In our beloved Isla Vista, everyone has a story about their landlord. It is a part of I.V. culture to compete over who has the worst story – how long it took to get a repair, how much you are paying for parking at your own home, or how much of your deposit you didn’t get back. There is a detachment between the space we inhabit for a year and the landlord who we write a monthly check to. Unless your house was about to fall into the ocean last year or your landlord is a rumored pervert, I bet most of you cannot place the name with the face.

Students and other community members in I.V. are vulnerable and ripe to be taken advantage of. Last year, by constant and tiring pressure, my angry roommates and I managed to get $1,000 taken off for multiple mysterious charges our landlord seemed to think we were responsible for. It is time to take responsibility for changing our situation. The Associated Students Isla Vista Tenants’ Union is yours – your money pays for it and it is a mechanism to organize and unite to ensure that your rights are respected rather than violated. On this glorious and monumental Wednesday, Feb. 1, we want tenants to be first. We want you to be as pissed off as us because you have the right to be.

Today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. your Tenants’ Union will be outside the UCen and in the Arbor to educate students on what their rights are and how to take concrete action by facilitating calls and postcards to landlords with complaints or with requests for things to be fixed. For example, did you know that if a lock is broken it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix it right away? Or, that the landlord cannot enter the house without the tenant’s permission? We pay exorbitant prices to live in houses that are falling apart only to by robbed of our deposits by abstract loopholes or charges for a mysterious missing refrigerator tray or that sparking outlet that never got fixed, neither of which is your responsibility in the first place.

The Tenants’ Union has a rich history of reaching out to the community. It was formed after 33 Latino families were unjustly evicted during the summer of 1998. It has campaigned for a just cause ordinance, requiring landlords to give a reason for eviction that reached the Board of Supervisors. It holds a seat on our redevelopment agency and has been active on many more important issues.

Today is a day to let the landlords know that there is a united Tenants’ Union that is proactively watching their actions and lobbying on behalf of tenants. We are also here to educate you on what your rights are and offer ourselves to you as a resource. If you are interested in any of these problems, if you are angry, broke or inspired, our meetings are every Monday at 5 p.m. above Grafikart. Our possibilities, your possibilities, are endless in the difference we can make by taking back I.V. I challenge you not to be a victim. I challenge you to come together with other concerned residents and take action to do something about your quality of life and your community.

Kelly Burns is a junior global studies major and the A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs.