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Tenant Sanctuary is a tenant’s rights education service located in Santa Cruz, California. We opened our doors in April 2019. Tenant Sanctuary is a fiscally sponsored project of the Hub for Sustainable Living.

What do we do?

Through trained tenant counselors and our staff attorney, we help tenants understand what rights they have in a given situation, as well as how to assert them. We also provide free educational events through community partners.

We answer questions about

  • Rent Increases
  • Eviction
  • Repairs and habitability
  • Security Deposits
  • Harassment
  • Lease Provisions
  • And any issue regarding tenant-landlord disputes.

Tenant Sanctuary does not provide legal representation, but we welcome any tenant with a question about their rental situation to contact us and talk to our counselors or staff attorney.

What do we believe?

We believe that housing is a human right and that all tenants are entitled to know about their legal protections and act on them without fear of retaliation. This right must be especially protected amidst the housing crisis that Santa Cruz tenants experience daily.

What crisis?

Studies have uncovered that Santa Cruz is the one of the least affordable cities in the world when comparing average rents to wages. More specifically, the issue of “rent burden” – when a tenant pays over 30% of their income in rent – is one that impacts at least 70% of tenants in Santa Cruz and primarily affects tenants in the city’s low-income neighborhoods of color (No Place Like Home, 2016). Many even spend as much 50-70% of their income on rent, leaving little left for other basic needs such as food, utilities, transportation, and healthcare.

Though high costs and poor conditions are widespread, many tenants put up with these and other issues. A severe lack of housing priced for poor and working people means it can take months to find a rental home in Santa Cruz. Overcrowding, lack of repairs, harassment, and frequent rent increases are issues which many tenants will withstand in order to stay housed. In this context, we believe that tenants should be fully aware of their rights in order to maintain decent, safe, and affordable homes. Rights education and accessible legal assistance programs can help support tenants in their homes while the city works to amend housing policies and alleviate the housing crisis.

Who are we?

Tenant Sanctuary is composed of a team of committed volunteers, a program coordinator, a tenant attorney, and a steering committee. The steering committee guides the vision and strategies of the Tenant Sanctuary program and includes:

  • Ernestina Saldana, Chair, tenant advocate
  • Gretchen Regenhardt, RDA, ex-director California Rural Legal Assistance (Watsonville)
  • David Brown, Administrator for the Hub for Sustainable Living
  • Cynthia Berger, Tenant counselor, Power Surge Tenants Rights / Santa Cruz Tenant Association
  • Bruce Van Allen, Software developer and community activist
  • Mariam Gafforio, Certified conflict mediator