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A bad time to pick on landlords



Published: Sun, June 13, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

A bad time to pick on landlords

As the owner of an apart- ment complex in the city of Youngstown, I find the recent city decision to begin rental property inspections and licensing very poor timing and ill planned. It’s understandable that the city wants to protect its citizens and add funds to its coffers, but the rationale to do it now during these difficult economic times may have an impact on the city and its residents that will be significant and regrettable.

Youngstown has numerous rental properties, both single and multi-family, and most if not all of them are in need of repairs, some more so than others. Now the city has decided to get tough on the landlords and force them to repair their buildings in a time when they can barely keep their heads above water with their properties. It will not take much in the way of repair requirements by the city to push many landlords past what they can afford to do and ultimately into losing their property.

The plan is to charge an initial inspection fee for every rental unit and then force the landlords to make repairs at their expense within 60 days of the inspection based on a list of defects that the city feels need to be corrected to bring the property up to their standards. Failure to do the mandatory repairs within the limited time will result in fines.

Currently, nationwide and local rental vacancy rates are very high with no relief in sight and landlords are struggling with less money to pay their staff, their utilities, taxes, and most significantly, normal daily repairs. Assuming a landlord is levied with numerous repairs he can’t afford, he may choose to put the property up for sale. Most likely, with the new licensing and inspection rulings and the short time frame allowed for repairs, new investors will avoid Youngstown properties and look elsewhere. As a result, the property will sit unsold. The owner will eventually face foreclosure and ultimately abandon the property, which will result in more vacant properties for the city to add to its list of problems.

The city’s planning staff may have good intentions, and in good economic times it’s feasible, but in these poor economic times it is a bad idea and may backfire on the mayor and his staff.

William D. Parsons, Youngstown

The writer is he owner of Normandy Apartments.


Comments

1commoncents(53 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Parsons demonstrates the ignorance and irresponsibility that cause the very problem that taints this city and its recovery.

Any landlord who has ignored needed repairs to the point that he can't afford to correct them should not be in business. He and others like him should lose their property and be driven out of town.

Any landlord who feels that it is okay to charge rent for substandard housing and get a pass from the city is not only stupidly unscrupulous, but a despicably selfish human being. If they can't afford to run a legitimate business, they should not be in business – any business!

Maybe when we get rid of Mr. Parsons and all like him, we can begin to restore a sense of community and human dignity that WILL attract growth and revitalization – not the protection of slum loards.

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2onthetown(252 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

"Those who inspect houses often set a standard that is higher than most of us have in our own homes. You would be surprised at how many "problems" can be found when the person discovering them doesn't have to fix them or pay. How many of us have something that needs repair in our own house? How would you like someone to start a list of the repairs needed at your house and demand they all be done by the end of the month whether you can afford it or not? "

There are definitely slumlords in Youngstown, and I appreciate the effort to get rid of them.

However, this is definitely not the way to go about it.

Chances are the "inspection fee" and additional repairs will be taken into account when I renew my lease.

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3TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

"Any landlord who has ignored needed repairs to the point that he can't afford to correct them should not be in business. He and others like him should lose their property and be driven out of town.

Any landlord who feels that it is okay to charge rent for substandard housing and get a pass from the city is not only stupidly unscrupulous, but a despicably selfish human being. If they can't afford to run a legitimate business, they should not be in business – any business!"

well said commoncent

It always interests me to see people defending landlords in this instance. As a landlord, I would think being able to tout passed inspections would be a selling point, especially as I drive through Youngstown and see so much substandard housing. While the fee may be an economic inconvenience, I would think it would allow the landlord to raise the rent a bit to offset. If your property is truly valuable, you have nothing to worry about. Your tenants will appreciate the minimum you've been asked to do.

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4VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Today's rental climate has changed significantly. To be a good landlord, you have to have good tennants.

If a tennant does not care about keeping his or her home in good condition, don't expect the landlord to do it for you, because the landlord knows his efforts, money and time will be wasted with this tennant still there.

Evictions are expensive, time consuming and lead to more property damage. If the city truely wants to upgrade rental properties, they should inspect and fine the tennants for their filthy and unkept homes. That, my friends will go a long way towards helping the landlords keep a good unit and help beautify the city.

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5TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Maybe landlords need to do a better job examining possible tenants. The desire to have a unit filled versus waiting to get good tenants is a tough line to walk, but it pays off in the long run.

"What about all the deadbeat renters? The renters who vandalize, and steal? The renters who skip at 2am?"
Evict them. Don't rent to them in the first place. Do some checking into their past rental history.

If my property is something I value, I'm willing to go a little extra to maintain it and make sure it will be well-treated.

