2009-10-16 / Letters

Unfair Laws Punish Landlords

Dear Editor,

For every owner of a two-family house whose tenants have failed to pay rent for months at a time until they are finally forcibly evicted, the landlord appears to have no rights in court; and that's not right. A tenant who doesn't pay rent creates a financial hardship for the landlord which must be taken into account by the court but presently it is not. Moreover, the acrimony caused by multiple trips to tenant/landlord court makes for heightened tension for both landlord and tenant. As any landlord knows, the court, up until now, has been totally unsympathetic to the landlord in a tenant/landlord rent non-payment dispute, allowing a deadbeat tenant to remain in an apartment without paying rent, water or heat for up to a year. The time has come for judges in tenant/ landlord court to order the eviction of a deadbeat tenant expeditiously so as to stop the landlord from incurring hardship due to non-payment of rent.

Let us first look at the reality of the deadbeat tenant. The deadbeat tenant is allowed by the court to steal, sometimes thousands of dollars, from his landlord by 'lawfully' living in his apartment without paying rent. How fair is it that a tenant overstays his rental without paying rent for months with a blessing from the court? The deadbeat tenant knows his legal rights and milks the court and the landlord for all they're worth. How is it possible that the court can stand by and watch the tenant literally steal thousands of dollars of services from his landlord without incurring any penalty from the court? A deadbeat tenant should be arrested for theft of service, but never is. Isn't it obvious that failure to pay rent month after month is stealing, (theft of service), and should be punishable by the thief serving time in jail? The non-paying tenant, like the court, has no consideration for the landlord. Isn't it plausible that the landlord actually needs that money to pay his mortgage? Then, why is the court continually blind to the rights of the landlord while always allowing tenant-thieves to stay in an apartment for months unpunished without ponying up for the rent?

Let us look at the hardship that not paying rent months at a time has on the landlord. A landlord buys a twofamily house generally counting on the rent from the rental to pay his mortgage. The mortgage, in fact, is specifically calculated by the lending institution according to the rental receipts and the landlord's income. How can a landlord of a two-family house afford a monthly mortgage when half of the combination the bank calculated for monthly payment doesn't pay? There are incidents whereby landlords with deadbeat tenants are forced to borrow money from their retirement accounts, penalties and all, to make their mortgage payments. Further, there are incidents where landlords have seen their houses go into foreclosure for non-payment of rent. Where is the fairness of the court here?

What is the court thinking when it continually rules against the landlord? Does the court pity the tenant for his inability to pay his rent while not pitying the landlord for his inability to pay his mortgage? Is the court thinking if the tenant becomes homeless then the city has to provide for him when the city has neither the resources nor the accommodations to do so? A deadbeat tenant evicted after a year of non-payment is still homeless, laying the burden to house him in the city's lap.

The court's decision allowing him to remain makes absolutely no sense. Is the court's conviction that it is easy to let the landlord suffer because landlords do not have organized representation creating the perfect divide and conquer scenario? This is true. Owners of two-family dwellings do not have a union to lobby council members to do the right thing. Can't council members do the right thing without being lobbied or has lobbying become the way of the legal world? Is the court thinking that landlords are wealthier than tenants so they feel justified in dumping the financial burden on landlords? If dumping on the landlords keeps up, landlords will lose their down-payment and lose their houses for non-payment of mortgages and become tenants themselves. Is that how the courts wish to resolve these disputes?

The arcane tenant/landlord laws for small residential income producing properties must be changed immediately for all the right reasons. The most obvious reason being they are blatantly unfair and possibly illegal. Additionally, change must come to alleviate the financial hardship absorbed by landlords for multiple months of non-payment of rent. In addition, professional deadbeat tenants (thieves) knowing they will escape legal penalties do become serial deadbeats and they must be stopped. Shouldn't there be a registry of deadbeat tenants for the purpose of landlords checking prospective tenants' credibility? Or would such a step help landlords too much?

Letters In short, the City Council has allowed landlord bashing to go on long enough. By allowing deadbeat tenants to stay in their apartments without paying for as much as a year at a time, courts have been punishing the wrong side. The law should be changed as follows. For owners of two-family houses, perhaps even three- or four-family, a judge must order eviction after the 15th day of the second month of non-payment. By so doing, the landlord can use the security deposit to compensate for the first month and lose one month's rent, rather than the 12 months' rent that is at risk under current law. Treat the landlords of small residential income properties fairly. Punish the deadbeats not the landlords. The present law must be changed as soon as possible. City government must right the decades of wrongs it has created. The present law is a disgrace.

JOAN METTLER

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