After nearly 2 years in housing court fighting eviction - and after 2 days of jury trial - the Omorodion family has won a significant victory in the fight to stay in their home. The settlement reached this week with corporate landlord City Realty:
- Allows them to stay in their home with a lease renewable for 5 years at 3% rent increases
- Provides significant compensation for valuable items removed from locked storage space
- Enforces their right to notice prior to the landlord or its workers entering the apartment
This is a hard-fought victory both for the family and for our movement. Lucky Omorodion has been a stalwart member of CLVU since he first came to us in 2012 as a foreclosed homeowner trying to buy his house back from the bank. Since losing the home to City Realty, he has been a pioneer of our tenant organizing campaign. Lucky and his wife, who have three young children, work as caregivers for disabled adults and earn little more than minimum wage, and were unable to afford the $300/month rent increase the landlord imposed within months of buying. With the help of Greater Boston Legal Services, he challenged the resulting no-fault eviction. At the same time, he spoke out about his struggle to the media and in public, from an August 2013 Boston Mayoral candidates forum on housing to last month’s City Council Displacement hearing. He met with elected officials and testified at zoning permit hearings. Lucky and his brother Paul were trained on housing code enforcement; they canvassed to organize their fellow tenants. They were part of a collective bargaining unit of 5 City Realty tenants facing eviction who last summer formally asked for negotiations with their landlord.
The Omorodions’ courage in standing up for their home of 7 years is an inspiration to thousands of low-income and working-class Boston tenants threatened with displacement by disproportionate rent increases. The family’s story is also a cautionary example of how the post-foreclosure shift to corporate ownership of housing is pricing out owner-occupants, driving up housing costs for renters, and causing an imbalance of power that leads to abuse of tenants. The Omorodions testified at their trial about poor conditions, invasion of privacy, and unauthorized removal of belongings stored in the basement. Supporters of the family seated in the courtroom wiped tears along with Lucky’s wife Susan as she told of learning that her wedding dress, which she had been saving for her daughter, had been destroyed by the landlord’s workers. Similar complaints raised in a recent City Council hearing called by Councilor Tito Jackson were met with a response from City Realty assuring changed policies and practices.
In the final analysis, the Omorodion family’s long dispute with City Realty, and its positive resolution, shows that purchasers of properties whose business plan is predicated on displacement will face unrelenting community opposition – but that landlords who act responsibly, keeping families in their homes on reasonable terms, will benefit from committed tenants and neighborhood stability. CLVU’s other members seeking negotiations with corporate landlords over rent, conditions, condo fees, and evictions hope that the Omorodion case precedent signals more fair solutions to come.