Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Harassing Landlords

Alderman Helding is floating an idea to require an occupancy permit each time a new tenant moves into a rental unit in the city of Racine. I think this is a bad idea.

Like many proposals for more government, Alderman Heldings idea is well intentioned I am sure. But good intentions are insufficient. Good results are what is needed. So let us predict the likely consequences of Heldings proposal.

First, let us acknowledge that the quality of some rental units are obviously subpar. As such, interior inspections will likely find numerous code violations from chipped paint, leaky roofs, faulty wiring, etc... in some of these units. Correcting these deficiences will cost money. In many cases, they will cost alot of money, depending on the condition of the unit and the degree of enforcement sought by the city. And it would be wonderful if all of our housing was terrific inside and out. But I refuse to live in a fantasy world.

In the real world, and in some parts of our city, it is unlikely that a substantial investment in property will pay off for the landlord. If a landlord is required to spend $30,000 upgrading a unit, but the rents max out at $400 per month, what do you think will happen? If owning property in certain parts of our city becomes a losing venture, you can be sure that these landords will simply walk away from these properties. This policy proposal will result in a decline in the quality of our housing.

There are more problems with this proposal. The JT article on the subject notes that there are between 12,000 and 14,000 rental units in the city with a 30 to 40% turnover each year. Inspecting and reinspecting these units will require several more city employees. City employees salaries, health insurance and lifetime pension obligations are already a serious threat to our area. Adding more employees would compound our fiscal problems.

And finally, this proposal would just be another nuisance for honest business people. I know it is fashionable to insult landlords. Indeed the term landlord is hardly used any more, replaced more often that not with the derogatory "slumlord" moniker. Landlords are providing a service to our community. In general and at least, they are responsible for the maintanance of buildings that in many cases would otherwise be totally abandoned.

Harrassing landlords may be a wise political strategy for Alderman Helding and others, but it will ultimately harm the quality of housing in Racine.


Anonymous said...

These are fine ideas and I agree with the plight of the land lords and the people they must rent to..however We have 3 troublesome rentals on our otherwise great West Racine Street, they are a blight to the neighborhood. Junk cars, messy lawns and porches, unkempt yards, unruly children with no respect for their neighbors and landlords who don't care !, Except for the $ So we do what we can, complain, they ignore the complaints, and we have no recourse but to call the police. unfortunate ! With problems like these they make our all ready laughable city accessed value an even bigger joke !

Denis Navratil said...

I feel for you anon, but the problems you describe are external, and there is a mechanism in place already to deal with the issues of messy lawns, junk cars etc... There is a city department called UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) that you can call. Perhaps you have done so aleady and you are finding that the city is unable to correct the problems. This would not suprise me in the least.

As for the landlord not caring about this situation, perhaps you are correct. But I suspect that most, if not all landlords would like to have decent, clean and responsible tenants. Unfortunately this is wishful thinking and herein lies the real problem. Racine has a disproportionate number of people who do not make good neighbors. Perhaps they are slobs, their kids are unruly, etc... but this state of affairs can hardly be blamed on the landlords.

The official response in Racine is to make life more difficult for landlords while ignoring the larger problem of defective tenants.The "bad landlord" problem would go away overnight if we could somehow rid ourselves of lousy tenants. But if we keep our heads in the sand and pretend that landlords are the primary problem, we will only make matters worse.

Anonymous said...

Thank your for your response, since you can't legislate a good tenant, just do what every other business must do, pass it on to the consumer ! I miss the good old days when a young couple would look to West racine for a nice flat on a great street, Now the rentals are full of scums, women with kids from 3 dads who all show up to raise hell at some point. Or let the neighbors keep their kids from running into the streets ! Who think honking 5 times is the same as parking and actually knocking on the door! I'm afraid has turned into a Bad episode of COPS , and we are watching it Live ! There are just so many problems with this town, I hate to have to move,but if we have along hot summer, it could be the tipping point !

Denis Navratil said...

