Inquilinos Unidos (United Tenants) is dedicated to empowering low-income tenants through community organizing, education and advocacy to fight for safe, decent, and affordable housing in Los Angeles.
Inquilinos Unidos (IU) has its origins in the tenant advocacy of Dino Hirsch, a retired machinist and union organizer, who from 1979 to his death in 1988 dedicated himself to advocating for tenants living in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles. Dino introduced tenants to advocacy before the City Council, kept the media engaged, and joined tenants in confronting and negotiating with landlords. After Dino’s death, a group of housing activists determined that it was critical that the work of IU continue. Thus, in November of 1988, Inquilinos Unidos was incorporated as a non-profit organization and subsequently obtained its 501© (3) status.
Recent years have seen the growth of the immigrant Latino population in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This community is increasingly characterized as “working poor” as many are employed in the non-unionized service industry and work two or more jobs yet still remaining well below the poverty level. As the production of affordable housing in Los Angeles has fallen to a stand still and rent control units are being irreplaceably lost, tenants are faced with a criminal housing crisis. Decent rental housing is out of reach for most working poor families and thus they are placed at the mercy of profit driven landlords who discriminate or use other unethical and/or illegal tactics to harass, rent gouge or evict tenants who are vulnerable.
Since its inception, IU has had a long and distinguished history of successfully organizing tenants to advocate for their own improved housing conditions. For over 19 years, IU has focused its tenant advocacy work in the low income, primarily Spanish-speaking, immigrant communities of Pico Union, the Garment District, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and Hollywood. Our outreach has also extended to the San Fernando Valley and South Central Los Angeles, and calls for assistance regularly come from adjoining counties.
IU has worked with thousands of low-income tenants on legislative efforts, using peaceful but determined group action to address slum housing and related issues, tenant rights training and strategy planning, and class action or taxpayer lawsuits to address the most egregious housing violations. IU is one of the few Spanish-speaking organizations striving to empower tenants to fight for their right to safe, decent and affordable housing.
In 1998, IU allied with other tenant groups in order to pressure the Los Angeles City Council to create the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP), a program to inspect the City's over 700,000 rental units for electrical, plumbing and structural housing code violations. IU has also been instrumental in the development of the 100 million dollar Housing Trust Fund for the City of Los Angeles and in the creation of the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP), a City-wide code-enforcement program and partnership with the Los Angeles Housing Department designed to engage tenants and compel negligent landlords to make much needed repairs. IU was the organizing force behind the Cambria tenant cooperative and responsible for two major legal settlements against Lance Robbins--one of the more notorious slumlords in the city. To date, IU has been responsible for over $11,000,000 being awarded to tenants through litigation. IU also is credited for the development of the Tenant Group Empowerment Training (TGET) program, Tenant Organizing Committees (TOCs) and slum tours, and has done significant advocacy and policy reform work on major rehabilitation evictions, relocation benefits, code enforcement, and rent stabilization standards and operating procedures.