participated in the rent strike received threatening phone calls from the owners and flyers posted on their doors with a 24-hour notice that checks would be conducted to make sure apartments were vacated. Residents then composed a letter to state that they could not afford the hikes, and that conditions of the apartments have not been updated to reflect such increases. They proposed a 2% increase as a solution.
“Some of the tenants have lived here for decades,” said SDTU organizer Catherine Mendonça. “Most of the units are home to families and children. It’s their right to have a say in contract negotiations.”
The 47 tenants facing increases formed an association. One stipulation: fix the damage done to a ground floor apartment when a car veered off the street and crashed into the exterior. The resident is one of the 47 who received rent increase notices. When she brought the condition to the property managers’ attention, they concluded there was no damage. The hole remains.
But the rent strike did buy residents a little time: a few tenants received notices of a rent increase in August, instead of the original May 1.
“There is a way to fight rent increases. You have to organize and you have to be willing to rent strike,” said Bautista.