Well anon, I wish it was them and not you that was considering moving from Racine. But this is Racine's problem. Productive, decent people like yourself are being driven out of Racine by the losers. And if you ask me, we have public policies which punish the productive while rewarding the losers. We are reaping what we have sewn, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever consider that if a landlord puts money into his property he can charge higher rents and find more desireable tenants? I don't know the answers but I do know we have far too much substandard/slum housing in Racine which is attracting the wrong type of people to our neighborhoods. Being poor does not mean you have to live in squaller.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon, you have a point in that investment in rental properties might enable the landlord to charge more for rent. Then again, it might not. I am sure there are neighborhoods in Racine where you won't get $800 a month for rent, no matter what improvements you make.

Otherwise, I think you have it backwords. Substandard housing does not attract the wrong kind of people. Rather, the wrong kind of people cause the substandard housing, and we don't have to attract them to Racine. They are already here.

Anonymous said...

Taking this quote:
"Substandard housing does not attract the wrong kind of people. Rather, the wrong kind of people cause the substandard housing, and we don't have to attract them to Racine."

Ok, so Racine currently has substandard housing that is attracting the wrong kind of people because these people are very transient, rent is cheap, probably zero credit checks are done, etc. How do we fix this? I'd say for starters to get tough on bad landlords. Also get tough on bad tennants. It's not ok to keep things the way they are because our neighborhoods are deteriorating and things have to change. One bad renter can destroy an entire neighborhood. Enforce the ordinance that Racine has in place for nuisance properties.
If a landlord has a decent property, he can do checks on potential renter's work/rental history first and try to get good renters. Sometimes no matter what you can end up with garbage, but the landlord can do their best to eliminate the obvious bad ones.

As far as where are the substandard renters going to go? Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. People like that don't care about our community, therefore they can move on. Let's not confuse substandard renters with low income renters, while you can be low income and substandard, being low income does not necessarily make you substandard. People go through difficult financial times for many different reasons. When I was poor and on assistance, I still lived in a decent apartment and kept it clean and nice. Being poor does not equal being dirty, inconsiderate, and substandard. So therefore, I do not feel the least bit of sympathy for displaced substandard renters who can't find a dump to rent in Racine because all the dirty nasty properties have been rehabbed. I also have absolutely no sympathy for Racine's slumlords.

Anonymous said...

I agree, let the scum move on, however, the scum will never leave racine, until we stop making it so darn easy to stay ! rent assistance, welfare, WIC, food stamps, even our wonderful fed Government puts isn with thier freebies. Take the case of the single Mom, 3 kids, 1-2 get "diagnosed" with ADD, bang ! now they are "Disabled" soc sec checks every month ! Now they have money to burn ! Oh tehy can get cell phones, nice clothes, but god forbid they actually care for their own kids ! From free breakfast, now year round, to 4th grade kindegarden, we will NEVER set this City of State staright until we make people responsible for thier life choices !

Anonymous said...

And you wouldn't believe what's going on with the daycare scam in Racine. Some people in Racine are making thousands of dollars a week this way yet our legislators turn a blind eye. People are being paid for providing daycare in their homes for their friends, and their friends are claiming they are providing daycare for the friends watching their own children. In reality, many are not actually working at all, they are claiming bogus business addresses and instead sitting at home with their own kids collecting huge paychecks. It makes me ill. I doubt they have to pay income taxes on any of this either.

Anonymous said...

Hey Denis, ever thought of asking our poor excuse of a paper for Job?
We could use some real reporting of the problems in our town, instead we get the same Liberal drivel and PC view points !

Denis Navratil said...

anon, I used to write a monthly column for the JT. About 4 or 5 of my dozen or so commentaries were reprinted or read in other media, a percentage I highly suspect vastly exceeds that of any current JT writers. Even so, they felt it was a good decision to eliminate my article, thereby saving $40 per month. At this point, I don't think I would write for them even if they offered me a job. A more likely scenerio would be me starting a monthly alternative newpaper. I would like to do that someday. Thanks for your vote of confidence.