7 JULY 2022, Laurel, MD – Immigrant advocacy organization CASA in solidarity with tenants of Westgate at Laurel launched a 40-unit rent strike to push apartment owners Schweb Partners LLC for a mutually beneficial agreement for tenants and the company. The landlord has largely ignored the tenants’ chief complaints: rent increases by hundreds of dollars as well as failure to respond to mold and maintenance issues. At this rally, tenants marched to the leasing office to deliver a petition signed by approximately 80 people representing 40 units.


“I support the tenant strike because this is my house and my community. Since the new owners bought the property, we have been financially and mentally affected by the rent increases, water, and parking we have to pay. This affects us financially and mentally and requires us to have two jobs and spend less time with our children who need us. Our bodies are overwhelmed and our health is affected by the lack of proper sleep and constant worries because we spend much of our time thinking about these difficulties. Many injustices are committed, and we want the outrageous rent hikes in the Westgate community to stop. We will go on a rent strike until we achieve what we are demanding of those in power!” said plaintiff Ana Tejada, a mother of two daughters who has lived at Westgate at Laurel for seven years. She saw her rent increase by $323, not including the water bill and parking fees, in the last year.


Schweb Partners LLC took over Westgate at Laurel in February 2020. Since then, the company’s sole focus has been exterior remodeling while ignoring the multiple interior maintenance requests from the tenants. In the last few years, tenants have seen exorbitant rent increases ranging from $100 to $400. In February 2022, tenants began organizing and turned in a demand letter on April 15, 2022, that was ignored and unanswered by the leasing office. On May 11, 2022, tenants held a rally outside the office, which also failed to deliver changes. The only interaction with Schweb Partners LLC occurred when they were able to surprise one of the regional managers but still with no promise of improvements. Tenants have decided to go on a rent strike to demand that the owners meet with them and respond to their demands.


“I understand that we have to follow the rules, and we have followed them. I have filed many repair requests in person and by mail and have been ignored. I also do my best to be able to communicate with the owners of the property. I requested maintenance attention, but it was denied to me. Yet, they keep increasing the rent. I am disappointed in what is happening and fully support the rent strike. The Westgate community must be respected,” said Lauren Buscher, a tenant at Westgate at Laurel. Her rent has increased $110 plus parking since the pandemic.

 

“I have lived in this complex for five years. The rent has gone up high at Westgate at Laurel, and we do not understand why they do this unequally. Our intention was not to go on a rent strike. However, the landlord’s lack of communication and responses have left us without an option. We have tried to speak with the owners, and they have ignored us. Many other tenants in the same situation as mine will rent strike until an agreement is reached. We have families and expenses and we are placed under challenging conditions daily. We rent strike, staying united and strong until we achieve victory in our favor,” said Ola Harbor, tenant at Westgate at Laurel.

 

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With over 122,000 lifetime Latino, immigrant, and working-class members across 46 US states, CASA is the foremost immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region and a national leader in supporting immigrant families and ensuring that all individuals have the core support necessary for full participation in society. Now a national immigrant powerhouse, CASA creates change with its power-building model blending human services, community organizing, and advocacy in order to serve the full spectrum of the needs, dreams, and aspirations of members. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall.