'It's not safe': Oakland tenants on rent strike to block landlord, investor inspections during COVID-19

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It was a loud start to a renters protest and rally in Oakland Thursday morning, with the band playing along to chants of "Fight! Fight! Housing is a human right!"

Sabeena Shah is school teacher and has lived at a Mosser Companies owned property on 28th Street in Oakland for the past eight years. She and other tenants are on a rent strike.

"We want to stop the harassment. We want to stop the on-going, 'Here's a notice, we are inspecting. Here is notice, we are inspecting. Here's notice, we are inspecting,'" says Shah.

The main concern are the notices taped to each apartment's door informing residents of inspections that Mosser wants to conduct of each unit with investors, which are scheduled through the end of this week. The note says those involved will be wearing protective gear.

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But tenants are fighting back.

"Given the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, this is not okay," Shah said. "It's not safe. There are a lot of people who are medically fragile, and for who this is a major, major health risk."

In the notice, Mosser claims the company has the legal right to conduct the inspections. Shah and others disagree.
"(That) is actually not true, given the current Alameda County health order. It's not true at all. They are not supposed to enter for non-emergency purposes at this time, because of the indoor risk of coronavirus spreading is so much higher," says Shah.

They had planned to block the inspections, were set to begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

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Organizers told the crowd that Mosser was tipped off of the protest rally and canceled the morning inspections.

Organizers also told tenants to film if and when Mosser comes through with inspectors.

Here's a statement from Mosser's spokesperson:

"As a minority-owned Bay Area Real Estate firm with over 65 years of roots in the community, we have always prioritized the well-being of our residents. In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, we proactively reached out to all our elderly residents to offer to help with any of their daily activities. We are continuing to work with impacted residents and properties on rent deferrals and other considerations while ensuring that enhanced cleaning protocols are in place at each property. Building and apartment inspections are necessary to maintain properties, comply with local laws, and for insurance purposes. In the inspections conducted this week, visitors were required to comply with PPE protocols, and we only entered units with the full consent of residents. After listening to the concerns of our residents during these uncertain times, we have elected to cancel the remaining inspections this week. We will continue to listen to our residents to ensure their concerns are heard and practice enhanced cleaning and PPE protocols for the community's well-being."

ABC7 News reached out to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's office, however, they have not returned request for comment.

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