Some of the tenants of the buildings listed on the Property Profiles page (linked on the tab, above) have already organized. However, if you have not started your tenants association yet, the following (reprinted from the Tenants & Neighbors web site) may be of assistance to you. Eventually, all tenants of these buildings will have the opportunity to join a building-wide alliance.
Step One: Examine your building carefully – get a feel for it
• How many units are there?
• How many tenants in the building?
• What kind of tenants are they
(rent controlled, rent stabilized, Section 8, etc.)
• Are repairs being neglected?
• Does the building lack heat, hot water or other basic services?
• Is there are a problem with building staff?
• Are there security issues in the building?
Step Two: Involve Your Neighbors
Start talking to your neighbors, both people you know and those you see in the elevator or hallways. You may find it difficult at first, but don’t be afraid or embarrassed. Chances are that people share your concerns. The worst that can happen is that they will not be interested. If you are really serious about organizing a tenant association, you will have to talk to people you don’t know at some point, so you might as well start now.
Tell your neighbors that you want to discuss whether the building can benefit from a tenant association. Ask them if they are interested in attending a meeting and ask them to start thinking about common needs and problems. Exchange names and telephone numbers and let them know when you will contact them about the meeting. (Keep a list so that you don’t leave anyone out.) Call the meeting within one or two weeks following these conversations so that interest doesn’t wane.
Now that you have a core group of people (4-5 is a good start) who have expressed an interest in talking about organizing your building, you are ready for a preliminary meeting to discuss forming a tenant association.
Step Three: The Preliminary Meeting
This meeting can be held in your apartment. Offer some refreshments if you can – coffee, tea and cookies are fine. Don’t start “business” right away. Let people have the opportunity to talk to each other first.
When you’re ready, introduce yourself and ask others to tell a little about themselves: how long they have lived in the building, what their interests are, and why they came to the meeting. You may be the only person to have spoken to everyone, so it’s important to share information. Give an overview of what you noted about the building. Encourage everyone to speak, but at this stage discourage people from discussing priorities.
Key Questions To Raise
• Why organize a tenant association?
• Are there common needs/problems in the building?
• What would be the purpose of a tenant association?
• What does each person want the tenant association to accomplish?
Keep in mind that this meeting is only a beginning. You may all decide that the time is not ripe for a tenant association. If, though, things seem to be moving along well, discuss calling a second, planning meeting. Ask each person to bring one additional person to the planning meeting, ideally to be held the following week. (Try not to wait more than two weeks for the next meeting.) Ask if someone else would like to host the meeting.
Step Four-A: The Planning Meeting
Basically, the process at this meeting will resemble the first, but because new people will be there, it is important to encourage their participation and ideas. Ask the new people to identify what is important to them in the building, and as a group rank issues in order of importance. Make a written list. Include any issues raised during the first meeting. Keep in mind that though this group is setting priorities it is still a small group, and these priorities are only tentative.
With this larger group of people you have the makings of a steering committee for the tenant association, though you still don’t have a tenant association yet. Begin thinking about calling a full meeting of all the tenants in your building.
Step Four-B: The Planning Meeting
How Will The Meeting Be Advertised?
Generally, a flier – a one-page announcement – is the best way to publicize the meeting. Someone on the steering committee may have an artistic skill and can design the flier. A computer can make creating fliers easier but you can do it by hand. If you’re really having trouble, you can ask a Tenants & Neighbors organizer for assistance.
In designing the flier, make sure that the DATE, TIME and PLACE of the meeting jump out at the reader. Try not to make the flier too wordy – people should know what the meeting is about by just glancing at the flier. Use simple phrases, such as:
‘Tenant Alert: Meeting to discuss forming a Tenant Association
Come and Meet Your Neighbors!’
It’s a good idea to include the name and telephone number of a steering committee member in case your neighbors want more information.
Make enough fliers for everyone in the building. Ask someone in the group if they are able to duplicate the flier at their job. If this isn’t possible, look for a local printer who could reproduce the flier for free. (You can reward the business by putting its name on the flier: “Printing services donated by Joe’s copy joint”) Or look for a community center or neighborhood agency that could print the fliers.
Step Four-C: The Planning Meeting
How Will The Fliers Be Distributed?
Depending on the number of people on the steering committee, you can:
Ask members to post fliers in the hallways on their floor and leave one under the door of each apartment.
If all the floors are not represented on the steering committee ask members to do extra floors.
Once again, you have the right to distribute and post fliers in your building. However, in some buildings the management rips down the fliers or tells the tenants that such postings are not allowed. If the building staff is tearing down your fliers you just have to keep putting them up. The best way to do this is to carry a few extra fliers with you and some tape, so that when you see that a flier has been removed, it will be easy for you to replace it with a new fresh one.
If the building management is giving you a real problem with this let your Tenants & Neighbors organizer know.
In addition to distributing and posting the flier, the best way to get people to attend your meeting is to speak to them personally. You can organize a door-knocking excursion to remind tenants of the meeting and urge them to attend. Don’t forget to remind your neighbors of the meeting when you run into them, inside or outside the building.
Step Five: The Full Tenant Association Meeting
The full building meeting is the real start of a tenant association.
At your first full meeting, a planning committee with a slate of officers (president, vice president, secretary & treasurer) should be elected to lead the association for six months to a year.
Tenant associations normally hold elections annually, and some impose term limits for officers. (Tenants & Neighbors can provide by-laws and help in planning your elections.) Once officers are elected, those attending the meeting should outline possible activates and projects for the association, including later meetings. The number of tenant association meetings should be determined by the by-laws. Some tenant associations’ meet monthly, though it is better to meet about four times a year unless there is an emergency.
In addition to officers, you might want to recruit volunteers for other tenant association activities i.e. floor captains to spread the word about future meetings, door knockers to recruit more members or an artist to design posters and leaflets. Try to get as many people involved as possible.
I would also add that collecting email addresses for updates, news, meeting reminders, and fund raising can be very helpful.