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August 2018
As we sit on our sun-soaked patios in August we have time to reflect and (re)consider things in our past. You might notice that daydreaming is one of my favorite pastimes.
I am musing today about those days as a landlord when we could charge any rent we wanted without facing relocation fees.
The times when we could terminate a rental agreement for our own reasons, without the liability of retaliation.
That era when we could screen a tenant thoroughly and not be obligated to take the first application.
Or how about that quaint notion of using the security deposit to compensate for actual damages?
Back when we (not the government) decided how we should manage our own rental properties.
As I begin to yawn and nod, I suddenly jolt into remembering how hard it was sometimes to get a place rented! I recall how back then, my policy was to keep my rents and terms as favorable as I could for my tenants for fear of having vacancies, because they were not easy to fill. I reflect on how I would actually coddle my tenants (I used to go over and change Thelma’s lightbulbs!) In those days my goal was to keep my tenants for as long as possible and I got to know a lot of them pretty well.
My how things have changed.
The government’s goal for me claims to want to achieve the same results I had before, even though legislation now requires me to change my behavior and policies. Lawmakers claim that limiting annual rent increases to 9.9% in Portland (or pay $4,000 +/- in relocation fees) has the “benevolent” affect of keeping tenants’ rents low. They believe that eliminating “No Cause” termination and not even requiring tenants to vacate at the end of a lease creates stability. The notion of forcing bad tenants to move has vaporized, unless I can prove it in court. By claiming that criminal records create artificial barriers to “rent-burdened” households, the City of Portland is now paying to have criminals’ records expunged so they no longer show up on my background checks. Now they are in official discussions to both limit the amount of security deposit I can charge, and to regulate the manner in which I may use it when tenants vacate. Where does the safety fall on their agenda, I wonder?
The fallout and the biggest difference between the old days and now is that today, my relationship with my tenants has strained under new regulations. I can’t risk getting too close for fear of a Fair Housing or retaliation claim. Frankly, I resent that I cannot control my rents, and because of that I find myself determined to get them as high as I can. I have lost control of my own property. I want the right to reclaim my rental from tenants I no longer want, without having to pay for a lawyer to defend myself.
I have more anxiety about being a landlord today than most anything else (at least financially). Over the years, providing housing used to give me a good feeling about investing in rental properties, even when the housing market fell. “It’s cyclical” was what we said back then. Today the market has heated up, and that cycle seems to have morphed into a target, while landlords have become its bullseye.
Renter advocates claim that the market favors landlords and everyone deserves decent, safe housing. I say the laws favor tenants and I want to provide decent, safe housing, but it’s not so easy anymore. I know living in the past is not healthy and daydreaming may not be the best way to meaningfully engage in life, but it does allow a chance to muse.
I would like to encourage everyone to continue to express your thoughts and concerns to the city commissioners and continue to let it be known that the ordinance in and of itself is not going to help provide affordable housing as the commissioners claimed it would.
In the meantime, I hope you’re having a safe and prosperous summer.
Ron Garcia
President RHA Oregon
Garcia Group