Right to Housing Alliance members will be gathering on the steps of District Court on Friday, June 28th at 10am to read statements about their treatment by property manager Sage Management. Other Right to Housing Alliance members will be talking about their challenges in trying to get justice in rent court, and others including homeowners will share stories about their personal experience within our current economic and legal system that favors the protection of private property over justice for real people. Join them in standing up for their human right to safe, habitable, affordable housing and their demand that rent court is transformed from a debt collection service to a place where all can receive justice. Read on for background on this week’s activities…
In the past few weeks we’ve seen some successes in rent court, but we’ve also seen examples of the challenges tenants face when trying to get justice. Thousands of tenants appear in rent court every month, most for non-payment of rent, and the cases are typically very simple – if the tenant didn’t pay the rent, it’s a slam dunk for the landlord. The problem, however, is that in Baltimore City many tenants live in substandard conditions. As Deborah Weimer of University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law points out in a recent opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, it’s extremely difficult for tenants to get property managers to remedy safety and habitability issues, while it’s disturbingly easy for landlords to collect money from these same tenants. Security of tenure – the ability to live in a place without fear of eviction – is a key element of the human right to adequate housing, and one that is violated daily in Baltimore City District Court.
Today RTHA members Henry and Sharon Bell, have a second escrow hearing and Jason & Keischa Rodriguez have a non-payment hearing on the heels of a denied escrow request. On Thursday, June 27th Tressy Shavers has her second escrow hearing, and on Friday Sage Management–a property manager with whom many of our members have very serious conditions issues coupled with overcharging rent and predatory fees–is bringing many of our members to court for non-payment of rent. Join these tenants by showing up and supporting them in the courtroom for their hearings.
Every month, many property managers around the city file non-payment complaints in District Court. Sage Management is no different, filing 150-200 complaints each month against their tenants. On their website they are proud to boast that “Our company strives to tackle maintenance issues as quickly and as professionally as possible, always considering the tenants needs, safety and privacy.” Yet, some of our members have been waiting for months to have even severe safety issues remedied.
Despite the fact that they are in fact very slow to respond to such issues, they are very quick to collect their rent each month. Filing complaints for non-payment, and counting on no-shows due to the inconvenience for tenants of having to appear for a court hearing downtown in the middle of the day they receive default judgements, placing the burden of extra court fees and questionable and predatory “agent” fees on tenants already struggling with affordability. When asked by tenants and even attorneys to clarify questions about fees, the management are unable to produce an explanation for them. But that doesn’t stop the charges from coming each month.
Also on their website, they paint the image of themselves as a big happy family, saying “Sage management is not just a management company but a family. Come see any of our properties today and see for yourself what all the hype is about and join our family.” Click here for the list of addresses of the families that Sage Management are taking to court on Friday.
Detrese Dowridge (2871 Edgecombe Cir N)) stood up for herself in court last month and had hers and several other cases dismissed. Within a week Sage had issued her an eviction notice for a balance due from months ago.
Andrea Jones (2861 Edgecombe Cir N) was illegally padlocked from her apartment by Sage Management. Darlene Carter (2740 Virginia Ave) went to the Sage office to dispute a charge. When she showed them receipts and their own rent ledger proving payment, the property manager responded by saying “That doesn’t mean anything.”
Whitney Green (2871 Edgecombe Cir N) received a notice from Sage that he had not paid rent for June of 2013. When he produced a receipt they said they had made a mistake and he actually owed for May of 2011. When he also produced that receipt they said it was for June 2011. Unable to provide proof that he owes payment, they are continuing to take him to court.
Here’s what some other tenants have to say about their experience living in Sage Management properties.
Barbara White, 4210 Fairfax Rd
“1. No fire extinguisher in hallway, 2. Large hole in wall between laundry room and Apt 2, 3. My bathroom had caved in and they “fixed it” and now there is mold growing, 4. My bathroom floor behind the toilet needs fixing and I have duck tape holding my floor so I can open my bathroom door.”
Levelle Samuels, 1907 N. Forest Park
“For 4 months I’ve had mold, flies, ants, and snails. I do not have to go to court but I’d like to be there for the people going through the same thing.”
Shana Johnson, 2756 Virginia Ave
“Furnace/AC unit not working properly, 2nd floor wiring to one breaker overloading. This break is the breaker for the 2nd floor and is a fire hazard. Front bedroom door defective, need to repair hole and re-paint.”
Yvonne Fisher-Booker, 3921 Maine Ave
“Mold growing in bathroom around tub. Central air not working – told that units were too old to repair. Waiting for bathroom faucet to be repaired for over two weeks. Maintenance came in and cut down hot water pressure but NO REPAIR!!! Washroom was removed from basement about 2 or 3 years ago and the whole building smells like mold. STILL NO WASH ROOM.”
Join these tenants and others on the steps of the courthouse Friday, June 28th at 10am to support their human right to housing! For more information or to get involved please email contact@rthabaltimore, or call 443.863.9607.