CHARLOTTE: Tenants Go On Offensive Against Landlord with Rent Strike

By Gabriel Roshan

For three months, Compass Property Management promised residents of Melrose Place apartments in south Charlotte a meeting to discuss the uncertain future of the complex, but it wasn’t until July 10, once tenants went on a rent strike, that they finally responded to the pressure of the organized tenants.

Melrose Place is a majority immigrant (mainly Mexican) and Black apartment complex which has existed at the corner of Woodlawn and Park Rd for 52 years. It is entrenched in a highly gentrified area, with nearby houses ranging from $150,000 to $500,000 and condos beginning at $1,400 per month, compared to the average Melrose Place tenant who pays between $645 to $800 per month for rent plus utilities.

Since June 6, the residents have united to fight back against horrid conditions they have suffered under their landlords Taft Family Ventures. The tenants have issued four demands to management, which include a face-to-face meeting with the current landlord, a concrete date and time if the demolition is to occur, immediate repair for all health hazards such as mold, the uncleaned pool, and lead paint as well as a secure way to pay rent (since Compass took over, the leasing office has been empty, and there is no way to pay online).

The uncleaned pool is just one of the health hazards at Melrose Place that tenants are demanding be addressed.

In response, Compass sent a letter where they did not address the demands but instead compiled a list of their “good deeds,” including offering extermination for bugs, fixing smoke detectors and removing faulty stairs. They also still did not clarify if or when the planned future demolition would occur.

After reading the letter Compass sent, the tenants agreed to go on rent strike for the month of July or until the demands are met in full. Revolutionary organization Serve The People-Charlotte, which has helped the tenants organize, said that all but four units participated. Many have not been paying rent since May because they are fed up of living in squalor.

“This letter is nothing. This is no answer, we asked for very specific demands and they didn’t answer any of them,” one tenant said.

Taft Family Ventures bought Melrose Place in April and promised a meeting soon thereafter but didn’t follow through until tenants began the rent strike in July. This meeting was held at Avondale Presbyterian Church two miles away from the apartments, and many of the families did not have rides. At this meeting an organizer with STP-C was immediately kicked out. He responded that it was advertised as an open meeting and he was accompanied by two residents, but the police still pushed him out. There were ten police present for this meeting, four of whom were waiting inside.

VP of Properties for Taft Family Ventures Cindy Donely

The meeting was led by Cindy Donely, the Vice President of Properties for Taft. She told the masses they have until November 1 to vacate the premises. On August 1 they will be mailed a check for $1,000 and if rent is paid in full on the day they vacate, they would be given an additional $2,000 plus their security deposit. Donely told the crowd that they should be grateful that they were offered any money to move and a 90 day notice because by law, according to her, since everyone is on a month-to-month lease they are only required to give a 30 days notice and no compensation.

“The money is just a bribe they are giving us to be quiet, but I am not going to be quiet,” a tenant who has lived at Melrose place for nine years told Incendiary.

“I’m not finna pay my rent, why would I?” another tenant said. “I’m losing money if I keep paying and take their bribe, I’m not stupid.”

Currently its clear the masses are not satisfied with what Compass is offering. The owners completely ignored tenants’ complaints until they went on rent strike, and then quickly began to offer bribes once it was clear that the tenants were united in action. The hush money is having the opposite of its intended effect and causing further frustration which is bound to boil over now that tenants know they will be displaced if Taft carries out its plan.

STP-C is continuing with agitation efforts in support of the rent strike and tenants are meeting again this week to plan their next move.