In the early morning hours of October 17, 1999, residents of Campus Estates were awakened to fire in their apartment and the sleeping tenants were barely able to escape with their lives. Soon after the fire, the Campus Estates complex was condemned, tenants were evicted, and the buildings were demolished. Read news story here.
Shortly thereafter, MITU turned their attention to the Windjammer apartments, a particularly hazardous complex in Monmouth with a history of tenant abuse. Following a series of organizing meetings that included strong support from Mayor Paul Evans, the tenants produced a long list of building code violations, fire code violations, and violations of Oregon landlord-tenant law. When the building manager failed to address these concerns MITU initiated an intervention by the city of Monmouth. The results were mixed. The absentee landlord eventually corrected the more critical abuses, but some problems remained outside the jurisdiction of the city. Moreover, in August, 2000 the owners of the apartment building retaliated against MITU by filing a “tort claim notice”, asserting that MITU had defamed the reputation of the absentee landlords (John and Lorraine Ester). The claim had no legal standing but it did demonstrate the steps wealthy owners will take to protect their property and profit interests.
MITU was undeterred and in the fall of 2000 they began a comprehensive review and analysis of the strengths and limitations of landlord-tenant law in the state of Oregon. The findings from this research exposed many holes in current statutes that favor the interests of landlords over those of the tenants.With results from their analysis in hand, MITU leadership launched the Monmouth-Independence Rental Housing Initiative in the spring of 2001. The initiative called for the establishment of rental housing officer, more stringent health and safety standards, and a public account for the holding of rental deposits. Over the next several years, most of these goals were achieved Read news story here.
Since its founding, the Monmouth-Independence Tenants Union has achieved numerous victories and continues to advance the interests of tenants. Some of MITU’s accomplishments include:
- The adoption of a formal procedure for reporting violations of the landlord-tenant law.
- The creation of a “rental unit violation form”.
- Established a more active and extensive code enforcement system.
- Increased fines for negligent landlords.
- Updated and expanded Housing Code.
- Annual educational forums and outreach to tenants.