Sue Denfeld, CCRA President
from the March 2020 Newsletter
Wow! Being President is already getting exciting. I was hoping for more time to adjust into the job. It’s amazing listening to everything that is happening these days. What about not being able to file an unlawful detainer for a renter not paying rent for the winter months? This is the case in Seattle. Every Seattle tenant could stop paying rent in December. The money they save from 3 months’ of missing rent payments could be applied to a new place in March. This will likely create a problem for their landlords. But remember, that is in Seattle and not down here in Clark County where common sense is more common.
Seriously this does highlight a growing challenge. The political strength of the tenant advocates and tenant unions is increasing. They seem to believe restricting landlords’ rights will automatically improve renters’ situations. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. If it gets too difficult, landlords will either continue to raise rents, tighten criteria, and/or increase deposits to balance out the added risk or will sell out, reducing the availability of rental units. Either way renters will continue to suffer. Availability will tighten and rents will continue to rise.
Tenant advocates are ignoring how American business works: an investor expects to get a return on an investment. A landlord is an investor expecting a return on his rental real-estate. The owner entrusts renters to take care of that property and pay for its use. If laws are passed significantly reducing or even eliminating the return on their investment, owners will increase rent for the tenant or the property will be sold, most likely to a home-owner removing that rental from the market.
There is another big factor that cannot be measured. If one talks to smaller property owners one will discover that most are renting below market and many of them will bend over backwards to help a renter through a rough spot by extending a helping hand. That generally does not happen with the large properties owned by out-of-state companies or insurance companies. Their investors’ primary goal is to maximize profits. That means to control and limit risk whenever possible. If tenant advocates succeed in driving small landlords out of the business, the industry will become less flexible.
But what can WE do as landlords? We ARE outnumbered. A major option is to contact our legislators. Show them how the current direction will not meet their desired goals. More tenant protections at lower costs will cause the opposite outcomes. One significant option is to advocate for vouchers. It is important that we advocate for better understanding of our rental industry. We will have to provide financial support for our lobbyists. We need to support legislators who are sensitive to our cause.