Comments

2

I think when writing these blanket anti-landlord articles, that the Stranger writers should really take the time to interview a few landlords, to get their perspective. You can't know what being a landlord is like unless you ask us, or unless you try being one yourself. I dare you to try and be a landlord, in fact. Give it a shot. See how awesome it is.

As a former landlord for 10 years (I own a small 2 family duplex - I live in one side, tenants live in the other), albeit way across the country here in the Portland, Maine area, may I say that my experience and the experience of those I know who also had rental properties in the area was that those with Section 8 vouchers and those who were single mothers consistently proved to be the absolute worst, most nightmarish tenants possible, causing enormous amounts of both damage and nearly constant noise. I'm talking the type of damage that is 3+ times the security deposit. Sometimes more.

When you are by no means rich - whole reason I have a 2 family is because I'm single and need help paying the mortgage - and you work extremely hard with your own two hands to maintain a decent property- clean, 100% in good working order, fresh paint, all up to code, etc.,, and someone comes in and trashes it - breaking literally all but one appliance, breaks the kitchen door frame, removes the storm door "arm" because their kid won't stop playing with it, and then they lose it so that you have to order a whole new expensive arm ... when they repeatedly rip window shades completely off their holders, break door handles, cause permanent stains to the lino flooring and countertops, smoke on the property - always! - despite it being a strictly nonsmoking place - leaving piles of cigarette butts dumped just off the deck where it's less easily detected but where it will blow around in the wind when dry, or leaving that impossible to remove telltale permanent cig butt burn on the bathroom sink after they agreed that no smoking would take place ever on the property because it was written right in the ad that it was a non smoking place and you wrote it into the lease they signed ... not to mention the nonstop noise from the nightmare 3 year old who is given permanent markers to write on the bedroom walls, doorframes, window sills and frames, who repeatedly breaks both window and door screens and throws daily stomping tantrums starting (literally) at 6am or earlier on a Saturday when you're trying to sleep in and this occurs for 18 straight months ...

You go thru that a couple of times - you get burned like that, and I have only listed a fraction of what I encountered as a landlord ... and the next time you are simply and rightfully and wholly understandably more careful in who you let into your place. And if the bad news folks consistently turn out to be single mothers and folks on section 8 - both of whom are next to impossible to evict no matter what sort of damage and mayhem they have caused - no matter that drug deals are going on in 'their' basement and unsavory characters are hanging out at all hours making you feel unsafe in your own goddamn home ... then you will avoid the bad news folks, the next time. Of course you do.

And no one here - and no reporter for the Stranger - who was in my shoes would do any differently. Nor would the people sending in fake tenants to try to catch landlords up and fine them. Not one.

3

This article's tagline: "It's hard enough to rent in Seattle if you're low-income. Add being disabled or a Seattle mom, and you might face added discrimination " ...

Should read "it's damn near impossible to be a landlord these days and not get painted as a monster, despite being burnt all the time, exceedingly badly, by people for whom your own tax dollars help pay heating costs (while you get zero help) and subsidized child and medical care (while yours is never subsidized)."

Stranger writers! How about some balance here? I'm serious. Interview a landlord once in a while. Not a bad news slumlord - a real, genuine landlord somewhere, sometime. Not somebody who owns half the city. The vast majority of us own one or two properties and do the repair work and upkeep ourselves. We are human beings! The vast majority of us are ordinary hard working folks - not rich people - who pour what little money we get (after our mortgage, insurance, property tax, heating costs, etc is paid) back into the house or building.

4
Fishing? I had a few units to rent at the first of the year, and received this in response to my add:

ShaunXXX says:
"Hello my name is shaunXXX and I'm interested in getting more information about this one bed room and the 3 bed room mentioned. I'm a nursing student and I'm starting a new family so I'd like to move by end of march. This is a serious inquiry please let me know what type of tenant you had in mind, thank you!"
Reply directly to this email to respond or call.
12533XXXX

The "please let me know what type of tenant you had in mind" plus other hints were a dead give-away that this was a fishing expedition. I responded in a business-like manner that was designed to not get me sued: "Come on down and take look".
5
@#2: I have been doing the landlord thing for three decades, and have had several young single moms who were wonderful tenants, and none who were awful. Maybe just luck.
7
@ 2 & 3

Cry me a fucking river. You have money to invest? Congratulations. You could have chosen any number of avenues to invest that money that pays dividends. You chose to personally manage real estate; which involves dealing with people and their living situation. Now deal with the headaches that come with that.

Did you read the full article as covered by the Seattle Times, Komo, etc? It wasn't just Section 8. It was the disabled, too. Deaf people were ignored, service animals were excluded. But fuck those moochers, am I right? I mean, my cousin knew a guy, who knew a dude, who had a deaf friend, and he could totally hear stuff! Everyone knows all those gimps are just faking it!

