Landlords Have Rights During Economic Stress Too
Landlords Have Rights During Economic Stress Too
Thanks, perhaps, to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the popular image of landlords is that of money-grubbing weasels who don’t care about their tenants. So with that in mind, politicians sided with renters when the economy shut down. People who own rental units can pound sand when tenants don’t pay.
As a result of the economic shutdown, several state and local governments suspended COVID-related evictions of tenants for 30 to 90 days. Some social service agencies also provide rent assistance for renters.
But what about landlords, especially the mom-and-pop rental property owners? They don’t get the same love.
Right now there are about 8 million small landlords in the United States, and they typically own between one to ten properties. These account for about half the rental properties in the nation, and house about 48 million renters. But unlike large real estate companies who own rental properties, small landlords are stuck if their tenants don’t pay. And they also face problems when new tenants aren’t around to fill in vacancies.
Good landlords, of course, will try to work out solutions for laid-off workers who are struggling in this economy. After all, it’s better to give some grace to good tenants than to try to find new renters. But there are also deadbeat renters who will game the system.
Taylor Denchfield, a small landlord in Maryland who owns 12 single unit properties, knows that struggle:
“What I believe we will see is in addition to the tenants that truly cannot pay during this time, there will be a number of tenants who are chronically behind that will simply refuse to pay because they know they cannot be evicted.”
Meanwhile, most small landlords still have mortgages on their properties. They may be able to receive mortgage forbearance from the government, but that doesn’t cover property taxes, insurance, or utilities. And when a water heater goes south or a sewer line backs up, the owner has to pay. Plus landlords still need to mow lawns and remove snow in winter. Rental units also need overall maintenance, like new carpets and paint, and the only way that landlords can cover those costs is through rents.
Many property owners have savings put away to cover for vacancies, but no one expected such a rapid and traumatic shutdown of the economy.
Stepping into this breach are radical socialists, like Bernie Sanders, who tweets power-to-the-people nonsense like #CancelRent.
More than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs because of this horrific pandemic, yet they are still expected to cobble up enough income to pay the rent that is due today. That is unacceptable.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 1, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, too, as you know she would. She wants rent cancellation not only at the state, but at the federal level as well, and she wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to join her.
“You cannot coerce someone into doing something that they cannot do. There is no money in the bank, people need to feed their kids.”
And responsible landlords need rents to maintain their property, but I guess they don’t count in AOC world.
AOC also added her name to a proposal to cancel all rent and mortgage for one year. That plan was cooked up by fellow traveler Rep. Ilhan Omar, and here are two of the economy-crushing ideas these two are supporting:
As for landlords — well, AOC and Omar have ideas that will in essence drive many of them out of business. First of all, the federal government (of course!) will provide bailouts for landlords, if they apply. But there’s a catch here, and it’s a doozy.
If a landlord chooses to accept a federal bailout, they must abide by a set of “fair renting” practices for five years.
Yes, really. Who decides what are “fair renting practices?” Typically landlords set rents by the local market, but Omar and her fellow
socialists communists liberals would love to decide the price, wouldn’t they.
But if you, as a landlord, find that you can’t abide by their rules, they have a plan for that, too. In fact, I think this is what they really want.
They would like the federal government to establish an “affordable housing fund,” which would allow non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments to get their greedy mitts on rental property. Never mind that the Constitution requires that landlords exit the rental market of their own accord, and not by force. And, if they do so, they would receive fair compensation for their property.
When I read about that plan, I was reminded of this scene from one of my favorite movies, Dr. Zhivago, from 1965. In this scene Yuri Zhivago returns to Moscow after serving as a doctor in World War I, only to find his family’s home divided into multiple units for the rabble.
This is really the dream of socialists and fellow travelers like Sanders, AOC, and Omar. These are dangerous times, not only for people who have lost their jobs, but for property owners who could see their Constitutional right to own private property taken from them. Because radicals have decided, as Zhivago drily told the Bolsheviks, “This is a better arrangement, comrades. More just.”