Park Montgomery Tenants Speak Truth to Power

“Speaking truth to power” is an often potent tactic for fighting injustice.  Standing up for what’s right and telling our authentic stories can be a powerful way to ignite change. But often telling those stories requires trust and courage from story-tellers.  When 28 tenants of Park Montgomery apartments came forward to tell their stories of unfair treatment from their property management company, they showed us all what trust and courage can look like.

 

 

IMPACT Network Builder Sara Mussie organized the Zoom meeting that brought together those tenants with community members who could help hold property managers accountable:  Delegate Lorig CharkoudianCounty Council Vice President Tom Hucker, Matt Losak (Executive Director, Renters Alliance), and Valerie Whitby (Investigator, Office of Landlord and Tenant Affairs).  Sometimes speaking with the help of an Amharic interpreter, tenants recounted stories of unconscionable rent increases during the pandemic (some as high as 33%); poor property maintenance; and unresponsive property managers.

 

Sara has been building supportive resident networks at Park Montgomery apartments for more than five years.  She helped organize a resident-led ekub (Ethiopian term for collective savings); partnered with youth to create spaces for support and development; and helped budding female entrepreneurs learn about worker cooperatives.  The time and care invested in working with Park Montgomery residents made it possible for the truth-telling moment with tenants and state and county officials.

Both WTOP News and WJLA ABC7 News picked up the story and reported on the illegal (a 2.6% rent cap was mandated by the County Council to protect tenants during the pandemic) rent increases.  As the tenants’ accounts traveled from Zoom meeting room to radio and TV, Park Montgomery’s property management company backtracked.  WTOP reported property managers saying they regretted “a mistake was made that led to some of their residents receiving a notice about increased rent rates above the cap mandated by the Montgomery County Renter Relief Act.”  A big thank you to Councilmember Will Jawando for sponsoring this bill.

 

UPDATE:  Sara convened a second Zoom meeting with Park Montgomery residents on September 22 where they learned how to file complaints with the Office of Landlord and Tenant Affairs and began planning to organize a tenants association.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *