Did you just receive an eviction notice?
Is your friend being harassed by their landlord?
Has your building been bought by a developer?
Give us a call! The sooner we’re able to get in touch and start organizing, the better chance we have to stop the eviction.
Here is some more advice to help you start organizing in your neighbourhood:
1. Make connections with your neighbours
Although everyone has a unique experience, chances are we face similar dangers as tenants. Evictions, skyrocketing rent; unsafe buildings due to lack of repairs and greedy slumlords; and the threat of being kicked out to the streets after a new building owner shows up or if we’re a day late on rent. For many of us, these threats are compounded by colonialism, racism, ableism, and misogyny, as landlords use whatever means they can to exploit, control, and divide us.
Talking to your neighbours and building connections is the most important step to start organizing and building the power we need to resist evictions and the destruction of our low income neighbourhoods.
Some of us will build tenant committees either in their building and/or neighbourhood. You should find what works best in your case. But remember, our strength is in numbers and in the solidarity we can build through our connections with people facing similar threats as we do.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we received a call from a tenant in Surrey. Her landlord was using a loophole in the eviction moratorium to kick her out, and she had nowhere to go. She refused to leave and we went to her building to meet and strategize.
Before we left the building, we slid pamphlets under each door. Within an hour, we received a call from a tenant. Then another one. Turns out every tenant of the building was facing eviction. Building these connections allowed us to build a stronger defence. Soon after our first contact, the tenants of the building joined together to hold a press conference announcing their collective refusal to leave until they had somewhere to go.
2. Get organized
- Reach out to your neighbours: during the pandemic, you can do so by postering the neighbourhood or by distributing pamphlets or handmade notes in your building.
- Once you start talking to your neighbours, build trust. Ask about their everyday struggles: are they scrambling to pay rent, being harassed by the landlord or property manager, or facing eviction? Listen to their stories and share yours.
- Follow up with the contacts you’ve made and find a way to communicate with one another in a safe and inclusive way. You can try organizing Zoom calls, socially distanced meetings in a park, or phone conferences.
- Through your connections, find the leaders in your building or neighbourhood: the people you know you can rely on, who other tenants respect, listen to, or go to for help.
- Organize a building or neighbourhood committee, which just means a group of people who agree to take collective action to defend their homes.
- Make a plan together to confront your issues. You could organize a press conference or collectively deliver a letter of demands to your landlord. We can help you in getting the word out.
In December, we received a call from a building in Maple Ridge. Their new building owner was driving tenants out by imposing new rules that were impossible to follow while neglecting the building. Some disabled tenants had been stuck for months in their suites because the elevator was out of service.
We connected with a small number of tenants from the building. They all shared the same stories with us: harassment, threats, building neglect. As a first action, we proposed drafting a newsletter for the building, explaining how some of the new rules were illegal and anonymously sharing the stories of the tenants we met. The newsletter helped us to make more connections, and more tenants came out with their stories. A month later, they organized a press conference demanding for the new owners to cancel all evictions planned in the building and stop harassing tenants in the building.
3. Find common ground and build solidarity across difference
Finding a common ground means voicing clear demands that resonate with the needs and struggles of tenants in your building or neighbourhood. Try to come up with a slogan that will speak to everyone impacted by the issue you want to raise.
Building solidarity across our distinct histories, identities, and lives will strengthen our fight. For example, Indigenous tenants face a unique struggle: they are displaced from their territories and forced to pay rent on stolen land. But all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have a stake in fighting the colonial forces that dispossess Indigenous peoples, attack Indigenous ways of life, and commodify land and housing for profit.
As written in an article following the Maple Ridge tenants press conference: “The tenants who spoke at a January 19th rally against CWI’s harassment and evictions are the face of those most likely to be attacked and thrown in the streets by rent seeking landlords. Out of the four tenants who spoke, two were Indigenous, two were people with disabilities, two were seniors, and one was a racialized immigrant. Three-quarters of them were women. They were low-wage workers and people on disability welfare. It was the unity between these tenants, and the others standing behind them, that gave them the confidence to fight back against their abusive landlord.”
5. more resources on tenant organizing
While these websites offer useful advice for tenant organizing, we want to point out that these resources are based in the USA or elsewhere in Canada, which have different tenant laws from BC. For BC specific tenant laws, consult the websites and organizations linked at the bottom of our legal resources page.
- The Autonomous Tenants’ Union Network compiled a useful list of tenants organizing resources.
- Parkdale Organize from Ontario has a website about fighting evictions, including useful graphics about what to do if a sheriff comes to your door.
- The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union resource page offers another good list of tenant organizing handbooks and resources from the USA.