Tenants need to become more politically active. As you may have seen, tenants are the victims of one-sided laws, corrupt judges, and a general legal system skewed to favor the wealthy. Eviction of a tenant from their home is the fastest legal action in the State of California, with extra pressure added by the courts themselves to throw the tenants into the streets. Homelessness from an eviction is not considered to be a hardship for purposes of postponing an eviction. The landlord only has to prove that they gave a notice, while the tenant has to prove complicated defenses, many of which depend on proving what the landlord thought. Landlords get away with lying about serving legal papers, stealing tenants' deposits, and abusing tenants' privacy. Rodney Dangerfield had more respect. Criminal defendants have a better chance than tenants, better procedural protections and a guaranteed right to a jury trial. Tenants have to fight just to set aside a default cause by an untrained clerk's error.
Tenants are 2/3 of California's population, but only 5% of tenants actually register to vote and vote. Landlords vote and contribute to political campaigns. The politicians make the laws. The Governor appoints the judges who favor the rich, and the tenants are not even a topic in the political debates. Not even a topic. What politician wants to lose votes and contributions talking about the plight of tenants who don't even vote to support them when they say things favoring the tenants? Tenants are the victim of their own apathy. Tenants feel powerless, but tenants have power; they just need to use it.
Now that you've started to stick up for yourself, and you see that you don't have to be the victim, take a step back and see the big picture. There are things going on that even a little effort on your part can build into a big thing. Somebody has to start it. Even if you're not the leader type, there are others who are. In 1978, there was a problem in my apartment building, and someone called a meeting. I attended, and offered to talk to the manager on behalf of the tenants. That was my beginning. I formed the Glendale Tenant Association, took on the City Council, got a Just Cause Eviction law passed there, started my law practice to help tenants, and became CalTenantLaw. I didn't call that meeting in 1978, but it got me going. You can call a meeting in your building and someone else can take the lead, maybe someone like me.
Here are some things you can do to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem:
Register to Vote
And while you're at it, send this link for voter registration to your friends and neighbors, even Facebook. Politicians watch the numbers.
Call a tenant meeting in your building
Make it sound like a Community Watch or Block Party event, not particularly concerned with the landlord or manager, just a get-together of neighbors. Then watch how the conversation gets into problems in the building, and everyone sees that everyone else is having the same problems. Have copies of the Habitability Checklist to hand out, and get the phone number of the local Code Enforcement Inspector for the Building Department and County Health Department for them to call. If everyone's doing it, individuals don't feel singled out - safety in numbers.
the Word about California Tenant Law
Maybe calling a meeting wouldn't work because other tenants are afraid to speak up. Still, you can pass on the website, and they can start to learn on their own about what they can do, and maybe cath up to you. Print out this flier and start the change. Stick it your neighbors' doors or mail it to them. Tell your relatives, your friends, and your co-workers.
The elected officials work for you.
Don't be afraid to tell them what they need to do. Start with your State Assemblyman and Senator. For every call or letter they receive, they count it as thousands who feel as you do but didn't make the effort to contact them. This is Democracy. Make it work for you.
Mad as Hell? Find or Form a
You're not alone. Find or form a local Tenant Union and use your voting power to change the laws and politicians. Get rent control & eviction protections!
There are already organizations in place that could use your help. It's actually quite fun to do, and the people who do that kind of thing are usually very cool and interesting. Really!
California Tenant Law Grow
We're helping you, but how many millions more tenants really need the help and don't know about California Tenant Law. You can help in any number of ways. Spread the word on Facebook and other social media, writing in Yelp and Avvo, telling your friends and co-workers about it. If you have special skills in computer software, graphics, art, website design, or marketing, you are in demand. If you're lawyer interested in tenant work, a network is forming now.