On April 1, 2013, our local chapter of Tenants Together, Merced Tenants Together (MTT), received word from one of our members, a resident at the Tioga Apartments, that many of the tenants received unfounded 3-Day Notices to Pay or Quit. The notices stated they owed money for rent even though the rent had previously been paid. The tenants even had receipts to prove this. MTT immediately took action by notifying reporter Josh Emerson Smith of the Merced Sun-Star of the issue and proceeded to organize the building’s tenants.
On April 2, 2013 MTT held an initial meeting with one of the tenants who received a 3-day notice. With the assistance of two of the residents, MTT went door-to-door to investigate further and recruit residents to meet to decide how to tackle the problem. We discovered that at least 27 residences of 91 were served the notices. A few residents moved without fighting, afraid of an eviction on their record. One tenant paid the extra money. All these tenants had paid their rent in full! This was outrageous!
More than thirty residents attended a building meeting where we discussed how to proceed. The group decided to start a tenants association in order to take action collectively. The first formal association meeting was planned for Friday, April 12.
In the interim, we met informally during the week to keep the residents plugged in about the issue and continued to discuss concerns. We discovered many of the units had serious needs for repairs and rampant pest infestations. We saw hundreds of roaches while visiting tenants during the day. On Wednesday, the Merced Sun Star put the issue on the front page and before noon, KSEE channel 24 was out interviewing the residents about the 3-Day Notices. The story made both 6pm and 11pm news that day.
KSEE was also stunned by the Tioga’s pest problems, and the next day Angela Greenwood from KSEE returned to cover the living conditions at the Tioga.
In response, management went door to door to inspect apartment conditions, rescinded the 3-Day Notices, and issued a letter of apology to each of the residents.
The Tioga Resident Association and MTT secured a swift and awesome victory against the bogus 3-day notices. If it were not for Merced Tenants Together organizing The Tioga building, more tenants may have moved out of fear or paid extra rent they didn’t owe. Inspired by our victory at the Tioga, Merced residents are joining MTT with the desire to take action against other slumlords.
Tonight is the Merced City Council meeting and we look forward to bringing the Tioga living conditions to their attention. City of Merced Code Enforcement says they have received previous requests about the roach problem but they have not inspected or cited the owner. We will tell them it is an emergency and ask that they should send Code Enforcement in to inspect. We will keep you posted. Tioga Residents are ready to fight, and Tenants Together is ready to help in any way we can!