Albuquerque tenants organize against out-of-state landlords

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a growing battle between Albuquerque renters and their out-of-state landlords, and at least one group of tenants say they are making small wins. 

“There’s some change happening, so obviously, something is moving forward,” said one renter who lives at the Uptown Horizons apartment complex off Lomas. 

The renter says Arizona-based CalCap Properties started managing the complex in December. She says it only took a week for normal operations to start deteriorating. 

“Emergency maintenance wasn’t answering, people’s toilets were overflowing, no hot water, no air, no one to call, they were refusing to do a darn thing,” she said. “There were many tenants that had eviction notices placed on their door, supposedly they didn’t pay rent. Every one of them had paid rent, and they all had the receipt.” 

The renter says the company indirectly forced many renters to switch to more expensive month-to-month leases, because they would not offer residents new, long-term leases. She estimates those month-to-month leases were $60-$80 more expensive per month. 

“From what we can tell [CalCap] has the idea that the tenants are moneymakers only, that they are they don’t have needs or concerns,’ she said. 

The company’s website includes a graphic revealing some of their goals for properties include growing rents and increasing net profits. CalCap could not be reached for comment Wednesday. 

The renter says they reached out to the mayor’s office in May, who directed them to UNM’s law school. The renter says law students urged tenants at the complex to form an organization, so they can obtain legal representation. 

The renter says a large group of residents attended the initial meeting, but she says many tenants are still scared of being evicted for challenging property management. 

“Many tenants showed up trying to get abatement for not having air or not having hot water, and they were threatened immediately with eviction,” she said. 

The renter says their group, which does not have a leader, only includes around 10 tenants; however, after three months of pushing management – with help from UNM law students – she says things are finally starting to change. 

“Suddenly, a few changes have begun being made, like the stairs outside that are being suddenly fixed that were supposedly not broken,” she said. “Even the notice that was placed on the door two weeks ago that says, ‘Oh, we suddenly have leases for you guys.'”

The renter says there’s at least a dozen other changes they would like to see made, but they are celebrating the small wins. She believes tenant organizations are the best way to challenge out-of-state landlords. 

“They know that unfortunately, there’s no laws in Albuquerque protecting the tenants,” she said. “Many of the tenants, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re going to be worried about food on the table and just being alive, not, you know, protesting the management, but it’s going to take all of us coming together.”  

KOB 4 reached out to the Apartment Association of New Mexico about tenant organizations. Executive Director Alan LaSeck sent us this statement: 

“Tenants and landlords both have rights as outlined in the New Mexico Uniform Owner Resident Relations Act. The best way to resolve any issue is with honest and open communication with your property manager.” 

KOB 4 spoke to UNM law professors and activists with the People’s Housing Project in July about the power of tenant organizations.