Not Every Landlord is Evil
My mother lives with me now, but until she was 100, she lived by herself and supported herself.
She was able to cover her expenses because she had acquired some rental property years earlier. The property was originally owned by her husband and his two brothers, but they had neglected it and allowed it to get rundown. My mother kept nagging them to fix the property up, but they didn’t listen.
She ended up finding a secretarial job, and when she had earned enough of her own money, she bought out my father’s two brothers. Then, when my father died, she inherited his third. She invested in renovating the property, and that’s how she became a landlord.
My mother’s social security was not enough to live on, but the rental property added enough income to help her live independently when she was in her eighties and nineties.
Being a landlord was constant work. Renters came and went, so she was always repainting and refurbishing the apartments.
Some renters were more considerate than others. They paid their rent on time and kept the property in good shape. Others didn’t pay rent unless she contacted them over and over again. They tore doors off hinges, broke windows, bashed holes in walls, and took off in the dead of night, leaving her without rent and with a big repair project.
There were a lot of times when my mother went above and beyond what a landlord normally does. Sometimes she drove her renters to the grocery store and to do other errands, even though she was in her nineties at the time. There were many winters when she paid the gas bill for renters who couldn’t afford it before the utility company could turn the heat off.
She paid for one renter’s grandson to attend summer camp, and she bought him a swingset. She was always loaning people money, even though she couldn’t afford it, and sometimes she wasn’t paid back.
She was a good landlord and a smart businesswoman, but I’ve noticed landlords are getting a bad rap, lately. They are seen as being rich because they own property and having nothing to do except collect money all day.
“That Woman is an Old Witch”
Somebody wrote this in an online forum about landlords: “They exist to extract as much money from their tenants as possible. They squat on a piece of property they probably inherited or bought during the last housing crash and now they’re making a passive income off people who work for a living.”
Another person wrote, “They’re literally parasites. Landlords are the lowest of the low. Scumbags.”
Would it be great if people never had to pay rent? Sure! But my mother needed those rent checks to retain her independence. When renters didn’t pay, it was a hardship. She still owed expenses. She had to pay property insurance and taxes on the rental property. The government doesn’t excuse you from taxes. The property was in constant need of repair, and renters phoned her at all times of the day and night to call a plumber for a stopped up toilet, replace an appliance that didn’t work, or fix a squeaky door.
Occasionally, my mother had to evict a tenant. When she was 97, she took a tenant to court for never paying rent and refusing to leave the property. The tenant, a young woman in her thirties, pointed to my mother and told the judge, “That woman is an old witch.” When the judge asked the woman why she said that, she replied, “Because she always expects me to pay rent.”
I am caring for my mother now and paying her expenses. My brother is in charge of taking care of the rental property, but he hasn’t been able to collect rent because of the moratorium on rent collection.
A Pandemic Rent Moratorium
In December, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order extending North Carolina’s evictions moratorium through January 31, 2021. The order clarified and expanded the federal eviction moratorium, which halted evictions for nonpayment of rent.
Citing research that shows eviction moratoriums help prevent the spread of Covid-19, Governor Cooper said, “Too many families are living on the edge, trying to do the right thing, but left with impossible choices. This order will help them stay in their homes, which is essential to slowing the spread of the virus.”
He later extended eviction moratoriums through March, in response to the following government announcement:
“The CDC eviction moratorium has been extended to March 31, 2021! On January 29, 2021, the director of the Centers for Disease Control entered a new order extending its nationwide eviction moratorium to March 31, 2021.”
Yet despite not being able to collect rent, taxes and insurance on the property have to be paid. Upkeep is still necessary. Landlords must meet expenses.
My brother doesn’t want to evict anyone. He knows it is a hardship for people to pay if they have been out of work because of the pandemic. But collecting rent was a big problem before the pandemic, even for people who were employed. It’s an even bigger problem now.
We would love to sell the property, but there don’t appear to be many buyers for rental property; not when it is legally impossible to collect rent unless the renter is willing to pay.
Some of my mother’s renters were wonderful. They tried their best to pay on time, and when they couldn’t, they explained and my mother was understanding. But others trashed the property and disappeared when they were months behind on their rent. These people made it hard for an elderly woman to maintain her independence.
I am glad I can support and take care of my mother, but meanwhile, payments are due on the rental property. One place needs a new roof. My mother replaced the kitchen in another unit because of a grease fire. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many people have suffered during the pandemic and need some assistance. I hope the rent moratoriums have helped stopped the spread of Covid-19 and kept some people from homelessness.
But all landlords aren’t rich and greedy. Some are just trying to make ends meet. Their rental property is their source of income, helping them afford to stay in their own homes and buy food and clothing.