I hope to Satan you never open a business or deal with the public in any way.
8
I'm curious what sort of buildings these were. Big apartment buildings, or duplexes and mother-in-laws?
10
Your elected officials and promises of "affordable housing". Brought to you by the sponsors of The Stranger Election Cheat Sheet. "Not just for birdcages anymore"!
11
You know its a bad day your city's ignorance and insensitivity to all wage earners ends up in The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/04/us/sea…
12
Sorry researchers. You are misinformed and the testing is woeful. And it's not what renters/landlords in Seattle need anyway. Are there any Section 8 rentals in the city? Does the city cover the extra cost and repairs needed to rent to Section 8 tenants? What tenants need is a law that disallows leases and makes all tenancies month to month with the deposit only being half of a months rent. That alone would make housing easier to obtain. What landlords need is a quick eviction process for drugs/thieves/violence. Leases favor only the landlords. Credit checks should be disallowed. All rentals should be prevented from denying tenancy on the basis of pet ownership.

Did they test whether sex offenders were allowed to rent? A mentally ill person off meds? An alcoholic determined to drink? A domestic violence perp under court order? Discrimination is a necessary part of the landlord process. Give landlords three levels of reference checking. 1. No references checked. 2. Previous landlord check only. 3. Job check. Let them choose which they want to do and give some extra benefits to the landlords that choose to check no references.
13
Hey 7, thanks for your response. And yes I did read the whole article. I did not mention disabled folks, race, or any other factor like that. I mentioned section 8 and single mothers because, in my 10 years of experience (how much experience do YOU have as a landlord, pray tell?) - and the experience of several small time fellow landlords - they are hands down the worst, riskiest tenants to gamble your property on. Ask any landlord who has done this for any length of time, ie with more than one or two tenants, and they are highly likely to agree.

You are right, sort of. I did in fact 'choose' to be a landlord - but as I stated in my post, my 'choice' was not so much a choice, but a financial necessity. Being single and making a measly middle class income which has steadily decreased especially the last 3+ years, meant I needed rent money to help cover my mortgage + skyrocketing tax and homeowner's insurance premiums + the cost of heating oil for myself and my tenant's (because all of my competition does) which, except for this past winter, has been exorbitant.

I provided a benefit to others by offering a very nice, clean, very well maintained 2 bedroom unit with a deck, a large back yard, private parking, all on a quiet dead end street in a good neighborhood (not a rich neighborhood, a totally ordinary/middle class one), with even a dishwasher and stackable washer/dryer inside the unit. I had several prospective tenants over the years tell me it was the nicest 2 bedroom in town. I heard that over and over. Yet I never overcharged on rent. It was either slightly below market, at market, or slightly above. I carefully interviewed and screened people - because I live on the premises and so have to deal with their shit if they are a problem - but you learn that "employers" lie, as do former landlords. I bent over backwards to provide an extremely well maintained place for my tenants - doing all the work and cleaning myself, and took pride in doing so, and in being a decent, quickly responsive landlord.

It didn't matter. I got screwed, in particular by the section 8s and the single mothers. Horribly, shamefully screwed, and for no goddamn reason at all. Things I own like the appliances, doors, etc. were destroyed without any cause at all. What cause could there be for random destruction, abuse, misuse? These were not people I had a bad relationship with beforehand, or a falling out with. Not at all. I have witnesses to all of this, and photos and film of the damage. And I have the repair bills.

What you learn is that people simply don't care about things they don't own. Which is the sole reason public housing tends to be trashed on a large scale, quickly. When you don't own the kitchen countertop, or the fridge, or the door or window screens, or the hardwood floor or rugs or walls or the siding or yard or bushes, it doesn't seem to matter in the least if you stain or damage it. It doesn't matter if you expel the entire contents of the fire extinguisher the landlord provided to you as an emergency safety tool, and leave it empty in the kitchen closet when you move out, despite the fact that there was never a fire. (The 3 year old nightmare apparently decided it was a 'toy', which is just frightening.) It doesn't matter if you leave a LEAKING bottle of Drano sideways in the kitchen cabinets where food is stored. It doesn't matter if you leave raw meat out for 3 solid days in the kitchen in July, so that now, suddenly, there are fruit flies and bugs in the place where there never were before. It doesn't matter if the landlord asked you NOT to store large quantities of returnable soda bottles inside the house because of leakage and the fear it will attract ants. You do so anyway. It doesn't matter if the landlord had provided a brand new full sized stackable washer dryer - you can turn the place it into the laundry mat for (literally) your entire extended family and friends - because it's FREE, and the landlord pays the fucking water bill for the whole property! Woo!

