Tales from the Landlord’s Side

Particularly in more politically progressive parts of the world, where there is much talk of skyrocketing rents and lack of affordable housing, we all hear a lot about poor tenants and greedy landlords. We hear about illegal evictions, and gentrification.  What we dont’ hear so much about though, are the bad tenants.  Or even, the really bad tenants.

So the intention of this website is to reflect the purpose of our organization, which is to do our part to bring back some balance from the overly simplified media portrayal of landlord-tenant relations, where landlords are vilified and tenants are viewed as poor victims.  We want to share here some stories of some of the worst of tenants, which created significance expense and suffering to landlords, particularly small property owners.  We also want to share some ideas/communal wisdom about how to deal with these problem tenants, and support for those who might be having to deal with such a malicious person.

These tales are also offered as cautionary stories  — showing what could happen, if you don’t take care in screening tenants well — or even, what could happen in spite of all your efforts to do your due diligence.

The intent here is not to gripe about minor issues such as tenants who violate rental agreements or who complain a lot, or have pets when no pets are allowed. The intent is to focus on the really egregious situations of the bad and really bad tenants. This means focusing on cases where:

(1) The tenant was a serial scammer/criminal.
(2) The tenant was evicted and squatted on the premises for a long period of time after receiving an eviction notice, thus costing the property owner a great deal in lost rental income and legal/court fees.
(3) The tenant did extensive damage/vandalism to the property, or engaged in crimes there such as drug dealing.
(4) The renter stole from the property owner and/or burglarized the owner’s home.
(5) The tenant squatted and obtained free legal aid from a tenant attorney/association, while the property owner did not receive free legal aid, resulting in an enormous asymmetry in the justice system that drove up oosts and losses for the property owner.
(6) As a result of actions by the malicious tenant, the property owner was bankrupted, lost their property in foreclosure, or went out of business.
(7) The property owner was trying to evict the tenant in order to be able to live in their own home/property, and the tenant refused to leave, demonstrating either great malice or great entitlement — acting as though they had more rights to the property than the owner themselves.
(8) Cases where the media and/or tenant organizations/activists engaged in public shaming of the property owner, such as referring to them as a “gentrifier“, or “greedy landlord“, or other negative appellation or insinuation, while at the same time depicting the squatting tenant as engaged in a righteous battle. When, without evidence supporting their claim, the media makes bad faith assumptions about the property owner’s attempt to evict a tenant — an action which too often, even when completely legal, results in public attacks and even protests.

Our overall preference is to focus on injustices to small property owners, those who own only one or two properties, not the large real estate corporations.

It’s true that there are some evictions that are illegal, but for the most part if a landlord is filing an Unlawful Detainer claiming rent has not been paid, or that they want to move into and live in their own property, it’s reasonable to assume that this is the case.

There are thousands of such cases every year so it’s not possible to post them all.

Looking at one particular city — an interesting but not surprising anecdotal observation is that an absolutely enormous number of Unlawful Detainer cases in San Francisco were filed for apartment buildings located in the Tenderloin District (the poorest area of the city) as well as by the San Francisco Housing Authority, which runs public or government funded housing in San Francisco. This demonstrates what we’d all expect, that the most problematic tenants who most often fail to pay rent, are the poorest ones, often those who are receiving housing subsidies and so are not actually even paying full market rent for their apartment.

Looking on the San Francisco Superior Court website, I find that between the year 2000 and the present time (December 2017) there were 305 pages of listings of Unlawful Detainer suits filed by the San Francisco Housing Authority, which at about 10 listing per page, comes to about 3000 unlawful detainer suits in 17 years’ time. THis amounts to 176 unlawful detainer cases each year. The total number of housing units was about 3500, as indicated in this article — http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/SF-s-public-housing-is-now-all-privately-run-10592245.php — so that means that for each year the public housing was in existence, 176/3500 = 5% of all the tenants in all these units required unlawful detainer suits.

Also, San Francisco, like Berkeley, sold off all its public housing in 2016 — very likely because it proved so expensive to run. Not only all the unlawful detainer suits that were required, but all the damages to the buildings. And keep in mind too that because low income tenants qualify for free legal representation (Whereas those with even moderate income do not) it is more costly in so many ways to rent to low income tenants.

http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/SF-s-public-housing-is-now-all-privately-run-10592245.phpScreenshot (3395)


Tales from the Landlord Side