8.17.2008

On A Hope And A Prayer

People will hear me rant often enough about the inherent inequalities of the landlord - tenant relationship, and probably wonder what it is that I am babbling on about. Not many Anarchists agree on the principles of private ownership of things like property. I believe that in a truly equal society, shared ownership, or even "rental" type relationships could work out quite nicely, however in the environment we currently live in, this is not the case, and ownership of one's own property is an ultimate goal. Even for an Anarchist.

Lord is the key word here.

When you rent a property, apartment, or studio from a private landlord, you'll quickly find that the owner has a great deal more power over you, than your money has over them. Generally speaking, in most other circumstances, the buyer has more leverage, because the seller needs the buyer to survive. In the case of life necessities, however, the buyer is at the mercy of the seller, or that is to say, the tenant is subject to the whims of the landlord. Since one needs a shelter in this country in order to survive, maintain employment, and maintain some modicum of health and acceptance into society the tenant, or person who cannot purchase a home for whatever reason, becomes a subject to the landlord.

Now before anyone jumps on me for saying all this, I do understand that when someone owns a property that they are renting out, they do retain the legitimate authority over said property. There are laws and liability to be dealt with, and of course protecting one's investment means that, even to me, asking a prospective tenant to abide by some reasonable guidelines is well within reason. The problem I have personally, is when the landlord exercises more control over the tenant than is legitimate, or reasonable. Particularly if said landlord opts not to fulfill their end of the legal, and ethical bargain.

Landlords wonder why they have high turnovers, and can't get "good tenants". Really?

More often than not I have heard from landlords that they choose not to upgrade or improve upon their rentals because the tenants only trash the place, anyway. While I agree that many renters out there really are simply destructive, I have a hard time believing that the millions upon millions of tenants are the equivalent of college students on a kegger rampage.

After hearing about how horrid tenants are for most of my life, I made the choice to always be a considerate tenant, after all, it's the right thing to do anyway. One would think that if landlords are consistently faced with thorns in their sides, a rose would be a welcome change, and so by being considerate, I would become an asset.

How wrong I was. The first apartment I rented when I arrived here, in Anokville I stayed in for about six or seven years. I am a nester, I don't like moving unless my circumstances dictate it. I didn't move until I was married, being that my tiny apartment was simply too small for two people to live in, and not murder each other. In this case, the landlord wasn't too bad, of course the property was owner occupied, so when something broke it affected the whole house and was likely to be fixed quickly.

After all, landlords don't want to live in a broken down house themselves.

Of course the "rules" were incredibly strict to the point that I felt like a teenager again, complete with a curfew. All in all it wasn't a terrible experience, even if the rent was unusually high for the area, and size of the apartment.

The next privately owned apartment I rented doesn't even have a word to appropriately describe how horrendous the experience was. The landlord abused the power of ownership to the extreme points, even so much as blackmailing, harassing, and coercing money out of us while we went without access to water, and lived with insects and unsafe housing. Even then, I still tried to be a good tenant, until my safety, and the safety of my child was compromised by greed.

Swing around to now, I rented from the same landlord as my first apartment. This time however, it is a different home, and it's not owner occupied. That's when reality hit. If it doesn't affect the homeowner directly then it isn't a problem. After renovating the apartment, landscaping the yard, and taking care of the property as a tenant the landlord turned around and has slapped both tenants in the face.

You'd think that after the heroin addicts and prostitutes, two families that actually care for the property would be a breath of fresh air, one worth holding on to, and appreciating. Not so. The landlord has continued to refuse to fix large problems in the house, and treats us, the tenants like spoiled children if something breaks, and we ask for it to be replaced. Of course, legally speaking the landlord is responsible for maintaining and replacing anything they provide with the lease, so structurally and amenities alike are the landlord's responsibility.

Refusal to fix things that were worn out, old, and broken down, never mind those that cause safety hazards when your tenants are excellent, always pay on time, maintain the rest of the property, and increase your property value will do nothing but breed resentment. I have no more desire to make costly renovations out of my own pocket, neither does the other tenant. Of course, the landlord doesn't care, because there was no intent to ever improve the property anyway.

