The political energy is still pulsing from Tuesday’s mid-term elections. While pundits are struggling to sort out the mixed bag of results, voters are just glad that all those annoying robo-calls and ads have stopped. Finally!
But will any of these newly-elected candidates represent landlords’ interests?
It is clear from the ground level that landlords could use an ally or two. Without them, landlords may continue to serve as the scapegoat for everything from dysfunctional neighborhood social dynamics to flaws in far-reaching government regulatory programs. The term “absentee landlord” is tossed about in local politics every time a candidate wants to conjure the image of blighted neighborhoods, students who party, even budget shortfalls for fire protection districts, resulting in calls for more rent control, fees, and fines.
But being landlord-friendly is hard to sell. Take for instance a man dubbed the “Landlord Candidate”, Bob Weber, who ran for city council last year in his home town of College Park, Maryland. Mr. Weber is a landlord, and the son of a landlord. His opponents dropped the L-word during the campaign. Weber defended against claims levied at landlords: they are responsible for disruptions in neighborhoods because they, alone, draw partying students into places where they don’t belong. Shut down all the rentals, every one of them owned by an “absentee landlord”, and the problems will go away. Weber pointed out that a decade of rent control and heavy-handed regulations isn’t working.
Weber’s student renters liked him. He was nice to them, offered them safe housing and provided solid property management service. Unfortunately, most of them did not vote, or could not vote, because of some problem with their registration, no time,… whatever. Weber lost his bid.
Ironically, a number of graduate students won seats on that council. They attributed their win to their “high energy” and “new blood”, but there is very little being reported about long-term planning goals to deal with housing issues.
Landlords don’t need much, just some political allies that can do a couple simple things:
Eliminate the double standards that exist in so many towns, cities and states between owner-occupied properties and rental properties when it comes to living standards – enforcing codes, energy upgrades, and noise or criminal violations, for instance. Why must a landlord pay to have a property inspected for hazards every time a tenant moves out, when the owner-occupied property next door has never been inspected?
Even the playing field in the court system. Keep if fair to enforce legal rights like evictions and security deposit deductions by keeping judges accountable, allowing landlords and property managers to represent themselves, and capping filing fees.
Force the local, state and federal governments to do their own dirty work when it comes to enforcing their regulations. Whether it’s immigration or environmental hazards, noise or a bedbug pandemic – landlords shouldn’t be bearing so many of these burdens.
And please, let’s get rid of the word “absentee.” Just because a landlord does not live in the same neighborhood as their rental property does not make them a slumlord.
What do you think?
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