‘Tenant Terrors’ photo gallery showcases troubling apartments across New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new photo gallery is pulling back the curtain on issues plaguing apartment renters across New Mexico.

“I think a lot of the renters just really want to send a message that it’s really past the point of tolerable,” said Marie-Pier Firgon with nonprofit organizing group Olé. “Images can just be really powerful and convey stories that words may not be able to. So, when we talk about infestation, being able to actually see that infestation can sometimes be more powerful.”

The gallery is titled “Tenant Terrors.” The collection of nearly 50 photos submitted by renters is on display at the Working Classroom in Barelas. Organizers say the gallery is meant to highlight a growing backlash against unresponsive landlords and out-of-state management companies.

“Just acknowledging that is really like part of the power shift back to renters and saying, ‘I’m not ashamed of these living conditions, because they know it’s not in my control,” Firgon said. “I think that renters really want to come together and showcase that and say, ‘We’re not afraid anymore, and we’re ready to speak out and make a change.”

One Albuquerque renter submitted a photo of his apartment complex where he says the security gate has been broken for several months now.

“Coyotes are getting in, and other homeless people are getting in and breaking into cars and causing ruckus at night,” he said.

He added other problems at the complex started piling up once a Florida-based company began managing the complex.

“We need to have some kind of regulations that other people from other states cannot be buying up apartment complexes and being landlords and then not doing anything about it,” he asserted.

UNM law professors and tenant rights advocates believe state lawmakers need to increase protections for renters amid an affordable housing shortage. They suggest fully scrapping New Mexico’s rental protection laws and starting from scratch.

State Rep. Andrea Romero (D) says that approach is not likely, but she suggests several state lawmakers are aware of the issues renters are facing.

“If you’re a bad tenant, you get evicted, but if you’re a bad landlord, what are the protections involved for those who have been unfortunately careless in protecting innocent lives from basically being evicted, because they literally can’t live there, the buildings are in squalor,” she said.

The ‘Tenant Terrors’ gallery will be on display for the next two weeks. You can learn more here.