Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Rent strikes on the rise as owners try to collect amidst pandemic.
Even though Bernie Sanders is not the presumptive democratic nominee many of his "democratic socialist" are becoming more and more mainstream in response to the COVID 19 crisis. As the entire U.S. economy grinds to halt, ideas like universal basic income, universal healthcare, even government-controlled manufacturing are being considered by lawmakers seeking to help an economy in peril. Now while this might delight some it petrifies and even infuriates others. A group of conservative lawyers and politicos are looking to the constitution to challenge various foreclosure and eviction moratoriums placed on banks and landlords to avoid the displacement of millions of newly unemployed Americans. The argument goes a little like this: even though a temporary "suspension" of rent or mortgage payments might be constitutional, temporarily canceling them would probably run afoul of the U.S. Constitution's Contract Clause (which basically prevents the state from breaking private contracts) and the Takings Clause (which prevents from the state from depriving a property owner of "all economically beneficial or productive use of the land"). Many state constitutions contain similar costs.
In fact, a recent Buzzfeed news article tells the story of a management company emailed hundreds of tenants demanding they pay the rent. Saturn Management is urging tenants to seek public services intended for things like groceries, medicine, and gasoline to pay the rent. Misleadingly the management company claims to need the funds for things like mortgages and utilities for which property owner and banks are receiving similar protections and might I add in most cases much larger amounts of cash assistance.
Because the tenants were not bcc'd which inspired the tenants to join a growing number of renters in "rent strikes" Because of the constitutional arguments I touched on earlier there is a risk that many of these actions could end in eviction proceedings. On the flip side, veteran rent strike organizers are betting on the current yet historically high levels of unemployment might force a sea change.