By Shawn Chitnis

LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – The COVID-19 pandemic cost many people their jobs or reduced their hours so their income cannot cover the cost of rent. One man tried to negotiate with his landlord after he was without work, but had to go on rent strike to get his rate reduced.

(credit: CBS)

“I wouldn’t be okay unless I would have negotiated my rent lower, and I wouldn’t be able to fix my car and go back to work,” Schuyler Trowbridge told CBS4 on Tuesday.

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He lost his position at a call center because of the coronavirus outbreak, but hopes to work for the U.S. Census Bureau later this year. He explained the money saved from a lower rent rate will go to repairing his vehicle so he can use it for the new job.

“As a college student who just got fired, just with the insurmountable amount of debt like most of us in college,” he said. “It just seemed irrational for me to not stand up for myself in a time of such deep crisis.”

Schuyler Trowbridge

Schuyler Trowbridge (credit: CBS)

He rents a room for $650, but could not afford that amount in April. He tried to talk to his landlord, but says he did not get any accommodations for the month. His landlord told him they could not afford to adjust the amount, according to Trowbridge. But he looked up his landlord and noticed the property owner has multiple buildings under their name.  He contacted Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense for help.

“When they hold the keys to your house above your head, it’s very challenging to be able to make an argument that you can’t pay rent,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, who represents Colorado’s 11th District. “If you’re getting blackballed right now, it’s time to strike.”

(credit: CBS)

Singer represents Longmont where Trowbridge lives and advocates for trying all of your options including rent striking. He says there are community agencies that can help including those who assist how to strike. Renters can also call 211 for information on some resources. Some landlords in the Denver metro area are extending the due date for rent and waving some fees.

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Singer explained that the federal government has given landlords assistance on their mortgages so they should be able to accommodate renter needs. He is one of 40 lawmakers in Colorado who called for a 90-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

“Rent striking is the last option an these are desperate times,” he told CBS4. “Find a way to hold these people accountable when they are not doing the right thing.”

The challenge Trowbridge faced is one many are dealing with in April and could struggle to resolve in the months ahead. They both believe this highlights the ongoing challenge of the cost of living in Colorado. But Singer says leaving people without a home now could actually help the spread of COVID-19.

“This is something that is not only about doing the right thing for an individual but this is about actually saving people’s lives,” he said. “The housing crisis shouldn’t be a public health crisis.”

Trowbridge spoke to his landlord after going on strike, he even placed a sheet out of his window to demonstrate the act. He paid $250 for this month, a substantial savings he hopes to use for other expenses in April and then reassess his need month to month.  He is also supporting a petition called Colorado Common Good Demands.

“I feel much better about the future going forward, I feel a big weight lifted off,” he said. “I haven’t felt this level of excitement in honestly, too long of a time.”

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LINKS: Colorado Apartment Association | Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense

Shawn Chitnis