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6commoncents(53 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

TB, you make valid and responsible comments. Like you, I am far more interested in our area's growth as a great place to live than in protecting and continuing the low quality of living that plagues the Valley.
If landlords worked to improve the value of their property and business, repairs would be an investment. They should increase rental rates to cover those expenses and work to earn a profit. That's just good business sense. If charging higher rent, carefully screening tenants, and maintaining higher quality properties cause some to move away, what do we lose?
Possibly property damage would drop; crime rates might decline, and the quality of life and community might increase. What would be wrong with that model? Landlords would not only have a stronger business with fewer problems - they would see the bigger picture and actually contribute to their own community's growth and vitality. We need to replace selfishly protecting individual interests with a unified effort to make the Valley a better place for all to prosper.

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7TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

"Like you, I am far more interested in our area's growth as a great place to live than in protecting and continuing the low quality of living that plagues the Valley."

Right on! Believe me, I feel for landlords who do a nice job of maintaining their property, but this can only enhance the value of their investments.

"They do evict them and it takes at least 10 days. "
That's a good thing. The procedures are in place to protect both the landlord and the tenant. I've seen some people evicted who absolutely deserved it.

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

We need to build more public housing and offer it free with utilities . Now if the tennants want to party with the rent money they get evicted . What else can they do but trash the rental unit to settle the score ?

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9howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I moved here from California to become a landlord, while I find that being a landlord here is challenging, it is much easier than many places due to lack of regulation and rent control.
The freedom that the state, county and city governments allow us to operate with means that all of the challenges we come up against are ones that we as landlords are in complete control of, some examples are:
1. Quality of tenants we rent too.
2. Quality of materials and workmanship we put into our properties.
3. Maintaining our properties to a standard that will attract quality tenants.
4. Establishing our business reputations in a manner that will attract quality tenants.
5. Maintaining good communication and relationships with our tenants.
6. Making a positive contribution to the neighborhoods that our properties are located in.

I personally feel that this program is good for the city and in the long run will be good for the landlords.
I have spoken with city officials involved with the program and made some suggestions to encourage landlord participation including a public registry of inspected and approved rental units in the city being published on a city web page. This would provide an invaluable resource to prospective tenants looking for a quality rental unit, and provide free advertising to landlords participating in the program.
My only concern is that in some cases 30-60 days may not be an adequate amount of time to allow for repair and remediation of a property that may have multiple issues. I have found it very difficult to find qualified contractors to do work that I have needed in a timely fashion (the good ones are always busy and cost more). My proposed solution for this is that any unit that requires multiple repairs to meet the city guidelines (that are not grounds for listing the unit as uninhabitable) the landlord may propose a schedule of upgrades over a 3 month, 6 month, or 12 month plan based on the cost and quantity of upgrades needed.

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10howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I use a business model where I would rather have my units sit vacant then rent to a bad tenant, if a landlord can't afford to have a units wait until a good tenant wants it then they have too many units.
As for screening I charge a $25 application fee for a credit check and back round check, 90% of respondents to my vacancies don't even apply, of the 10% who do apply I let them know that I will be holding the unit vacant until I receive at least 5 applicants for that unit and I will choose the best applicant from all applications received.
I do actually call all of the rental references that they put on the applications, If I can't reach a reference I give the applicant 1 chance to provide alternate contact info or another reference. If I still can't reach any references that is an automatic denial.
My rentals are in Youngstown on the North side and the upper West side.
I have 8 units total, I have never had to evict anyone, and the two tenant who left did no damage (they did leave the units dirty). None of my units are section 8 certified, but about half would qualify (all in in pre-WWII structures).
I attribute my good luck to several things, my application fee weeds out those who won't pass a back round check or have bad rental history. My units are located in diverse neighborhoods (not all white or all black).
I market my units primarily to grad students, medical interns, and visiting professors. I use premium materials when I rehab my units and I make them energy efficient.
My rents are $25-50 per month higher than other units in the neighborhood. You can view my website at www dot greenhomesohio dot net

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11mdmagana(6 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I'm a landlord (not in Youngstown) and this is a bad idea. I agree slumlords need to be dealt with, but this isn't the way to do it.

Getting good tenants is tough. The Fair Housing Act severely limits a landlords ability to pick and choose tenants. Property taxes on rental property in Mahoning County are already high than they would be otherwise, and now new fees?

Agree or disagree with the proposal, consider this... it will force rents up because landlords will try to recover these expenses. I'm guessing a lot of people in Youngstown are hurting and can't afford higher rent.

Dealing with slumlords is good, but this isn't the way to do it.

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