City Journal Autumn 2014

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Bert Stratton
Tales From Landlordia « Back to Story

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CapitalistRoader May 21, 2014 at 7:08 AM
"When I was a boy..."

"It my days, we didn't have Kleenex. When you turned seventeen, you were given the family handkerchief. It hadn't been washed in generations and it stood on its own, filled with diseases and swarmin' with flies. If you tried to blow your nose, you'd get an infection and your head would swell up and turn green and children would burst into tears at the sight...o' ya! And that's the way it was and we liked it!
Grumpy Old Man, SNL, April 14 1990
@David - love your comments. Yes, hipsters and their liberal ilk have no problems greatly overpaying for an Apple product produced with slave wages and the fact that Apply tries very hard to avoid taxes. They rationalize - "Hey, Apple's cool" but Apple is no different than any other company they've deemed "evil". It's really too bad that Republicans are so stupid at the PR game. They're too honest and the Democrats are too venal and too good at covering it up with superficial feelgood agitprop. Democrats - "We love kittens, Republicans kick kittens."
I met a young man who is proud to be a slumlord. He rents only to welfare tenants; the government pays their rent directly to him, and he is not obliged to repair anything or provide basic services, a very good deal for him, not so wonderful for the tenants, perhaps.
Hey David, I think maybe you have a flawed assumption built into your analysis "...people do not believe that landlords are entitled to the same protection as any other capitalist in today's society."

I would say it's more the case that a significant fraction of Americans do not believe that any capitalist is entitled to protection. Or perhaps they are entitled to partial protection...

Don, you didn't say how long ago "When I was a boy" was, but at 5% annual inflation, $35 becomes $100 in only 23 years. Even at 3.5%, $35 becomes $100 in only 30 years. About 30 years ago I lived in an average small midwestern city and I was young enough to consider an efficiency apartment. They generally ranged in price from about $180-$220 per month. If you really remember efficiencies renting for $35 per month, either you are remembering 50+ years ago, or you were renting in a slum in a third-world country. No way can you reasonably claim that rent today in a decent neighborhood in a midwestern city should be $100. That would be an inflation rate under 2%.
My guess is that the cheaper the rent the harder it is to collect it.

The reason that rents were so cheap back in the day is not because the landlords were different. That is a stupid proposition. What is different is government. Zoning, rent control, and tree house syndrome.
From the few comments posted so far, it seems clear that people do not believe that landlords are entitled to the same protection as any other capitalist in today's society. But after the article on the federal government wanting to regulate Silicon Valley, the commentators were up-in-arms about how the high-tech moguls shouldn't be subject to Washington's oversight. Which is it, folks? I daresay that Silicon Valley's robber barons are more hypocritical and do less for the good of the whole than do "slumlords". Suppose you go and purchase an Apple computer (probably put together with Chinese slave labor) on payments. Then miss a payment or two. Do you think Apple is going to let you keep your computer? Why should it be any different for somebody who rents an apartment to a so-called starving artist? Why should the landlord be required to allow the tenant who falls behind in his or her rent be allowed to remain on the premises? Especially a tenant who destroys the property he's renting? As for the going rate for apartments in different cities, why shouldn't the landlord be allowed to charge what the market will bear? I don't hear anybody complaining about the high cost of high tech. So the Silicon Valley gods are free to do and charge whatever they wish, but a landlord should somehow be prohibited from ousting a tenant who isn't responsible enough to pay his rent? The same tenants who can't pay their rent probably own a smart-phone, the latest state-of-the art computer, and a flat-screen television. That's ok, but requiring them to pay the rent they agreed to pay when they signed the lease isn't? Talk about double standards.
I lived in San Francisco from 1965-1973 and everyone I knew was a renter (we were all young) but a large portion of the NE section of the city were renters and there were (I have no idea what its like now) still a lot of near-downtown renters, some of whom had been in residence there for many years. My ex and I paid $110 a month for a one bedroom place about a block and a half from Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. I still go back and look at it on Google Street view and it looks exactly the same as when we were there in 1968-1969. Based on CPI inflationary rates it would be $746 today. However, according to pricenomics.com it would be $2,800 monthly! Regular people can't live there anymore and I imagine all the tenants are hip young IT and financial types.
When I was a boy, apartments such as he rents were on average $35.00 a month. What with inflation, today they should be around $100.00 a month, $150.00 absolute max. Is it any wonder that landlords are almost universally a hated and despised class?
It sure is hard out here for a slumlord.