NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker signed an ordinance Tuesday afternoon officially recognizing tenant unions.

This ordinance means unions can work with the city’s fair rent commission to investigate things such as proposed rent increases and unacceptable living conditions. 

This ordinance applies to properties with at least 10 rental units. It also extends to at least 10,000 housing units across the city. 

“This is not anti-landlord by any means, this is about ensuring that people have safe, clean places to live, which is the law,” he said. 

Tenants from Quinnipiac Gardens were excited to hear the news. A year and a half ago, Jackie Sewell-Freelove and other tenants at the Quinnipiac Gardens said they’d had enough. 

“I started getting mice and roaches and I had like a small fire in the kitchen, and they didn’t really come out and repair like they’re supposed to, and I just got tired of living like that,” she said. 

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Almost all of the 70 residents decided to band together to form the Quinnipiac Gardens Tenants Union. A tenants union is a group of neighbors that gather to discuss issues in their building or neighborhood. They also work collectively to improve living conditions. Organizers said that’s where real change can begin. 

“The union is a game changer, because people realize there’s strength in numbers, and that when they vocalize the same message as a group, both to their landlord and the city,” said Luke Melonakos-Harrison, a tenant organizer with the Connecticut Tenants Union.   “Suddenly, people will have to pay attention to them in a new way,”

An attorney for landlords said this ordinance complicates the relationship between landlord and tenant, and will discourage people from buying rental properties in New Haven. 

“There’s things the tenants can do without needing to have a union fighting for them,” Yona Gregory, an attorney, said. “The state of Connecticut already affords them plenty of avenues to make their apartments better, to make landlords do what they’re supposed to.”

There are at least two tenant unions in New Haven and five across the whole state. The Connecticut Tenants Union is working with other cities and towns to establish similar ordinances.