Some tenants calling for May Day ‘rent strike’

SEATTLE — With only a few days until rent is due and thousands of people out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of a “rent strike” is on both tenants’ and landlords’ minds across the state and across the country.

Some Seattle tenants and one City councilmember are calling for a such a strike on May 1 in hopes Gov. Jay Inslee will suspend all rent and mortgage payments.

One of the most vocal supporters of a rent strike is Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Sawant hosted a “rent strike organizing conference” on Saturday to get tenants involved at the grassroots level.

>>Related: Inslee says partial reopening of outdoor recreation activities will happen on May 5

“If working people as renters and homeowners don’t come together immediately and get organized, the corporate landlords, the property management corporations, the mortgage holders, and the big banks WILL unleash a massive wave of evictions and foreclosures on a mass scale,” Sawant said in an email promoting the event.

Sawant, activist organization Rent Strike 2020 and Socialist Alternative are among those calling for a nationwide rent strike on May 1.

Though not a strike, calls to cancel rent are coming from another Seattle City Council member, as well as from leaders in Spokane, Redmond, Bellingham, Burien and Seattle Public Schools.

On Tuesday, the council will hear a plan from councilmember Tammy Morales on rent and mortgage cancellation and extending the rent increase freeze another six months.

Morales and others are calling on the state to reconvene in a special session on June 1 to address the impacts of COVID-19 and provide more support to renters.

There is also concern that people will end up on the streets, unable to pay back rent, when Inslee’s statewide moratorium on evictions ends June 4.

Morales’ and other elected leaders want lawmakers to ensure that renters do not accumulate debt and have no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history after the coronavirus crisis ends.

Meanwhile, small landlords say they’re also fighting to survive.

Several dozen landlords will host their own event at noon Tuesday to voice their concerns.

Dozens of small landlords voiced their concerns on after tenants protested in their cars over the weekend at Northgate, demanding rent cancellations. They held up signs that said things like like, “If we can’t work, we can’t pay!”

Plus, now there’s a Seattle Facebook group called “Rent and Mortgage Strike Washington.”