How to Organize
with Your Neighbours
Whether we are experiencing a public health crisis or not, the first step of tenant organizing is talking to your neighbours. The best way to protect yourself and your neighbours against retaliation from your landlord in the future is to form a tenants' union as soon as possible. We know from experience that we are stronger together. When tenants band together we can win huge concessions from landlords.
Assess your situation. Are you able to pay your rent? Do you already know any of your neighbours? If so, reach out to them first. Are any of them unlikely to be able to pay? This info will help you as you contact other people in your building.
Get your neighbours’ contact info. Due to current physical distancing guidelines, putting up posters in your building is the best way to spread the word about organizing. Your posters should ask neighbours and/or fellow tenants to contact you and should include an email address or another means of contacting. Poster templates can be found here.
Start the conversation(s). Once the messages start coming in, try to get a sense of who you're talking to. You could talk about your own situation and worries, ask how they've been affected by the crisis, ask what help they need and how they would like to help, etc.
Set up a group communication channel once a few people have shown interest in organizing. This can be a group text, email thread, Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook group, or whatever tenants are most comfortable with. Assess people's interest in organizing. Talk about what grievances people have about their tenancy, and what actions people want to take to address those grievances. Use the group communication channel to further your organizing. If needed, set-up a meeting. Due to the pandemic this should be a virtual meeting. Jitsi Meet is a free, secure option for video conferencing.
Strategize, plan, and mobilize. Hold the meeting, and discuss what actions you all want to take. For example, you might decide to collectively negotiate reduced rent or to collectively withhold some of your rent to protect a fellow tenant who can’t pay rent and is at risk of eviction. Also consider what is needed to move forward. Are there barriers keeping people from participating? If so, how can they be removed? Before and after the meeting, call and text people individually to check on how they are doing and encourage them to participate. Talk to them about what they want, need, and can offer others. Carry out the agreed-upon actions, follow through as needed, and continue to meet and communicate with each other. You are now working collectively to protect each other!
Remember: Simply talking to your neighbours as soon as possible is the best way to start, even if a specific goal is yet to be decided on. You can figure out the rest as you go.
Note: Please wash your hands before and after postering/leaving your unit, maintain two metres of distance when talking, consider wearing a mask, and don’t leave your unit if you feel sick. Learn more about COVID-19 prevention here.
Last updated 3 May 2020.