Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenants fight back!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Aimee Inglis

Stand with Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenants around the world in demanding justice today. Blackstone's rental subsidiary Invitation Homes is one of California's biggest landlords. In Tenants Together's report released earlier this year, we found that Invitation Homes charges higher than median rents and puts more of the burden of utilities and repairs on tenants. Blackstone owns property all over the world and has recently caused mass displacement in Spain.

Blackstone and other Wall Street landlords buy up foreclosed homes for cheap, kick out the residents, charge exorbitant rents, and fail to do proper maintenance. Join the international action today to hold Blackstone accountable to our communities:

CALL CEO Stephen Schwarzman NOW at 212-583-5000

EMAIL him at stephen.schwarzman@blackstone.com

Sample script:

"Mr. Schwarzman, I stand with Blackstone tenants and community organizations around the world. Stop buying up foreclosed homes and public housing, stop unfair evictions and make your rents affordable. I support this important struggle and will not let up until you meet the tenants' demands."

TWEET -- #StopBlackstone

By calling in you are part of an international day of action spanning 4 countries and 3 continents! TODAY, Right To The City (Tenants Together is a member of this national organization for housing justice) and Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) in Spain are organizing protests at Blackstone offices in the US, Spain, Japan and England. In the US we are doing actions and delivering demand letters in cities across the country including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle. The international demands and Tenants Together's California state demands to regulate Wall St Landlords are below.

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International Demands on Blackstone

1. Stop Buying Our Occupied, Foreclosed and Subsidized Housing

  • Do NOT destabilize our communities by buying homes that should be owned by individuals, the government or local entities;
  • End the purchase of homes owned by banks rescued with public money or homes that were purchased with sub-prime loans.

2. No Unjust Evictions

  • Stop unjust evictions of homeowners or tenants in purchased properties;
  • Stop forcing tenants out of homes due to harassment, your failure to make repairs and charging unjust fees.

3. Affordable Rents

  • Do not charge unfair rents;
  • Do not make people pay more than one third of their income to housing;
  • Ensure that at least 25% of all Blackstone housing in a city is affordable to poor people who make 0 to 30% neighborhood median income.

4. Quality Conditions and Sustainability

  • Renovate all purchased homes to a high quality;
  • Maintain all properties in good condition;
  • Make prompt and quality repairs;
  • Ensure all utility systems and materials used in building and repairs are sustainable.

5. No discrimination

  • Do not discriminate against people of color or immigrants including by using unfair prohibitions regarding former incarceration or arrests, and/or immigration status;
  • Allow equal access to Blackstone homes for all people regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, family status, immigration status, former incarceration, eviction history or credit history.

6. Accountability

  • Provide responsive and quality customer service;
  • Provide full name and contact information for one consistent person from Blackstone’s property management company who has full authority to address tenant’s issues promptly and effectively.

7. Transparency of information

  • Provide to the public business and industry information including:
  • Names of all the companies Blackstone has any ownership in/control over and what properties and real estate they relate to and how;
  • Terms of purchase of all housing/land/buildings purchased;
  • Regular updated list of which properties are securitized, and who are the investors including banks that put up any money;
  • Regular updated list of properties that are directly or indirectly managed by Blackstone worldwide;
  • Regular updated list of all those evicted from each property and why (names can be withheld if it is required by law);
  • List of who's application was denied and why (names can be withheld if it is required by law).
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Tenants Together Recommendations to Regulate Wall Street Landlords at State & Local level (from our May 2015 report):
Recommendations at the state level
  • Change the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act: passed in 1995 this Act prohibits cities from applying rent control to condos and single-family homes, among other provisions. The idea behind this was to spare small owners of a single unit from compliance with local rent control laws. With the rise of Wall Street landlords renting out single family homes, Costa-Hawkins is outdated. It should be reformed to allow cities to regulate rents on these properties.
  • Office of Ombudsman for tenants: California has an Office of a Mobile Home Ombudsman, which “receives and processes complaints from the public and from public officials related to living in manufactured homes and mobile homes.”33 All tenants in California should have a state-level office for questions and complaints related to their landlord.
  • Registration of Limited Liability Companies (LLC) that connects them with the landlord of a property: While ownership information on a property is publicly available through the county recorder-assessor’s office, most Wall Street landlords record ownership as a variant Limited Liability Company (LLC). This obfuscates ownership information from the public. Available information on LLCs and their connection with a landlord is currently limited. For instance, homes owned by Invitation Homes are listed under at least 18 different LLCs in California. Waypoint Homes uses at least 24 different LLCs, and most of them have unrelated names like “Blue Oasis LLC” or “QIS LLC.” This is not only a challenge for research purposes but is also challenging for tenants if there is a dispute of ownership or a question of who to hold responsible for repairs, like in the foreclosure crisis. There is nothing that on its face links Blue Oasis LLC to Waypoint Homes if you search through publicly available databases. Tenants and the public have a right to transparency.
  • Transparent recording of state-sponsored institutional investors. Such as CalPERS, and CalSTERS.
Recommendations at the local level
  • Open, searchable online data on publicly available eviction cases: Courts collect data regularly on evictions. This data is available through tenant screening services, but not available to the public and community organizations who need to track eviction rates in order to respond to the needs of the community. County courts should move to open data practices in order to allow government and community organizations to monitor patterns of displacement, including Wall Street landlord evictions.
  • Improved court access for tenants: Since tenants we surveyed reported that Wall Street landlords regularly issue 3-day notices even when a tenant is not behind on rent, it is likely that many of these tenants will end up in a court eviction process. Most tenants in the state go to court unrepresented, and most landlords have a lawyer to represent them. This unbalance of power means many tenants are needlessly evicted from their homes. In several communities in California, more funding to represent tenants was provided through the Shriver Project. This project should continue to be funded and expanded. 
  • Just cause for eviction and rent control: These laws protect tenants from displacement caused by arbitrary eviction and unreasonable rent increases. Landlords should be required to state a recognized reason for evicting a tenant (i.e. nonpayment of rent, nuisance), and cities should keep track of these evictions. Rent control allows landlords to increase rent, based on inflation or the consumer price index, keeping a fair return on their investment while protecting tenants against predatory rent increases. As noted above, the state Costa Hawkins Act would need to be changed in order to protect tenants in single-family homes.
  • Effective code enforcement: Cities must cite landlords that violate the State and Uniform housing code in order to protect the health and safety of tenants. Enforcement mechanisms should be vigorous and transparent, with oversight from the community.

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