Thursday, May 5, 2016

Evictions In America, The Plight Of The Poor?

I have found the reason many people are evicted is because they do not follow the rules. This often means they become ineligible for government housing programs. By making them "ineligible" for certain programs the government shrewdly and cleverly sidesteps having to deal with these people. The brutal truth is that government housing cherry-picks the best of the low-income renters providing them with very low rents and nice apartments. Anyone that does not tow the line is not accepted or removed from the programs. Sometimes these apartments are very nice, this can mean a low-income individual might move into a brand new unit with all new carpet and appliances including washers and dryers. Moving into a house such as this is something many working Americans never get to enjoy. What many people fail to consider is this pushes the undesirables off onto the private sector. The truth is such Government housing policies in effect shift the burden of societies most dysfunctional away from their doorstep sidestepping this massive responsibility.

People Often Walk Away From All Their Belongings
This piece was inspired by a story on PBS about how every year millions of American families are evicted from their homes. PBS contended that while economic controversies like unemployment rates and welfare reform continue to grab headlines, the eviction crisis has gone largely unreported. PBS with sociologist Matthew Desmond examined the experiences of evicted families for his new book “Evicted.” He joined Jeffrey Brown to discuss what he learned.  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/the-stories-behind-the-unseen-eviction-crisis-2/ 

The Newshour showed how often entire families were tossed out on to the street and their belongings placed by the curb to be hauled away as trash. What it failed to focus on was how many times this was a result of their own making, by this I mean continuous failure to pay rent, breaking the rules they had agreed to, or damaging the property. The piece also failed to spotlight the fact that when a landlord agrees to lease an apartment or house they can not fully factor in or add the high cost placed upon them of going through the eviction process. In addition to court cost where they are given a judgement that they cannot collect because the evicted tenant has no money, landlords often have to pay to cart abandoned belongings to the curb or have them hauled away before the expensive task of cleaning and prepping the unit for lease.

I have found several interesting traits common to those comprising what PBS describes as a "near homeless" population. Some of them were displayed by a family recently evicted from my apartment complex. When the tenant who was behind in paying her rent called because she had no hot water maintenance arrived the same day to replace the defective thermostat. The workers, however, discovered several disturbing problems, the apartment was filthy and a disgusting mess. There was no door on the bathroom, the door had been broken down and was totally removed (half of it had been placed in the water heater closet). She claimed it was because she passed out in the bathroom and they needed to reach her, but the "bathroom-bedroom style" lock did have a feature that allowed it to be unlocked from outside with a small tool.

Damages From A Bad Tenant Can Exceed All Expectations!
In addition to the problems just mentioned the new garbage disposal was plugged and the stove covered with junk, the oven was also full of old pizza boxes. It seemed this resident and her daughter with young babies did not cook but lived off fresh "daily" pizza deliveries. It seems to me a less expensive alternative for a pizza lover behind on their rent might have been a stack of frozen pizzas bought on sale. As repairs were made the unemployed daughter played on her smart phone ignoring her little one crying for attention while her boyfriend napped. I forgot to mention "the boyfriend" was another bone of contention because he was not a resident but had moved in with them. This woman had been notified several times he could not live with them according to the lease.

Rather than just showing the dire situations of those evicted the bigger issue is what society should do with these often dysfunctional people. Where they go next, the damage they leave in their wake are important issues. In this instance, these people moved into a newly remodeled apartment at a complex recently purchased by an out of town group that never called for a reference, and most likely did not run a credit check. These are mistakes that they will soon regret if the long list of damage our inspection revealed after we regained possession of the apartment. Anyone faced with the cost of replacing broken doors and jambs as well as cleaning up such a mess will confirm it is both time consuming and costly.

The unintended consequences of government policy that sidesteps responsibility for the dysfunctional poor only add to America's housing woes. The inability of society to protect the rights of landlords has driven many providers of housing from the market. Getting someone evicted is neither fast or inexpensive and in my state courts lean over backward to give those evicted more than ample time to retrieve their belongings if they fail to vacate when told and the sheriff has to come to the site and order them from the property. Those naive and think being a landlord is an easy way to make money will be quickly disenchanted when they face the reality of seeing their property destroyed by a nightmare tenant. Government intervention that provides low-cost housing to low income families that "follow the rules" forcing and dumping all others back on to the private sector raises the cost of rental housing for all the other citizens who need or use it.     


Footnote; My property manager just told me a story that caused me to ponder just how much society has changed over recent years. While attending the second phase of an eviction hearing yesterday an older couple asked her if she represented the landlord then told how their two rentals, something they planned for and viewed as a way to help them through retirement by producing a little income had become an albatross around their necks. Sitting there holding a stack of pictures showing the damage caused by a tenant they were visibly shaken. They said that dealing with renters was ruining their lives and they would do anything to just get out of the business. Sadly many landlords still owe on their properties and cannot just walk away.

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