A newly formed tenants union trying to improve the living conditions at their homes in Kansas City, Mo., brought their case to Mission Hills this week.
Dozens of members of the group calling itself the McGee/Schifman Tenants Union marched through Mission Hills Wednesday evening in an attempt to draw attention to their demands and gain a meeting with their landlord Matt McGee, a Mission Hills resident.
The MSTU initially formed in March but first went public in July, and Wednesday was one of the group’s first direct actions to try to get McGee to meet with them.
Joined in support by members of the prominent tenant advocacy group KC Tenants, the MSTU rallied at First Lutheran Church at 6400 State Line Road before marching to McGee’s home nearby.
The tenants live in hundreds of units in Kansas City, most of them east of Troost Ave., that are owned by McGee and his business partner Alex Schifman.
Reached by phone, both Schifman and McGee declined to comment for this story. Schifman did tell KCUR in July that he only owns five of the properties in question, though tenants say he manages several more properties for McGee.
On the Saturday before the march, tenants placed flyers on the homes of some of McGee’s neighbors, trying to bring awareness, they say, to the ways in which McGee and Schifman have neglected their properties and ignored their tenants.
The flyer said McGee “is the reason that landlords have a bad name.”
“Matt is not the only slumlord in Kansas City by any means, but he is one of the worst of the worst,” the flyers read. “Tenants like us, with no other options, are forced to live in unhealthy and unsafe homes because of his negligence, and that’s not right.”
Leaking roofs, black mold, sewage backup
The flyer goes on to detail more of the tenants’ complaints.
They say they are living in duplexes, homes and apartments with major structural issues like leaking roofs, black mold and sewage backup.
Other issues include pest infestations, broken appliances and gas leaks, according to the flyer.
Tenants say they have attempted to put in work orders to address these issues, but usually, the work orders are ignored.
When McGee does respond, the flyer says, “he is usually rude and gaslights” tenants about their worries.
While it’s unusual for a maintenance person to be sent out, “band-aid” solutions are used to fix the problems, the tenants say.
After years of this, more than 50 tenants formed the McGee/Schifman Tenants Union in July and have since escalated their actions in an effort to get a meeting with McGee.
“All we are asking for is a meeting,” the flyer reads. “We have exhausted all other options. It has been almost a month since we requested a meeting, and he still refuses to acknowledge/meet with us.”
In July, members of the MSTU told KCUR their living conditions have only gotten worse over time and that McGee and Schifman have been unresponsive to their requests for a meeting.
Below are some of MSTU’s demands:
- A 24-hour maintenance hotline to take tenants’ concerns and requests.
- Rent relief and backpay for those living in conditions deemed hazardous by a third party.
- An online payment option with no surcharge or added fees.
- A flat rate for utility charges including electricity, WiFi, gas, water and trash in all properties.
- The option to renew lease agreements on an annual basis.
- No evictions or retaliations until the negotiations are concluded, an agreement is reached and deadlines for the demands are known.
- Working amenities across properties, annual inspections conducted by a third party.
Additionally, the list of working demands includes a section in which those interested in supporting MSTU can add their signature to a petition.
Editor’s Note: This article has been amended from the original to clarify that the MSTU was initially formed in March 2021 before going public in July. Also, that flyers were placed on some Mission Hills homes the Saturday before the march.