Friday, June 21, 2013

Slum Lords

This article was originally going to be posted in early March, right after I received an eviction notice from my landlords because I had the audacity to put my requests for repairs in writing. However, I decided it might not be to my advantage to post it while I was looking for a new home. I have since moved into a fairly new condo and have zero issues with the landlords who own it. Despite living in a relatively worry-free building, I still stand by what I had written on this subject and decided to post it after all. Call it venting if you like, but I consider it a form of releasing all the negative energy I’ve been holding onto regarding my most recent move.

The words “slum lord” conjure up images of run down shanty towns ruled by wealthy men with slicked down hair, well-tailored suits, a whole lot of jewelry, and an entourage of thugs to escort them. These villains roll up to the front door of the dilapidated buildings in their luxury cars and they instill fear in their poverty-stricken tenants as they come to collect the rent. Wallpaper peels off the dark hallways that reek of urine and trash. Rats scurry across the oppressive landlord’s feet as he haughtily laughs his way from door to door, demanding payment from the unfortunate residents who have nowhere else to go.

Hollywood may have helped to create that fairly common image, but it may have some basis in truth. However, slum lords can also be that nice elderly couple who rent out the house next door to them. They seem innocent enough, but just wait until repairs are needed. They’ll do the work themselves whether they have the expertise or not just to save some money. Then they get upset when it didn’t work and they have to pay someone else to fix the repairs or installations because they did it wrong.

Truth of the matter is that some people just don’t have any business being landlords because they either don’t know what they’re doing, or they have a delusion about what that job entails, or both. And, yes… it is a job. There is a common misconception that a landlord merely buys some property, slaps some paint on the walls, and sits back to collect the rent. Easy money. They don’t have to do anything but cash the rent checks. Wrong!

It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure that the house or apartment is safe. The structure shouldn’t be falling apart and the gas lines should not be leaking, no matter how old the house may be. All of the kitchen appliances should be in working order. If these things aren’t functioning properly or if a safety hazard exists, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to fix it or pay a professional to fix it. Those are expenses that the tenant’s rent check and deposits are intended to cover.

It shouldn't be the landlord’s right to make the tenant feel like they’re imagining the problems or to intimidate the tenant, to make them feel guilty for asking to have legitimate repairs made. It’s irresponsible of the landlord to say that they fear the written requests for repairs may revisit them one day in a lawsuit, so they just want to avoid the whole thing and ask the tenant to move out so they can sell the property. It shouldn’t be their right to evict someone for making too many repair requests. They shouldn’t evict someone because, in their opinion, the house “isn’t right” for the tenant.

It’s a renter’s responsibility to pay the rent on time, to not destroy or change the property, to keep everything clean and tidy, and to be considerate of the neighbors. Renter’s should not fear their landlord’s response to repair requests. They have every right to expect that their home not be a safety hazard by things like gas leaks, the presence of carbon monoxide, or wasps entering the home through faulty window screens. If a landlord can’t handle these kind of repairs for the tenant, they shouldn’t be landlords. They have no business having control over someone else's living conditions.

The worst landlord is the one who doesn’t know the first thing about business and expects to never have any problems or complaints. Nothing goes smoothly. All homes need work. If the landlord doesn’t want to take responsibility for certain things, it should be clearly included in a lease. Better yet, they should consider finding another source of income, one that requires less accountability.

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