Clarion, MS – A group of angry tenants attended a meeting Friday night aimed at organizing a tenants’ rights group.
Ward 3 Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes and two attorneys who have dealt with tenant-landlord disputes also attended the meeting and offered advice.
Organizer Shirley Pearson said she hopes the meeting at the old youth detention center on East Silas Brown Street will help establish her organization, Tenants Rights Advocates of Mississippi. About 20 people attended the meeting.
Renters Michelle Tyler and Tracy Brown came to the meeting hoping to find ways to improve their living conditions.
Tyler said she is concerned about her son’s health because of mold in her apartment. She also cited flooding problems.
“I want the see the apartment condemned,” Tyler said. “We have no security there.”
Brown said she had similar concerns and wanted to know what could be done to make their landlord make needed improvements.
“It floods in my living room,” Brown said. “We’ve got too many problems. It’s just nasty.”
Richard Hitt, staff attorney for the housing department of Central Southwest Legal Services Corp., offered to speak to the landlord about the situation and shared information about renters’ rights under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
Under the act, Hitt said, tenants may be able to pay for repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their next month’s rent.
Roy Mitchell, director of advocacy for the Sisters of Mercy Health System in Jackson, recommended the tenants organize to consolodate their grievances. They could then refer them to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s regional office.
“I believe they have legitimate concerns that should be addressed,” Mitchell said.
Stokes, who is advocating the city adopt an ordinance establishing limits on rent increases for older tenants, said he would work with Pearson to hold regular meetings to organize tenants living in poor conditions throughout the city.
“We have to make sure that landlords treat you like this is your home,” Stokes said. “Our goal is to change things so that people can have a better life.”