Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) are legally binding agreements between residents of a building or neighborhood with landlords and/or developers. They take a similar form to more well known CBAs that govern sports and player unions - duties are agreed to in a structured legal agreement, laying out expectations and responsibilities.
Tenant Unions vs. CBAs
Typically a tenant union will have a more formal structure, often based around a building or group of buildings, where CBAs are more broadly based. For instance, a neighborhood with a mix of renters and homeowners, or a CBA between a landlord who rents single-family homes, are more typical of the CBA than a more traditional tenant union. In addition, a CBA can also be applied to situations with new developments being built - a CBA can be entered into by the existing neighbors and a new developer, to ensure that a certain # of units being built are affordable/accessible, addition of and access to green spaces in the new development, etc. From a developer’s point of view, these can avoid lengthy and expensive legal challenges, protests, etc., while the neighbors can have a say in the character of the new development. In addition, future tenant organizations can be set up in the deeds of the new buildings, strengthening all tenants and residents collective bargaining power.
Sounds great, but what’s being agreed to?
Agreements can have a broad range of options - rent increase freezes, maintenance schedules, upkeep requirements, etc. They can also place restrictions on future sales of the buildings, allow the city to buy the land for their land trust, limit evictions and/or place more tenant friendly restrictions on evictions, etc. A concrete example would be changes in the move out process - as outlined elsewhere on this website, moveout fees (cleaning and repainting) are a tactic designed so that landlords never have to give back tenants’ security deposits. Changing the level of mandatory cleaning (from ‘carpet shampoo’ to ‘carpet vacuum’) seem minor, but collectively would save tenants thousands of dollars. Mandatory repainting of apartments by landlords, at their own expense, would save tenants money as well as providing them with a nicer and better maintained home.
So how do I sign up?
Meet with your neighbors and meet with us! We have lots of tools available to you, from information regarding your rights to details on what other properties your landlord owns! CBAs are stronger with more people together, just like us! Shoot us an email or come to a meeting and we'll help plug you in.