A fungus among us: Direct action cleans up landlord's act

 A fungus among us: Direct action cleans up landlord's act

A demand delivery scares landlord into returning the deposit of two SeaSol organizers.

Here's the story of a fight we recently won, in Wendy's words:

My partner & I, both longtime SeaSol members and organizers, moved into our apartment in the Central District in June of last year. After about a month of living there we started to notice substantial mold growth in the apartment. We emailed the landlord (a top executive at Starbucks) who suggested leaving the window open when we took a shower and cleaning it using bleach. The mold continued to spread despite this "treatment." Every time we cleaned the mold it would grow back right away, and with renewed intensity. Worse than that, I was experiencing light-headedness, dizziness and low energy, especially after I cleaned the mold.

As the mold infestation continued to worsen, my partner developed a low-grade fever, his tongue turned white, and his doctor recommended in writing that he move out of the apartment as soon as possible. Our dog developed allergies that caused open sores on his legs as well as ear infections requiring several trips to the vet. It became clear that it was no longer safe to live in the apartment and after being out of the apartment for just a few days, all of our symptoms, even our dog's allergies, began to clear up. Back at the apartment our landlord refused to consult mold specialists or make any serious attempt to get rid of the mold.

We told our landlord that our apartment was uninhabitable and moved all our possessions out on Dec.18th. In response, she insisted we were breaking the lease and threatened to sue us for "waste." She refused to give back more than $400 of our $1000 deposit. Meanwhile, we were seriously struggling to get the money together to get moved into a new place. We called SeaSol.

SeaSol voted to support us in a direct action campaign demanding that our former landlord return the missing $600 of our deposit. We arranged a fake showing at one of her properties and planned to present a letter to her outside the house en masse demanding that she return our stolen deposit. At the pre-action huddle, standing around me, supporting me, were about forty people.

We headed toward the corner where our former landlord was expecting to meet "Sarah," a fake tenant. There were close to forty of us marching down the middle of the street. As we approached she and two prospective tenants tried to skirt the large, silent group but I stepped toward her, letter in my hand, and said her name. Quickly, and while the tenants were still listening I explained to her that the letter was "in regards to the $600 of our security deposit that was taken". At this point she was surrounded by all forty, intensely quiet and serious-looking SeaSolers. She took the letter, said as professionally as she could that she was going to read it later, and scurried off to get in her BMW. Unfortunately for her she was parked on a dead-end street, so the experience was not over until she had started her car, turned around and slowly driven past all of us while we watched and filmed her. As soon as she was out of view we erupted into applause and whooping. I felt an unprecedented surge of empowerment.

Within ten days our landlord sent us an email stating she would pay back the $600! She was apparently unwilling to face the prospect of that same group of forty people staging future actions. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us.

Solidarity forever!

[posted on seasol.net March 2013]

Posted By

Uncle Aunty
Aug 8 2013 23:28

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  • Within ten days our landlord sent us an email stating she would pay back the $600! She was apparently unwilling to face the prospect of that same group of forty people staging future actions. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us.

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