Landlords Have Rights During Economic Stress Too

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.


Christian-Patterson rental in Eugene, OR. Wikimedia commons/CC BY-SA 3.0.

Stepping into this breach are radical socialists, like Bernie Sanders, who tweets power-to-the-people nonsense like #CancelRent.

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:

  • Full forgiveness of rent, retroactive to March 13;
  • No accumulation of debt for renters.

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.”


Featured image: Kurt Bauschardt/flickr/cropped/CC BY-SA 2.0. 

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • Dana says:

    I am so happy I’m no longer a landlord!

    But if the Communists want to cancel rents and mortgages, that’s no benefit to people like us, who’ve already paid for our property. We’ll just be taxed to help out everybody else.

    • Jim says:

      “… the popular image of landlords is that of money-grubbing weasels who don’t care about their tenants.”

      Actually my experience as a landlord was that the majority of tenants were “money-grubbing weasels” who didn’t care about their landlords or the property they were let.

      Selling my rental property in 2008 was one of the happiest days of my life after over 15 years of stress.

  • GWB says:

    responsible landlords need rents to maintain their property
    You totally missed something (and actually fell into the marxist trap in missing it).
    Landlords need to feed their kids too.

    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
    In short, they would be turned over to the local soviet. (Good film clip, btw.)

    Here’s the other thing you missed: if the landlords don’t get their rent, then…
    the plumbers don’t get paid…
    which means the plumbing supply people don’t get paid…
    which means the plastics manufacturers don’t get paid…
    which means the materials producers (oil, timber, etc.) don’t get paid…
    which means the landlord doesn’t get paid…
    which means………
    For each and every person who interacts with the landlord: plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, lawn maintenance, groceries (his kids have to eat, too, remember), clothiers, car manufacturers, electronics manufacturers, etc. And each of those has a chain working backwards, killing jobs exponentially as that tree expands (sort of a virus in reverse).

    Also, if you suspend mortgages, then there’s no many to loan to small businesses to get back on their feet. And no credit on which to buy marginal items (maybe necessary, but not affordable at the moment – because you’re out of work). No credit lines for grocers to buy their next load of goods. (This is also true of student loans, btw.)

    Funny how liberals used to talk about the “web of life” and such because of their environmentalism, but they can’t see it right in front of their faces in our lives.

    • Kim Hirsch says:

      Thank you for listing all the “missing” items you think I should’ve put in my post. If I put all those into the article, it would’ve rated a well-deserved “tl:dr” from other readers. We want people to be intrigued enough to read, not be bludgeoned by a laundry list.
      I’m happy you approved of the clip from Dr. Zhivago. That short two-minute scene displays all the evils of socialism. Loss of private property; destruction of the family and the private life; erasure of religion; dictats as to one’s vocation. Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah —- loss of liberty. The individual is squelched to serve the state.
      All in one two-minute clip from a 1965 movie. Brilliant!

      • GWB says:

        Well, I thought the first one was kind of important. Leaving it out lets the marxist concept of landlords as evil monsters – instead of people just like their tenants – run unchecked, imo.

        But, either way, they’re now in an addendum comment, so readers can peruse at their leisure. 😉

        (It’s a good post.)

  • Jim says:

    “This is really the dream of socialists and fellow travelers like Sanders, AOC, and Omar.”

    Not quite. This is the dream they hold for the peasants, not those in secure government positions with a salary and perquisites paid for by those who actually work.

  • […] As Kim Hersch noted, landlords have problems, too. […]

  • […] isn’t the only one as Kim wrote about here, and was discussed here by […]

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