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Ann Arbor Rent Strike: Would You Rent From This Man?

Ann Arbor Rent Strike: Would You Rent From This Man? image Ann Arbor Rent Strike: Would You Rent From This Man? image
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A trip to the office of Trony Associates at 512 Packard n Ann Arboi - currently the target xrf the city's first major rent strike in fiva years- ■ reveáis a change in name, but not necessanly a change in policyi An the end of tiie house's dimlyjit hallway, leading to the office, a board" with white plastic letters reads: "S.S. Rental Co.". Letters that once formed "Trony Associates" lie scattered on the rug. R. Dewe'y Black, a 23-year-old, bearded Tennessean with a passion for cowboy hats and boots, who is a one-time Trony employee, bouyht the company from former ownersTony Hof f man and Ron Ferguson on November 18th, accoidingTo the City Clerk's office. According to that office, thereitas been no official change continuad ou page 28 A2 Rent Strike confinued trom page 3 in the company's name, despite the tact that Black nou caite the operation "Sunrise Management." Yct the official change in management and the unofficial chana' in name have done nothing lo su Í is t y the long-standing dcmands of Trony tenanls lor needed repairs and adequate niaintenance uhich culminated in the rent strike hy the Ann Arbor Tenants' Union (AATU) early last inonth. One of Trony"Sunrise" 's tenants recently testified at a public hearing of the Mayor's I air Rental Prjctices ('oniniittee that Trony does one of two tilines when asked tor repairs: "They'll eitlier laugh in yotir face or never come over." Another tonner Trony tenant testified that the cotnpany chames people tor du muges without cause. Jonathan Rose, an attorney tor Waslnenaw ('ounty Legal Aid, says, "Our office has defended nunierous Trony tenanls who we tliought liad liad nioney deducted trom their securily deposits unt'airly." Dewey liUick, who was in charge oí ma naging Trony property bet'ore he purchased the coinpany, eplains that pooi service over the last few nionths exisled "because I handled the problems the tenants had through the procedures they (HofTman and I'erguson) had set up." At the bcfiinning ot' December, in wliat appeared to bc an etïort to t'orestall the imminent AATU rent strike, Bkack made what seenied to be an abrupt change in policy. He sent out a public relations release entitled: "dood Alternoon and Another Michigan Football Victory." In it, he listed several changes in administrative practice, iiKliuling: Checkouts which will be made "as l'airly as possible with minimum of deduction lor wear and lear." Michigan State Law already states that a landlord cannot deduct any nioney froni security deposits tbr damages inenrred duc to normal wear and tear. A 5 per cent interest rate on security deposits. I lus, according to several observers, indícales a fceble atlenipt by Black to upgrade his organization's public relations. Says onc Trony tenant, '" 5 per cent is nol gOing to mukc up the difference tor ;ill the ittcney lic rttcgally deducts frorn secürlty deposits," Uut according to Black, "There's an old axiom: a ticw broom sweeps" He claims that the Tenants' Union luis not given him a chance to prove himselF. "Through assoctatinns vith Hoffmun and FergusonJ I ;nn already convicted by the union AATU." lle udded that li is association with Hoffnian and Icr.üiison is mnv Minitod: "I keep those two pcoplc in the office only to hclpme out with bookkeeping. . . It may not be veiy long before 1 don't need tliein in my office anymore.'' lloffman and I erguson may no longer be needed around the office, but to what extent do they still have interests in Trony? The fact that the company's official name has not changcd might reveal something. In addition, a survey of Black's actual holdings in the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds reveáis that he actually owns titles to only three houses in Ann Arbor. The rest of Trony's 1 20 houses remain under the ownership of Hoffman and Ferguson. Black may or may not be buying out these houses under land contracts l'roin the tonner owners. There is nu way of lindiiifi this tact out. .lust as there is rto way of tiiuliiiii out to what extent I eriuison and Hoffman still make decisión s tor Trony. Althouüh the grievances of several Trony tenants were personally docuniented by this reporter. Black still claims that '"the problem with tenants is that the ones who yell the loudest need help the least." lle claims that 40 per cent ol' the problems listed by his tenants on a questionnaire he had sent out with lus l'irst public relations release have sincc been taken care of. Nevertheless, alinost half of Trony's tenants decidcd to withhold Iheir rents and join the Tenants" Union rent strike. Despite all the public relations releases; despile all the piedles ot' new management, with a riew name, and young, "hard-workiiiü, responsible landlord" "Trony Associates" and "Sunrise Managemenl" mean the saine thirjg to ilie Aun Arbor suikers. ainv Neubrecitt is a senior in JoumaÜsm at the Universily of Michigan.