PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Sarah Brassfield is one of several tenants of Holgate Manor in southeast Portland who have been on a rent strike since August.
“Many of the units here have cockroaches, there are rats. There is a dead bird laying there behind my house that has been there for five days.”
Brassfield said when a new landlord from California bought the property earlier this year it raised the rent 9.9 percent. And according to her, although rent is up, there are still many livability issues.
Just last month FOX 12 visited the home of one of her neighbors who is also on strike.
Shawn Penh, whose family has lived in Holgate Manor for 14 years, said mold grows on the walls of his bedroom and rats sneak into their kitchen through a hole in the ground.
When asked why he wishes to stay in the unit, Penh said, "We're making minimum wage. We don't have the money to pick up and leave."
When FOX 12 returned Tuesday the hole in his kitchen was being repaired and crews had already removed the mold he said was growing in his home.
Holgate management confirms it has made upgrades and even offered renters incentives to relocate while the work is being completed.
But Brassfield said, “That’s not enough for vulnerable tenants who have little to no income.”
The ongoing dispute led tenants to form a union and some in the union have not paid rent in three months.
According to Anthony Bencivengo, with Portland Tenants United, instead of paying rent they’ve deposited checks for the same amount into an escrow account managed by their lawyers.
Bencivengo said they will continue to hold out until Holgate Manor meets their demands which include; making basic repairs, allowing tenants who moved out when rent was increased to return to their homes at the same price they were initially paying and rescinding rent increases for current tenants.
“All we’ve ever wanted is to come to some sort of sustainable terms of ongoing tenancy for our longest, most vulnerable tenants,” Brassfield said.
But, Holgate Manor is fighting back.
In September, a spokesperson for the company sent FOX 12 the following statement, saying in part: “We are currently working directly and efficiently with the four residents who are withholding rent to respond to their unique circumstances, and we are collaborating with the City of Portland to remedy any issues that are highlighted.”
But, days ago, Holgate Manor sent Brassfield a notice of evictions giving her 72 hours to move out.
Still, Brassfield is set on staying and said she is not just fighting for herself but others who are also dealing with the Portland housing crisis.
“Why can’t we have collective bargaining rights as tenants?”
The legal battle is far from over. Brassfield’s lawyer, Michael Fuller, said this case will go to trial on the Oct. 26.
And according to Brassfield, “This might be our next first step in the way we take our landlords to task.”
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