It certainly doesn't matter that when you're away for a week at a time in the dead of winter, that you leave the heat up at the highest level the thermostat will go, draining the oil tank when you aren't there and it's below zero that week - who gives a shit that heating oil is $4/gallon and it's a 275 gallon oil tank ($1100)? Is that a decent thing to do to a landlord who has been really nice to you, and really fair and decent? Hmm?

I could go on. Any landlord could.

Suffice to say I have a right to comment on this article, 7, and tell the side of the story that the Stranger doesn't tell. I was serious when I asked that they consider interviewing a real live landlord - maybe interview a dozen of them - not bigtime landlords and not notorious slumlords. The vast majority of us are neither. Ask us about our experiences, and about what it feels like to have fake tenants sent to us to trip us up and charge us with 'discrimination' when we are really trying simply to protect our properties from bad news tenants, who sometimes cluster in groups like section 8 and single mothers - and teenage partiers renting their first place with no references. I supposed it's 'discrimination' if I refuse to rent my place to a couple of out of work 18 year old fratboys? Or it just a wise decision? Ya of course some teenage boys might be responsible and quiet and make a good tenants, but would YOU bet YOUR property on it? Hmm? And live on the other side of the wall from them for a whole year?

Walk a mile in my shoes, dude, or any landlord's, and then come back at me with the 'cry me a river/you're required to deal with irresponsible asshole's rampant, uncalled for noise, property damage, and abuse' bullshit.

14

One more thing: in order to get insurance nowadays, many auto insurance companies run credit checks, just like landlords do. If you have lousy credit, even if you have a squeeky clean driving record, your insurance premiums are higher than somebody with good credit. So even though your credit rating in theory should have nothing to do with whether or not you are a good driver, you still are viewed as a less than ideal person to insure, and they can even decline to insure you because of it.

Here is an example of what some would call 'discrimination', the same as a landlord's view that you might be too big a risk to take on as a tenant if you have lousy credit and don't pay your bills, including rent, on time, or sometimes, at all. But is this viewed as 'discrimination'? Does anyone view it that way? No. People recognize that it's just being careful; being 'discriminating', even if it sucks to be judged that way. So why no outcry when a landlord checks your credit and rejects you for their place when they discover it's bad?

Because people recognize that those with shitty credit are an obviously higher risk person to rent to ie there is an almost guaranteed chance you will have to chase them down each month for the rent. I, like most landlords, have a mortgage to pay, and I rely in part on the tenant to make that monthly payment, otherwise, trust me, I would never have done the landlord thing to begin with. My bank doesn't allow me to simply not pay the mortgage - if I do, there are consequences, such as foreclosure. Yet if a tenant decides not to pay their rent, or pays it consistently late, the laws and protections are overwhelmingly in their favor and not the landlord, ie you can't just kick someone out, even with 30 days notice, even if you have a written legal document they signed (the lease) in which they promise to hold up their end of the bargain ie the rent, and even if you aren't rich and rely on that rent to pay yours.

So ... I get my house foreclosed on me when I don't pay my rent, with little legal protections for me. Tenants in turn, have next to no consequences, and are in fact protected by innumerable laws against eviction, when they don't pay theirs. Ditto when they damage the crap out of your property - good luck with those legal bills trying to get back the $3k in damage they did to your place, for absolutely no reason.

So again, is the credit check thing 'discrimination'? Or is it just a tool to help decide who is a good risk to take on and who isn't? Just like the bank running a credit check when you apply for a credit card or loan? And no one seems to have a problem with it. People with lousy credit are a group of people - a category - just like whites, women, single mothers, lawyers, section 8 folks, Stranger writers.

If Stranger writers fall into the category of people with bad credit, and/or the type more likely to be lousy tenants who will renege on their obligation to pay rent and who are more inclined than not to damage the property, break appliances, damage flooring, doorframes, windows, doors, etc., then landlords will rightfully and understandably not rent to them. Anyone who disagrees with this is free to go through the hard work and expense of purchasing a two or multi family home, live in one section of it, and rent the others sections nonstop and exclusively to Stranger writers, and anyone with horrific credit and references, and a rotweiller with a history, and a couple of tantrum throwing toddlers, and no job. That way there's no 'discrimination'. Best of luck to you, and please do check back with us a few months to let us know how it's going.

15
I have one unit and am very careful about who I rent this property to. One way I screen is that I require a solid security deposit that those on the margins can't afford. And the rent is meaningful My sympathies to those who have to endure destruction and disrespect by flakes and feral kids. It has helped when the unit is posted in a limited fashion and in some cases a current tenant who is leaving has referred the next one.

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