Rhyannon Rodriguez planned to end her lease at Hawthorne House Apartments in August and move in with family, but those plans changed.
So, she decided it was reasonable to ask to go month to month at the multiplex, at the bottom of the Avenues neighborhood, east of downtown. Rodriguez said she received written confirmation twice in July that she could. It’d be no problem.
Then, when her partner came over for dinner one night soon after, he spotted a note on the door. It said she had to be out of the complex by the end of August. Every other tenant got one, too, she said.
Tenants — including Rodriguez and Tatiana Christian — have tried calling their property management company and asking on-site staff for help, for a chance to extend the move-out deadline by a month without a cost hike, but they can’t get through to anyone to discuss. Many of the services to contact Advanced Solutions Property Management are automated, they said.
“And over and over again, I’m just so shocked by the lack of compassion in spite of the very physical, real danger that we all face,” Rodriguez said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “I guess I was naive thinking that I can have a conversation with a person.”
A group of about 60 rallied Saturday outside the complex, at 379 1st Ave., for a protest against the so-called mass evictions. The group heard from speakers about the power imbalance between landlords and those who lease their properties. Many held signs that said “eviction = death.”
Representatives from the neither the complex nor its property management company returned the The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment Saturday.
Tenant advocacy group Utah Renters Together organized the short demonstration.
“We know that Salt Lake City is facing gentrification in a way that we haven’t seen before,” group organizer June Hiatt said. “And what’s happening here at Hawthorne House is an example of how it affects people in our community.”
In Salt Lake County, a 2019 study showed that average apartment rents have jumped from $647 a month in 2000 to nearly $1,153 in 2018, a 78% spike. And while rents have soared, household income has not.
Yet, Hawthorne House was affordable, said Rodriguez and Christian. Rents ranged between $500 and $700. That meant people who couldn’t afford to live in any of the new, luxury apartments being built around the city and county had a place to live.
Rodriguez said that while the complex wasn’t officially low-income or subsidized units, they were affordable.
Protesters on Saturday theorized that when the current tenants move out, someone will renovate the complex and raise rents.
Ian Decker, with the group Wasatch Tenants United, told attendees that they might feel hopeless when having disputes with their landlords, but they do have options.
“Our solution to this is that we need to build a network of power and solidarity,” Decker said, “so we can confront these landlords at every turn.”
Decker said when landlords or property management companies know a group of demonstrators is going to fill the streets if they refuse maintenance requests, hike rents or evict people, they might not do it.
Rodriguez and Christian said they just need more time, and they want to have a human-to-human discussion about their options.
“It’s just like crisis on top of crisis on top of crisis,” Rodriguez said, “and property owners are hiding behind management companies so that they don’t have to answer to humans or human problems — in spite of being humans themselves.”
The two still haven’t found an apartment and must be out of their homes by the end of August.