Oakland apartment tenants on strike, refuse to pay rent until landlord sells property to them

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Finding solutions to our ongoing housing crisis is one way ABC7 is building a better Bay Area.

A group of Oakland apartment tenants says their landlord has been unresponsive to their needs, so they've gone on a rent strike and they don't plan to pay until the landlord gives them a chance to buy the building.

Francisco Perez showed ABC7 News his Fruitvale District apartment where he's lived for 20 years, that's now falling apart with rotted wood and broken drawers.

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His neighbors showed us their units with dirty carpet and mold in the bathroom.

In the parking lot, there were scattered shingles from the roof.

Tenants say, the landlord has been unwilling to make repairs but has increased the rent.

"We had to do something, but what,?" said Francisco Perez.

Since last November, seven out of 14 tenants have been on a rent strike. They say they won't pay until the landlord agrees to negotiate a deal, allowing them to take over.

"Let us buy the building, so we don't have to struggle with this next year," said Perez.

Non-profit Oakland Community Land Trust is assisting and is willing to pay fair market value for the property on 29th Avenue.

The landlord has agreed to a meeting in the next two weeks.

"They're quickly realizing this is real, the community is watching, now seem more willing to come to the table," said Israel Lepiz from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

RELATED: Oakland moms refuse to leave vacant house, sheriffs say they will enforce eviction

The housing issue has likely been propelled by the recent victory of "Moms 4 Housing", activists who recently took over a vacant West Oakland house, and got the owner to sell to the land trust.

Landlord attorney, Daniel Bornstein has no part in this case but doesn't like the strategy.

"I don't like this slow creep of withholding rent, expecting landlord to sell under pressure, feels heavy-handed," said Bornstein.

Francisco Perez says, he has no choice.

"We're trying to send a message to the community to fight back," Perez added.

ABC7 News tried repeatedly to reach the building's owner, so far no response.

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