Stubborn misconceptions about landlords and property managers have led to some disastrous legislation. It’s time to make your voice heard.
Written by Brian Wojcik and published at ThinkRealty.com
Despite Aristotle’s evidence that the Earth was round circa 330 BC, its shape was hotly debated for centuries. Even today, “flat earth societies” still exist, based in the belief that the Earth is flat. A comparison can be drawn with landlording (no, really!) General apathy amongst landlords has allowed groups with vested interests to create false truisms about our community, which could have a devastating impact on all parties involved.
Why does apathy exist in the landlord community?
It is an unintended - and unfortunate - result of an arms-length concern to legislation and policy over the years. While landlord/tenant laws have been catching up to modern times to ensure fairness and equity for both parties, strong tenant advocacy groups have rallied for, and successfully pushed through, legislation that tilts the favor to the tenant. While small business and independent landlords are a silent majority of rental housing in the United States (53%), they are missing a collective voice with policy makers. Hence, landlord indifference.
One can look to Baltimore, Maryland as a prime example. When a tenant advocacy publication asserted that its Rent Court - established to provide remedy to landlords for non-payment of rent - is unfair to tenants, Senate Bill 801 was created. And it almost passed. While proposed with noble intent, there were many false truisms that legislation couldn’t remedy. And it actually would have done very little to help tenants, while shifting significant burden onto the landlord. The bill sought to supersede the definition of rent, regardless of what is written and agreed to in a signed lease; add a $30 surcharge on each case filed in court to fund a tenant advocacy group; require landlords to send a “Notice of Default”; add trial delays; and prohibit variable cost utilities from being included in the filing.
Why should this debate matter to landlords outside of Baltimore, Maryland? Law and policy have a strong tendency to migrate across state borders, evolving over time to reflect contemporary social values and ethics. The basis of Tenant Landlord Law was common law until 1972, when the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) was created, and later adopted in at least 20 states.
Bottom line: The voice is loud among tenant advocacy groups pushing for social justice, while the collective voice of the small business and independent landlord is mute. It’s time for the Silent Majority to organize and bring a collective voice to the discussion.
The Challenge for Landlords
Our challenge as a community of small business and independent landlords is a general lack of organization and sufficient data. Recent legislation attempts like Baltimore’s SB801 seek to shift the personal responsibility of tenants to the landlord. This kind of feel-good legislation sounds great in political conversations to win votes. But ultimately, if passed, this legislation would have adversely impacted the financial ability of landlords to provide affordable housing… meaning both sides lose!
Consider the cost to landlords. Baltimore had 6,880 eviction filings in fiscal year 2015. The average time to evict and turn over a unit, and then re-rent, is ~four months. With an average cost of lost rent and turnover of $4,000 and (median rent of $944), the cost to landlords for evictions in Baltimore is $27 million annually. And nationally? Assuming a 3% eviction rate in the U.S., with an average cost to landlords of $3,250, the total is $4 billion annually. And it’s the small business and independent landlords who are hit with the majority of this burden. They don’t have a National Organization to help, or a Political Action Committee to lobby.
Let’s face it. Some of us became landlords by accident, and depend on rent to pay the mortgage. We are not against tenants, and in fact, are sympathetic to those who struggle to pay the rent. Landlord advocacy is sorely missing as a counterbalance to intense tenant advocacy. We must shift the conversation and help legislators and policy makers understand the cost of their actions to all involved, and work to create legislation where everyone wins. What is needed is a rally for change, to re-shape the lens through which our landlord community is viewed.
Strength in Numbers: Forming a Collective Voice
We created a local meet-up group as a non-profit landlord advocacy group. It grew organically as people learned of its mission: Proactively empower small business and independent landlords to avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes, and to be a professional steward to the rental community. It brings a collective voice to the diaspora of landlords who feel their voice won’t be heard. Influential voices are calling for it to grow it nationally.
We are proud to work with Think Realty in this publication to announce our national launch, the National Association of Independent Landlords (NAIL411.org). To be a true cause for change, we need your participation. Every landlord and property manager has a vested interest in landlord advocacy. And, our first lobby effort is scheduled in May, we’ll be spending a day on Capitol Hill meeting with Congressman and Regulators.
You can help in three ways:
- Help us show strength in member numbers: Sign up for free here!
- Invite your constituents to join, especially if you are an organizer of a REIA or Meetup.
- Have any special skills? Contact me on the NAIL411 meet-up member page.
By building our membership, we can show strength in numbers and a constituency across state boarders. As a member, voice your concerns with a quick survey, and tell us your story. We’ll collate the information and be a collective voice for the small business and independent landlord. We’ll take it to the Hill!
By virtue of inaction, we are left with the aftermath of legislation and policies that we are only able react to. Let’s work together to create an environment that is fair and in the best interest of all parties involved.