Commissioner Chloe Eudaly speaking at the Wimbledon press conference
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly speaking at the Wimbledon press conference Meg Nanna

Malarie Koch joined the tenant protest at her former apartment complex by accident.

"It's pretty ironic, I came to dispute my move-out charges and try to get my deposit back," Koch said. "I didn't know this was going on, but I'm sure glad it is."

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At least a dozen current residents led the afternoon protest and press conference at Wimbledon Square and Gardens apartments, a 600-unit complex on Southeast 28th, a few blocks south of Reed College. Gathered outside the complex's on-site leasing office, tenants detailed years of mistreatment and general disregard by their landlord, a California real estate company called Prime Group.

"My water has been shut off without warning more than a dozen times," said Floyd Mangrum, who's lived at Wimbledon for three years.

Many tenants shared similar complaints of sporadic, unexpected water outages in the past months, forcing them to use neighbor's toilets and showers for days at a time. Mangrum said his water bill has somehow increased during this time period.

"There's no accountability," Mangrum said. "We deserve at least that."

Tenants march after delivering a letter of demands to Wimbledon landlords.
Tenants march after delivering a letter of demands to Wimbledon landlords. Meg Nanna

"It's very upsetting," said Samantha Hooper, a tenant who moved out of Wimbledon two weeks ago. "I haven't ever had to deal with such neglect by my landlords."

During her six months' stay at Wimbledon, Hooper said she had repeatedly asked Prime to remove the black mold that was growing on her apartment walls and ceiling. It was never addressed. Hooper was forced to break her year lease over health concerns—the mold had left her with a persistent, new cough. She said Prime is still charging her rent.

Prime has not responded to the Mercury's request for comment.

Wilbledon charges tenants market-rate rent for its units. Even still, many tenants who want to leave Wimbledon say its nearly impossible to find another rental nearby in the same price range. This dearth of housing may make it easier for Prime to ignore its tenant's complaints.

"This should go without saying, landlords have a legal obligation to maintain their premises in habitable condition," said Eudaly. "All Portlanders should be outraged that Wimbledon residents are being exploited and abused by this out-of-state company that is profiteering during a declared housing emergency. This burden should not be carried by tenants alone."

Eudaly stressed the responsibility the city and the state legislature have in improving tenant protections. She was echoed by Representative Rob Nosse, who represents Wimbledon's district in the Oregon House.

"We're going into session starting January 2019, and we are very excited to have a pro-renter housing agenda," Nosse told the crowd.

Tenant Floyd Mangrum speaking at todays rally.
Tenant Floyd Mangrum speaking at today's rally. Meg Nanna

This isn't the first time Wimbledon's been in the spotlight for tenant negligence. In May, Prime was forced to pay Wimbledon tenant Robert Trebelhorn $20 million after he fell through a concrete walkway to his apartment that had been reinforced by rotted-out wooden beams. The ensuing court-ordered repairs to Wimbledon's walkways have only added to the tenant's woes.

"It's like Fourth of July every day for my dog," said Lindzy Querner, referring to the constant stream of loud construction going on outside her apartment walls.

"I have to walk over power tools, concrete chunks, and power cords whenever I leave my apartment," she said. "It's not safe, it's not sustainable."

Querner and others shared anecdotes of trying to speak with management on site, and being constantly told just to "send an email." And yet, Querner said, "Management has never returned a single email I've sent."

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Tenants say construction on this stairwell has been at a standstill for at least a month.
Tenants say construction on this stairwell has been at a standstill for at least a month. Meg Nanna

Jason Kafoury, the lawyer who represented Trebelhorn in his lawsuit against Prime, said that he believes the Wimbledon is home to the "worst [living] conditions in this entire city." Kafoury said that the Portland Fire Department had inspected Wimbledon prior to Trebelhorn's case and found that every single apartment building on site had "serious life safety issues,"

"This place is one fire away from killing a lot of tenants," he said.

Prior to this afternoon's protest, Wimbledon tenants—who've organized as a tenant union under the name WIMBY—dropped off a list of demands at the complex's leasing office. In it, WIMBY asks Prime to reimburse every tenant who was impacted by recent water outages or walkway repairs with at least two month's rent. Tenants asked Prime to respond to their demands no later than November 30.

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