The mistakes made by the landlord of a massive apartment complex in Southeast Portland didn't end when they lost a $20 million lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court last spring.
In August, the managers at Wimbledon Square and Garden emailed a notice to 250 tenants about a water shutoff. Instead of bcc-ing all the tenants in the complex, they included everyone's email address.
That led to an unintended (but perhaps predictable) outcome: The renters started emailing each other, and formed a tenant's union.
The tenants started organizing around what they describe as repeated management failures, including lengthy and repeated water shutoffs and the failure to provide tenants compensation while they restrict access to apartment during repairs to the walkways.
"We were all living for a long time that were alone with the problems we were having in our units," says Wimby Tenants Union co-chair Mercy Strongheart, who was among those tenants who started talking to her neighbors after the email. "We realized, I am totally not alone; it's an epidemic."
Today, the Wimby Tenants Union presented a letter of demands to their landlord, the Californina-based real estate investment firm Prime Group. The demands include two months' rent reimbursed to households affected by the water shutoffs.
"As a tenant organizer, I have to say, I've been to a lot of places, I've heard a lot of stories about a lot of bad landlords, and the level of negligence and disregard here is just stunning," said Portland Tenants United organizer Margot Black at a press conference today.
The complex is owned and operated by two different related entities of Prime Group.
The tenants union press conference today drew some other key supporters, including Kafoury & McDougal attorney Jason Kafoury, whose firm has sued the landlord twice now, and elected officials, including Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland).
"This should go without saying, but I feel like I need to say it out loud, because this situation is crazy-making," said Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who also spoke at the press conference. "Landlords have a legal obligation to maintain their premises in habitable condition. It breaks my heart that people have lived here under these circumstances and accepted them because they feel they have no rights or no way to assert their rights."