A tenant association (or tenant organization) is a group that advances the common interests of renters. It may include tenants who live in a certain building or development. Membership may also be on a larger scale. For example, the members may be renters in a city who belong to a county or citywide local tenants' association. These groups have many goals, including:
- Informing tenants of their rights under local, state, and federal law
- Organizing and lobbying on behalf of tenants and tenants' rights, especially at city and county levels of government
- Improving tenant-landlord relationships and building conditions
- Promoting services for tenants under a "strength in numbers" model
- Encouraging regular communication and community awareness among tenants
For example, suppose that your local city council is considering a new law to shorten the eviction process. A shorter eviction period might unfairly benefit landlords. Property owners are interested in securing their properties at tenants' expense. But a local tenants association will have the power and motivation to fight back. They might attend city council hearings to push back against the new law. Ultimately, the association's advocacy might mean the difference between the status quo and the passage of the unfair law.
Tenant Associations: The Right to Organize
Tenant associations usually have periodic meetings to encourage active tenant participation. The meetings also aim to promote tenants' awareness of the association's role and available services. Discussions may also take place about:
- Association goals
- Group bylaws
- Votes on important decision-making events
Employers can't retaliate against employees who join labor unions. Similarly, legal protections exist for tenants in real estate law. Federal and state fair housing laws allow tenants to join organizations that advance their interests. Landlords can't punish their tenants for participation or membership in a tenant association. Examples of banned landlord conduct include:
- Arbitrary rent increases
- Refusal to make necessary repairs
- Threats of eviction or other forms of landlord retaliation
Also, a landlord can't prevent a tenant association from meeting in a common area on the building's premises if:
- Other groups can do so, and
- The circumstances of the meeting (i.e., time, place, noise level) are reasonable.
Important Initiatives Spearheaded by Tenant Organizations
Tenant associations engage in community advocacy locally and statewide. Many are nonprofit organizations that continually fight for tenant rights in the areas of:
- Affordable housing and rental assistance
- Safe tenancy living conditions
- Responsible property management
- Reforming landlord-tenant laws
- Lobbying elected officials to expand legal rights of tenants
Real estate investors, property owners, and management companies push back. They have landlord associations of their own that advocate for their interests. They advance rental housing agendas that benefit landlords alone. So, groups of tenants need to take collective action to balance the playing field for rental properties fairly.
For example, landlord organizations help property owners by creating legal forms. Landlords might have access to templates to help them with the eviction process. Since tenants do not own property, they might be financially disadvantaged. Fighting against an eviction notice might be difficult. This is where tenant associations come in. Many such organizations provide tenants access to legal aid resources. A tenant backed by an association is far more likely to stick up for their rights.
If you are a tenant in a large residential building or development, consider joining your local tenant association. If you rent your home in a mid- to large-sized city, you may have the opportunity to get involved in a tenant association or organization. To find out more, contact your city's housing department. Some examples of tenant organizations include:
- San Francisco Tenants Union
- National Alliance of HUD Tenants
- Tenants Together
- Action North Carolina
- The California Apartment Association (renters section)
Your state might also have resource pages on different providers. Here are a few popular state websites offering information on tenant associations:
- New York City (NYC) Housing Preservation and Development
- California Housing is Key Program
- Texas Attorney General
Get Legal Advice
Getting legal advice is good if you're interested in a tenant association. A landlord-tenant attorney may have helpful contact information to share with you. A real estate lawyer can provide legal advice on lobbying elected officials to advance tenants' rights. Consult a legal professional today to get things done with proper legal compliance.
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