Without Better Organization, Binghamton Tenants Told To Avoid A Rent Strike

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Rent is due, and people nationwide are calling for a rent strike.

During normal times, Amber Johnson with Citizen Action of New York, says a rent strike can be a tactic where tenants force a landlord to meet their demands by withholding rent payments.

Students of several London universities went on rent strike in 2016. Alisdare Hickson/Flickr

“You have money to pay your rent, you’re just withholding it from a landlord,” Johnson explained. “That means that when you go to court from a non-payment eviction, you can say, ‘Well, I have the money in an escrow’ or whatever, and that things can move forward.”

However, these are not normal times.  Many tenants say “I’m rent striking right now because I don’t have the money.’”

Citizen Action does not support a rent strike. She said a rent strike can put vulnerable people at risk. Although eviction courts are closed for now, the courts will likely be flooded when reopened.  Nevertheless, with so many people out of work, Johnson said cancelling rent payments seems an obvious solution.

Johnson said the types of apartments rented in Binghamton do not give tenants much opportunity to organize into a collective bargaining unit.

“We’re not like New York City or Rochester or Buffalo that have these really huge buildings where then you can kind of have really big tenant power and organize your neighbors of 200 people.”

“We have small, multi-family homes, small buildings,” Johnson said. “It’s harder to organize and come together when you’re not all in the same building, especially when you’re social distancing.

Johnson said individual tenants have expressed their interest in a strike, but people need to connect and organize first.  Then they can make their demands known and stage a rent strike at some time in the future.