A landlord sent an email blast to 300 tenants telling them to pay rent. It inadvertently helped them organize a rent strike.

·4 min read
A pedestrian walks past graffiti that reads "Rent Strike" Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.(AP Photo:Ted S. Warren)
Seattle on April 1.

Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

  • As tenants across the country call for rent strikes during the coronavirus pandemic, one Los Angeles property manager tried to remind its tenants that they still owed rent.

  • But in its email to renters, the company addressed them collectively — and inadvertently revealed all their email addresses, making it easier for them to organize a strike, Curbed first reported.

  • One tenant told Insider they were still trying to negotiate with the management but that a rent strike was "likely."

  • "I don't think they realize that the tool they just provided us by giving us every single email," another tenant told Curbed. "They essentially did all of the hard work for us."

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Leading up to rent day on April 1, some workers around the country called for rent strikes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to reduced working hours, furloughs, and layoffs.

Ten million workers have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks — a record since the government began collecting the data in 1967.

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Saturn Management, a property-management company in Los Angeles, tried to stem a strike Tuesday, telling its tenants by email that they were still required to pay rent.

But the message backfired: Instead of sending a blind carbon copy, or BCC, to each tenant — which would keep them anonymous from each other — the email was sent to the group collectively.

That meant 300 tenants all had each other's contact information, according to Curbed, which first reported the story. The email chain offered a venue for them to complain about health and safety issues across the 24 properties.

"I'm just throwing out there—RENT STRIKE," Roberto Torres, a tenant in a Los Angeles apartment, wrote.

And now the tenants have started organizing a rent strike, which could begin in May. They're communicating in group chats and on a shared document where they collect further complaints about the properties.

For some, the strike could be the only option. Nailah, a tenant who asked to be identified by her first name, told Insider a strike was "likely."

"As a full-time photographer and event curator, I have lost all business in order to comply with [California Gov. Gavin Newsom's] order of social distancing and keeping everyone safe," she said.

But the tenants will "handle things at the lowest level before escalating" to a strike, she added.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has prompted some public officials to call for measures that guarantee that tenants will not be evicted. Newsom issued an injunction last week preventing all eviction action through May 31. A handful of cities and states across the country have issued temporary eviction bans.

But tenants are still required to pay rent and must demonstrate they've been affected by the pandemic to prevent eviction, according to Curbed. Saturn Management's email informed tenants that the statewide moratorium "only delays an eviction," according to one tenant's social-media post.

Another tenant's tweet about the email quickly went viral.

'Tenants are banding together'

The Los Angeles tenants have disappointed the property managers, who said their message was misinterpreted. Michael Mannheim, a leasing associate at Saturn Management, told Curbed that the purpose of the email was to "keep the line of communication open" and "make sure that they understood the resources that were available to them."

"The fact is, now our tenants are banding together, using our error against us, vocalizing their grievances," Mannheim said.

Mannheim told Curbed the company would evaluate rent deferrals on a case-by-case basis and that he told tenants to pursue other resources like unemployment benefits and food banks.

Saturn Management did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Meanwhile, the renters are in contact with the Los Angeles Tenants Union, which launched a Food Not Rent campaign advocating a strike if tenants cannot afford rent during the outbreak.

"There are a lot of people that have been affected by this, in various ways," Alex Mercier, one tenant, told Curbed. "For me, it's both a personal thing and it's about community — we're all in it together."

"I don't think they realize that the tool they just provided us by giving us every single email," Torres said, adding that he is excited to "stick it to [his] landlord."

"They essentially did all of the hard work for us," he said.

This article has been updated.

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