KANSAS CITY, MO – In a victory for tenant rights and community organizing, the city-wide tenant union, KC Tenants, announced that, after organizing alongside the tenants, they had collectively negotiated a groundbreaking agreement to protect immigrant and refugee families from mass eviction in the Historic Northeast.
Prior to their victory, the tenants of the North Lawn Avenue property had been threatened by the property owner with a rent increase of double their current rate, or face eviction.
The tenants will now be relocated into safe, recently rehabilitated units on the same property. Under the agreement, their rent will remain at $400 per unit, per month, and the City will subsidize the remaining $450 per unit rent, conditioned on a set of tenant protections.
“This historic intervention by the City will help ensure family and neighborhood stability in the face of displacement,” said KC Tenants in a statement.
The historic win comes after months of organizing, which began in January after a building fire left the property without heat.
“This victory is a testament to the power of tenant organizing in the face of systemic neglect and abuse,” a statement from the citywide tenant union read. For years, the tenants had been living in units with broken and boarded-up windows and doors, fires, leaks, pests, frequent break-ins, no mail service, unresponsive management and ownership, a lack of maintenance and vital repairs, and dangerous gas and heat outages.
The property had been cited for numerous building and health code violations, as well as dozens of Healthy Homes complaints.
The agreement between the City and the property owner has a term of two years and guarantees (but is not limited to) the following conditions:
- Tenants will pay $400 per unit, per month; The City will pay $450 per unit, per month, subject to all the stipulations of the agreement;
- Tenants will be guaranteed relocation without needing to apply for their units or pay security deposits;
- Tenants will be relocated to units of comparable size (number of bedrooms) and that guarantee accessibility accommodations as needed;
- The landlord will not increase the rent during the term of the agreement;
- If a tenant is late on their share of rent, late fees will not surpass a one-time $40 fee, and landlord will not charge any other arbitrary fees or fines;
- The landlord will not evict any tenant during the term of the agreement, except in extenuating circumstances that are defensible in court;
- Every tenant who is party to the agreement will receive a year-to-year lease, which shall automatically renew upon the expiration of each lease term for a new, year-to-year lease;
- The landlord will notify the tenants as soon as the property is listed as a part of a sale;
- The landlord guarantees that every formal notice will be translated into the tenants’ native languages, and the landlord guarantees that a tenant can request interpretation before any entry into their unit;
- The landlord must pass a health inspection for all units that will be rented;
- The landlord will guarantee mail service (tenants haven’t received mail in at least three months); and,
- The landlord must not retaliate in any way against a Tenant for organizing or for reporting a maintenance issue.
KC Tenants went on to say that “this agreement represents the first time that the City has proactively intervened in a displacement of this kind, playing a critical role in stabilizing housing for eight tenant households– including families with children at Gladstone Elementary School, elderly people with health conditions, and people with disabilities. This agreement lays the groundwork for a more proactive, systematic approach that the City can take to fight displacement and achieve safe, accessible, and truly affordable homes for everyone in Kansas City.”