Landlords like this are causing their own problems, and unfortunately there are too many of them out there. They are creating bad tenants.

Get on with it!

What was my point again? Oh, yes, ownership. The anxiety that the consistent fighting over the years has caused is immeasurable. Tenants who are in positions such as I am live in constant fear of eviction, legal or otherwise, retaliation and the general idea that the landlord has far more control over you, your belongings, and your family than anyone should. No matter what you do, or how considerate you are.

That fear becomes real and tangible when you decide to stand up and fight, only to find that suddenly people are "shopping" the apartment a few days later on a "rumor" that the apartment was going to be available soon enough. As if it isn't stressful enough to worry about why the landlord has picked a fight with you, and insulted you for months on end, now you are in real danger of an impending eviction or at the very least, a back door attempt at "getting you out".

If we were even slightly more wealthy than we are now, up and moving wouldn't be a problem. We are not, ergo it is. Add the identity theft problem into the mix, and you can see how regular people, not bums, not slackers, not assholes can be caught between a rock and a nasty landlord.

This must stop, and I am hoping, praying, and keeping my fingers and toes crossed that we can be approved for a mortgage program that was designed for people in our situation, and get the hell out.

Never to be lorded over again.

15 comments:

Claire said...

Fingers and toes crossed! I would cross my eyes but I cant, I just close my eyes instead.

Also legs crossed, unless I need a whizz,walk etc and arms crossed when I don't need type, eat, etc.

a very public sociologist said...

Good luck with the mortgage programme. I suppose there's not too many about at the moment given the difficulties in the financial sector. So if you do get the opportunity, grab it with both hands. It's better you pay off your own mortgage than paying off someone else's.

Bird said...

I'm new to your site, (well I've been lurking on and off) and thought I'd quit lurking and wish you luck. Having a safe place to stay is so important, and relying on landlords is nerve-racking. Do you have any chance of joining or starting a housing co-op? I don't know what the situation with co-operative housing is in the USA, in the UK small radical co-ops are pretty supportive as a way of getting yourself safely housed.

Pentad said...

Ah man, do I ever know! We were told at our last place that it was NO problem to lease our entire stay here. We were so thankful as we had had difficulties finding a place, that we began to invest money out of our own pockets to improve the place, and thought that it would show the landlord our appreciation...we hadn't even finished unpacking before people were on the door looking to buy (it was still on the market behind our backs, and despite our contract). After an overseas move, I was kind of exhausted and started getting a little pissed. It was never-ending, and after only 9 months he wanted more money (which we couldn't) or he was going to sell....back on the road again for us..the whole 9 months was h***. To our revengeful satisfaction, we see that the house is still on the market for lease/sell after a year...heheheh...who is paying his mortgage now? Just a little comfort thought to you Anok...your landlord may experience a "pay-back" day in the future. What goes around, comes around.

However, in this new place we keep a low profile....don't ask that broken things be fixed,etc...mostly because of the attitudes that tenants are demanding and spoiled if they ask. You would think that they would want to their homes to be maintained!!!!!!!!!!! Pfffft. Yeah, right.

Good luck to you!

The cup is half full of something I don't like said...

home ownership has been nice. On the other hand when something is wrong you have to take care of it. My shutter is broken. The house needs painting. There are big patches of dirt where grass should be. I wish a landlord would handle some of these.

Anok said...

Wow! Thanks for all the well wishes. Claire you can do a funky dance for me when you get here heh hehehe

Phil, thanks, there are some programs now designed because of the economic problems - stuff to help keep homes from foreclosing etc. SO we can benefit from these.

Bird, thanks for de-lurking! Nice to "meet" you. We have discussed some off the beaten path co op type living with trusted friends, but we figured we'd just buy land and subdivide between a few people. Only time will tell...

Tamera - you aint lyin' I heard a similar story, but from the landlord's perspective and I had to think to myself, yuo know, if you didn't wan to rent the property, or not for long, you should have been up front about it!

