A quick check in with her staff revealed to Maria del Rocio Miranda that something was amiss. The seven families who walked into Familias Unidas Latino Family Support Center in Everett on a Tuesday morning in June were all facing rent increases prior to the end of their lease agreements.
Miranda, the program supervisor for Familias Unidas, and her staff had been meeting with the Spanish speaking families individually but they quickly realized that the families lived in the same apartment complex in Everett and had organized themselves prior to coming to the center.
“We collected copies of their lease agreements and rent increase notices to confirm that the raise in rents were in violation of their fixed-term leases. In good faith, I then contacted the corporate management office on their behalf to explain that these rent increases failed to honor the lease terms,” Miranda explained. “I suggested that if they wanted to save themselves the stress they should respect their tenants’ rights because the residents intended to go to the Tenants Union of Washington State next. The corporate office said they would investigate the matter and get back to us.”
In the interim, Familias Unidas staff informed the families of their rights as tenants and made sure they were aware of support services available to them. They also prepared letters for each family to present to the apartment manager stating that the rent increase violated their lease agreement.
Good news arrived two days later when Familias Unidas officials learned that the corporate office was sending letters to the families rescinding the rent increase. Advocacy and quick action had paid off, and the Familias Unidas team celebrated the outcome as a great accomplishment. Miranda added that the center has continued to assist the families by providing interpretive services and helping them with renewing their lease agreements and understanding their rights.
Familias Unidas provides information, services and community referrals to Spanish speaking residents of Snohomish County. It is one of six Family Support Centers operated in Snohomish County by Lutheran Community Services Northwest.