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Building Organizing

The Chicago Tenants Bill of Rights only goes so far in protecting the rights of individual tenants. In some cases it offers tenants few tools with which to resolve their problems. When faced with a difficult landlord or situation, tenant organizing expands an individual tenant’s power. Tenants acting together are better able to assert their rights than a tenant who acts alone. For instance, city officials are much more likely to respond to a group of tenants demanding that the city attorney takes their landlord to court than a lone tenant with the same demand.

Tenant Unions have successfully won concessions from both the courts and landlords. The Warranty of Habitability, the court precedence that paved the way for the passage of a tenant’s right to use rent withholding, was won by a tenant union. Other tenant unions have achieved rent reductions or in a few cases some have even been able to purchase the building from the landlord with the help of outside funding sources. Tenant unions have led the way to better situations for all renters.

Besides being better able to assert tenant rights, tenant unions can help improve the quality of renters lives in other ways. Tenants have organized food buying clubs, exchanged day care, obtained group legal assistance or reduced criminal activity around the building. Working with other people facing similar problems offers the best hope for changing the world in which we live and improving our lives and the lives of those around us.