Members of a Malden/Medford tenants union said they plan to fight eviction notices they received this month after refusing to pay steep increases in rent imposed by the property's new owner.
The group – Malden Tenants United – was formed in an effort to collectively bargain with Brighton-based property managers Alpha Management, which last May after buying 265 units in Malden and Medford for $24 million.
So far, owner Anwar Faisal has offered to work with tenants on a case-by-case basis, but refuses to collectively bargain with the group, saying the increases represent a fair market value for the long under-valued property.
The union voted to continue paying their original rent and avoid individual negotiations last May.
...with more to come
Faisal's attorney Joshua Krefetz confirmed multiple evictions were taking place, and that union members refusing to negotiate or pay the increase would ultimately receive such a summons.
“(In the case of) someone who just keeps insisting on sending the old rent...their tenancy ended at the end of June, so they will eventually receive a summary process eviction summons for staying over after the end of their tenancy,” Krefetz said.
"I think there is an overstatement of the case by the people who have fashioned themselves as the leaders of this union," he continued, adding he would be "very surprised" if the cases went to a jury.
He encouraged residents to negotiate directly with the Alpha Management office.
"I think (this tactic) hurts the people who are maybe...in a more difficult position, when those who could pay basically use them as cannon fodder," he said. "I don't think that's really helpful."
While an exact figure of the number of evictions planned was not immediately available, Krefetz said he had dealt with five such cases in court Thursday.
Still, members of the union said they would challenge the evictions in court, with one alleging her early selection for the process was retaliation for her involvement in the union.
“I plan on fighting this, it's clearly retaliation,” Alice Alisme, who plays a leadership role in the tenants union, said. “How are you going to cash everybody's check (in my building) and not evict anybody from there, but then evict me?”
Krefetz acknowledged that some tenants would receive summons before others, noting time constraints at the small Malden housing court prohibited his office from processing all of the claims simultaneously.
He added that his client “is not aware of who is a leader in the union," and then volunteered one member present during negotiations in Mayor Gary Christenson's office “might have got a summons so far.”
“But I don't think it's accurate to say that the leaders of the movement have been targeted,” he concluded.