Madison tenants net small wins in fight against large rent increases – Isthmus

About three months after the launch of a campaign to fight rent increases imposed by new management at the Royal Arms apartment complex, some small wins for tenants have materialized. 

In at least five cases, Orosz Properties has reduced new rents by $100 per month, according to David Rivera-Kohr, one of the campaign’s organizers who lives at the complex. Tenants also received more time to decide whether to renew their leases and say management has improved its communication with tenants and responsiveness to maintenance issues. A GoFundMe campaign organized by Madison Tenant Power netted three residents about $1,700 each to use for paying the higher rents or covering moving expenses.

But for the most part the rent increases of more than 20% remain in place, and many Royal Arms residents have been moving out as a result, according to Rivera-Kohr.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of moving trucks, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that they’re going to move out,” he tells Isthmus. “Things are changing around here. What once was a pretty tight-knit community, people are kind of moving out en masse. It seems like the community aspect of this place might not survive the shift in management.”

Rivera-Kohr himself will be downsizing to a one-bedroom and moving to a complex on the east side later this summer where he has already signed a lease. Rent there will be about $250 cheaper per month than it would be under a new lease at Royal Arms, still known to many tenants by its former name, Karen Arms.

“I think the reason that Orosz is now offering these rent reductions is because they’re struggling to fill units that people have moved out of,” says Rivera-Kohr. He says the campaign by the tenants, and news coverage of the increases and resistance to the rent hikes, might be deterring new renters. He hopes the efforts at Royal Arms will inspire other tenants facing steep rent hikes.

Les Orosz did not respond to a request for comment.

John, a tenant who did not want his full name used, is one of the beneficiaries of the GoFundMe campaign, which might help him hang on to his place at Royal Arms a bit longer.

A resident of the complex since 1999, John learned in February that his rent would be increasing 20% or more at the end of his current lease in August. He says the news came as a “tremendous surprise, almost a shock.” Retired and living on a fixed income, John figured he would have to move out of his home of 25 years rather than renew his lease.

But he recently learned that he has cancer and needs surgery in August. He went to the building’s management and explained his need to stay in his current apartment for longer than planned. 

John says he was told that “they will try and work something out in my case. What that means, I don’t know, because I’ve only heard that information this past Monday.” He is still waiting to hear something definitive about his future at Royal Arms.

If management makes an accommodation that allows John to stay, he says the GoFundMe cash would help “open up a window of time” of about four months after his current lease ends where he could pay the higher rent. If not, says John, he would put the money toward his move elsewhere, though it likely wouldn’t cover the entire cost.

John has no enmity for the new owner: “I can understand the landlord’s position,” John says. “He appears to be willing to work with me.”

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