The Real Stories North article regarding the attempt to place the burden of control of Covid-19 on landlords was a good description of the immediate facts as described in the letter from ST LOUIS COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DIVISION DIRECTOR Amy Westbrook. It also raises some interesting questions about the misleading intent, direction, and implementation of the plan that they have concocted to absolve themselves and individuals of any responsibilities for increases in the rate of infection and death.
There two points I would like to make which go beyond what were raised in the article.
The first is the issue of affordable housing and the concomitant attitude of government at all levels to make landlords the bad guys and the financial dupes for issues the governments do not to address directly. As examples, let’s look at the protections granted garbage haulers who can assess a landlord’s personal property taxes if the tenants don’t pay their garbage bill. What other business has the guarantee of payment, the IRS?
Then let’s look at the section 8 program, this used to allow landlords to claim damages from the government when a tenant damaged a landlord’s property. The government stopped this part of the program (too expensive?) which put the cost of repairs on the landlord. The result of this was, overtime, landlords greatly reduced the use of the section 8 program and they raised rents to cover the costs of repairs.
Let’s look at the equality of the judicial system when it comes to evictions of renters for non- payment of rent, the landlord suit in small claims court, not cheap and not fast, landlord appears in court and gets the judgment, the judge then gives a date that the tenant has to be gone (meanwhile the tenant stays in the property and can do whatever they want to the property with absolutely no recourse for the landlord). The eviction of the tenant (if the landlord chooses to go this route to legally regain control of the property they own) the landlord must go to the county sheriff’s office, pay another fee for service to evict the tenant which again, is not cheap or fast.
So the landlord loses several months of rent, has additional legal and procedural expenses to take possession of their house, and must repair any damage to the house or apartment. No wonder he wants/has to raise the rent and those who rent and those who are not in that business, scream that rents are too high and are not affordable.
The second issue is that of individual responsibility, this applies to many issues including those described above, but particularly to the letter to landlords. The county government is making an attempt to make landlords the enforcement agency when they have absolutely no means to do so and, in fact, would break laws and possibly end up in jail for trying to enforce the prohibitions described in Director Westbrook’s letter of October 16, 2020. In addition, the landlord would incur great expense and disruption of their life trying to be sure there are NO violations of the cited prohibitions, and the tenants would potentially feel harassed and their privacy violated.
If individuals do not want to follow the rules the government imposes on its citizens, the law, there are supposed to be punitive actions taken by the government to obtain compliance. In this case, the government has pushed the responsiblity off on the landlords, or is trying to do that.
Affordable housing is getting further and further away as landlords decide to get out of the rental business.