The TRUE Meaning of Landlording

We’ve recently discussed the importance of landlord responsibility to their tenants. In an effort to paint a clearer picture of how the health of tenants can be affected by decisions that landlords make, I’ll highlight some information from a couple studies. The importance of responsible landlording extends beyond the tenant and into the community. For the more monetarily focused landlords, it also has a direct impact on their finances.

One study found, contrary to common belief, a lot of discrimination tenants received were linked to ethnicity rather than income or education. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, as of 9/2017, there are 43,837,496 renter occupied households in the US. That is about 35% of the total us population. 50% of the renters are under 30 years old and 23% of them are under the age 18. Overall, a lot of children are negatively affected by the quality of their housing situation.

Our homes are a constant environment in our lives, especially if we’ve lived there for a considerable amount of time. If this environment is bad, it can have a negative effect on our health. Hazards such as pest infestations, mold, leaks, dampness, poor ventilation and noise pollution may be linked to health conditions. These include obesity, headaches, mental illness, cancer, etc. Generally speaking, anyone falling into the category of a marginalized group has a greater chance of having these experiences. Studies also show that tenants are more likely to move out of properties when they have landlords who don’t repair properties. This often results in loss of income due to vacancy and an increase in cost due to preparing the property for new tenants. No matter the industry, high turnover rates are never good for business.

It is crucial to understand the consequences of not effectively maintaining rental properties because 35% of Americans place the risk of their health and worst-case scenario, life, in the hands of landlords. This percentage may not seem like a lot but when you realize how many millions of people that is and how many are children, unable to control any aspect of their lives, the number becomes more impressive. It’s valuable because these issues are often preventable and it falls on the shoulders of landlords to make the change. There isn’t a profession that exists to impact poverty and ill health on generations of people. Neither is the case for landlords, however, it is a common practice.

The term “landlord” originated from medieval Europe when farmers had no protection from robbers. Landlords came to own the land, not the property on the land. They provided protection to the farmers in exchange for a portion of the crops. The farmers were poor but the landlord did not control their housing situation. If their house was deteriorating or even vanished off the face of the earth, they were still responsible for the crops owed the landlord. As the economy changed, so did landlording. People became responsible to pay for their living space with currency and the landlord became responsible to manage the property since they owned the land. Once the tenant was no longer bound to someone else’s land, they were free to move in and out of contracts and landlords had to make themselves attractive to the tenant. In New York State, a landlord cannot enforce a lease that does not provide suitable housing. The takeaway is that the responsibility of landlords is to provide suitable resources that are in the best interest of their tenants.

As a landlord, there is not only an ethical but moral responsibility to our profession and the people we serve. Millions of Americans are dependent upon landlords for their safety and wellbeing. A large amount of this population consists of children and otherwise marginalized groups of people. When landlords maintain suitable housing, tenants are more likely to maintain good health and positive repertoire with the landlord, thus increasing retention. Not only that, but the more healthy and stable tenants are, the more productive people there are in the community. This single decision made by a landlord can and will affect more than just their tenants, over time; it contributes to the wellbeing of the community as a whole.

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