78% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck
58% can't weather a $500 unexpected expense
20% (about 31 million workers) are already experiencing reduced hours or unemployment as a result of the pandemic.
Let's be realistic. Many of us have lost our incomes in just the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of work for employees in the service industry has already put many in very vulnerable positions. Most of these jobs offer few if any benefits and unemployment has been slow and insufficient.
While there is currently a moratorium on evictions and eviction hearings through April 17, all this means is that current eviction orders are not being carried out and new eviction cases are not being scheduled for court hearings. As soon as the courts open again, tenants will be held liable for all unpaid rent, which is a valid reason for eviction — regardless of whether they had income. Tenants who already had a court order for eviction can be held responsible for double the daily rent for any time they stayed past the date they would have been evicted. The moratorium does not really help us, it just delays an even more massive crisis of homelessness! An organized rent strike overwhelms the courts and puts pressure where it should be: on elected officials and banks, to completely forgive all rent and mortgage debts during COVID-19.
In the coming weeks, more of us will lose our incomes. Many people who live paycheck-to-paycheck will be hit with months of rental backpay, from a time when they had no work. Now that Governor Evers has issued a stay at home order, this could be most of us.
No one should have to choose between medicine, groceries, or the roof over their head during this crisis. With so much else to worry about, let’s take this off our plate. If we all say no to rent, mortgages and debts, we can keep everyone in their home during this crisis. It should be our top priority to keep ourselves and our neighbors sheltered. And we should not be punished by debts in the future for a present that we cannot control.
We must demand an immediate suspension of rent and mortgage payments for everyone. And if this demand is not met, we must refuse to pay our rents and mortgages, together. The more of us that participate, the more likely we are to win. Talk to your neighbors and ask them to join. Write a letter to your landlord, explaining that you can't pay rent. Write a letter to your bank, explaining that you can’t pay your mortgage. If no one pays, everyone can stay safely in their homes.
LETTER FOR TENANTS TO LANDLORDS
LETTER FOR TENANTS TO NEIGHBORS
LETTER FOR TENANT UNIONS TO LANDLORDS
Want to help spread the word, organize your neighborhood or apartment building?
Display one of these images on your social media to show your support and solidarity, or print them out to make fliers:
We must act together. On April 1st, we will not pay what we cannot pay.
Question: If I can pay this month, why shouldn't I?
Answer: Those of us who cannot pay this month are the most vulnerable. But each month, more and more of us will join the ranks of those who literally cannot pay. The phrase "safety in numbers" rings clear now. The reason is simple. When we are few, they may evict us with ease. When we are many, we overwhelm their ability to take punitive measures and create the grounds for structural change. To reiterate: while moratoriums simply delay evictions, an organized rent strike overwhelms the courts and puts pressure where it should be: on elected officials and banks, to completely forgive all rent and mortgage debts during COVID-19.
Question: What if I like my landlord?
Answer: The thing about this crisis is that it affects all of us. Some landlords need to pay their mortgage each month just as tenants need to pay their rent. It's not their fault or ours that we're in this mess. The pressure should be applied upward to the representatives and financial institutions that call the shots.
Remind your landlord that you aren't doing this to spite them, but out of necessity. None of us chose to be in this predicament. Support your landlord in their mortgage strike, and ask for their support in return. We need to stick together, and again--- hold those above us accountable.
Question: What if we receive a COVID stimulus check from the government?
Answer: Even if everyone receives a check from the government, millions of people will be forced to choose between paying for their basic necessities or paying their rent or mortgage. For many people, the projected payout would not even cover their monthly rent.
Question: What is the risk of my landlord retaliating against me?
Answer: While Wisconsin laws do allow landlords to evict tenants who do not pay rent, all eviction courts are currently shut down. In a typical week, Dane County sees 30-50 eviction cases. With or without a rent strike, by the time the courts re-open, they will be inundated with cases. Landlords must pay a $95 filing fee up front for each hearing. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that a contested eviction can take up to six months.
Beyond the threat of eviction, Wisconsin laws ATCP 134.09(5) and the Madison General Ordinances 32.12(4) specifically prohibit retaliation (i.e. not renewing leases.) in response to you joining or attempting to join a tenant union or organization. So lease non-renewal in this situation would be illegal.
It is important to note, however, that Section 8 tenants are extremely high risk for a rent strike, and should report any lost income immediately to get a reduction in the amount of rent you pay. If you lose your voucher or benefits in an eviction, you cannot get it back and might face permanent homelessness. It is that much more important for anyone who can strike in solidarity to do so!
Please share this Jotform link publicly on social media! Feel free to share with friends who might be interested in commiting to the Rent Strike 2020! (via text, List Serv, email, etc.)