The Antirent Movement took the state of New York by storm from 1839 to 1852. Origins of the campaign towards justice in renting trace back to shortly after the American Revolution when landlords divided their estates amongst heirs. The size of estates decreased and income plummeted. To make up for the loss, landlords intensified pressure on tenants (mostly farmers) to pay rent and maintain the land. Many landlords took their case to the courts, suing their tenants. Long-term leases were cut short out of frustration, pulling the rug out from farmers throughout the state. Tenants retaliated against a seemingly feudal system by boycotting and dragging out court proceedings. It wasn’t until 1839, however, that the efforts became unified. Antirenters formed partnerships to oversee boycotts, collect funds, and coordinate the legal fight against landlords. Petitions highlighted three principal demands: prohibition of a landlord’s right to seize and sell tenant’s property to recover unpaid rent, taxation of the landlord’s rent income, and legal protection for tenants to challenge the validity of the property’s title. The movement echoed a vision of freedom and independence in renting.
Antirenters turned into politicians in 1845 when several candidates were elected to represent the interest of the movement. Key allies of the cause fell through over time, allowing antirent votes to collapse and political influence to die off. Despite this, the Antirent Movement has left a lasting impact on society and politics. Where its effects most notably shaped the system of property and class relations in New York State, its had significant influence throughout the United States and is considered by some to be “America’s other revolution.”