Seattle Tenants Force Slumlord Carl Haglund to Back Off Rent Increases

Now let’s step up protests to resolve the issues of all his tenants!

With the help of Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata, and the Tenants Union of WA, tenants living in the Charles Street Apartments at 6511 Rainier Avenue South organized and fought back against appalling living conditions and circumstances. Tenants have lived with rats, roaches, black mold, and broken appliances for years, but nonetheless faced the prospect of economic eviction with 100%+ rent increases.

Together, they scored a major victory yesterday when slumlord Carl Haglund was forced to back off the rent increases, and promise to address housing code violations. He announced that he would not increase rents until code violations are resolved.

This shows the power of getting organized and fighting. Tenants and community supporters plan to step up the protests to win relief for all of the tenants at Carl Haglund’s many properties. But we need to remain vigilant to make sure Haglund follows through on his word. We also need to make sure he doesn’t try to make tenants pay for the repairs, as he did just weeks ago when he illegally charged tenant Osman Osman $600 for basic repairs.

Unfortunately, the conditions at the Charles Street Apartments are not out of the ordinary. Haglund owns a number of rental properties where tenants face both appalling living conditions and major rent increases. We have a lot of work to do. We will continue protesting this slumlord until he brings all of his buildings up to code, and freezes rents for all in the meantime.

We are all relieved Haglund backed down. But it wasn’t easy. Just this week, he said to me ‘I don’t care.’ He said that to me five times to my face. The only reason he cares now is because of the TV cameras, because of Councilmembers Sawant and Licata, and the Tenants Union. Suddenly he cares. He’s a liar. He only did anything because we fought back,” said Sahro Farah, a tenant at the Charles Street Apartments.

Tenants at this housing complex were presented with an intolerable situation – pay more for these completely unlivable homes or get out, and potentially face homelessness. Instead of giving up and leaving, they chose to get organized and fight back.

This is a lesson for everyone who faces economic eviction and substandard housing. The intimidation stops here. Renters don’t have to be just victims of the housing crisis. We can all play an active role in the fight for solutions.

We need to build on this victory and demand that every tenant of Carl Haglund’s gets the relief they need. But let’s be clear – forcing a slumlord to concede to their tenants shows a glimpse of the potential power that movements have to win historic gains for housing justice. If we get organized and demand it, we can win rent control to prevent this from ever happening again.

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