Ugh, yeah I'd lie to see this landlord rent both units out for the same price that we pay, in this economy. Pishaw!

The cup - it's true, when you own you have to take care of your property - that goes for landlords too. Unfortunately, wishing to have a landlord to take care of things doesn't actually mean that they will be taken care of. In fact, they often don't take care of those repairs, which is what the complaint is about.
At least with your own home, if you make the repairs, you will benefit from them. In a rental you often end up making the repairs because you can't stand to live that way, are never reimbursed, and don't benefit from the improvements, either.

Tenants are not personal piggy banks for landlords :P

an average patriot said...

Anok
Our house is paid for and that is a good feeling but in light of exploding costs I still do not feel too secure. I grew up in a poor part of town. When I moved back there to rause my family they were not use to the low life.
Anyway when we moved in we got in Spanish a list of our rights and instructions on how to get over on the city and your landlord. Because of the minority environment the tenter had the upper hand. Man can I tell you some stories.
I was intimately tied with the college party scene not as a participant but a close observer. man I would never rent to a college kid. Later our friends rented out apartments and had mega horror stories. You are dead on that the owner only cares if they live in the building.
Being the responsible type I always took care of the property and watched things but I envy no one for renting by choice or circumstance. I wish you all the luck in the world. Relax and Take care! You be careful and don't get in over your head! It is too easy!

timethief said...

Best wishes for securing a place of your own ASAP.

mtyler77 said...

Your story is shared by many others. I feel for you--and I wish you all the best in getting approved for the mortgage program.

Shirley said...

I wish you all the best. Dreams do come true. You just gotta keep your fingers, legs,arms, toes and eyes crossed. I do know exactly how you feel.

Tommy Buettner said...

I just placed a rat in your landlord's mailbox. ;-)

JollyRoger said...

Unfortunately, if you're soft of heart or head (and I confess I am both,) you can get taken to the cleaners by tenants.

A newly-married couple just starting out wanted to rent my house. Although I was desperate to get rid of it, I rented to them on a 6 month lease, because I knew the guy and his penchant for not working. I honestly thought that maybe a new wife and a new life would be what he needed to make a difference in himself, and I honestly wanted to help him. I actually rented to them at under what MY costs were, because I threw in electric, water, gas, and what-not as part of the overall package. I figured that maybe they'd save some money and want to land contract from me at the end of the winter.

They saved plenty of money, all right. 3 of those 6 months they either paid under what the agreement stated or not at all. They had enough money to buy a $500 bird and put it in the house, but they didn't have enough to pay me. In addition, when I finally served them with an eviction notice, they called me a SLUMLORD for not extending them a chance to purchase the house on a land contract. I eventually had to engage the police to get them out of my house, and they wrecked it proper before they left.

I still technically own the house, but it is being land contracted now. I will never rent to anyone again.

Anok said...

Thanks again for all of the comments - and 'specially to Tommy for the rats ;)

Jolly, there are definitely circumstances in which one should not rent to certain people. However, for landlords who actually own rental properties, and rent regularly proper background checks can sort out the bad seeds pretty well. Considering how many people in the US rent VS own, I'd say there are far fewer tenants out there like the one you rented to, than there are ones like me, or just regular folks.

I do believe, however, that bad landlords create bad tenants. I have half a mind now to no longer take care of the property (and indeed, certain aspects of maintenance I find myself dragging my feet on) - and the stress has actually driven me to never want to rent again.

As it turns out, this landlord uses the tenants like cash cows, and as soon as the tenants start refusing to pay for landlord responsibilities and repairs, or doing work while being treated like scum, the landlord forces them out to ready herself for ones that will. There is a huge tenant turnover here, and for good reason.

Meh.

Highlander said...

Just wanted to add my own best wishes/good luck - type sentiments Anok.

My wife and i started buying almost as soon as we could afford it (about 20 years ago now) after falling out with our first landlady. (The letting agent did a runner - we wanted our deposits back from her, she said the letting agent had taken them but as far as we were concerned the agent was her representative).

an average patriot said...

Anok
Just checking in! Hope you guys can relax and make it through this. Good Luck!