Jeff Ackerman: Why beat up on landlords?
I’ve always wondered why anyone would want to be a landlord in California. The horror stories are enough to chase away anyone who thinks it’s a great way to get rich.
Last I heard, an estimated 60 percent of Grass Valley’s 14,000 or so residents were renters. That means, for the mathematically-challenged, that as many as 8,400 residents pay rent to a landlord, who owns the place, complete with a mortgage, homeowner insurance and all the fun things that go along with owning and managing a rental.
A friend of mine owns a couple of rentals in Marysville. One time he told me he’d spent the previous two days cleaning up one of his rentals after a tenant skipped out, leaving behind five or six cats and enough garbage that he couldn’t even open the front door. Then there was the time a tenant hanged himself from the overhead fan and my friend found him there after he’d been spinning for three days.
Another friend has been trying to evict a tenant who hasn’t paid rent in three months. State law allows the tenant to stay in the place pretty much for as long as he or she wants to, or at least long enough to rip up the floors, tear out the sinks and have their doggies doo-doo all over the living room.
And now Grass Valley officials want to make things even more difficult for landlords.
Tired of dealing with maybe a half-dozen of the city’s 8,400 renters (the One Percent Rule), the city wants to adopt an ordinance that would make all landlords responsible for irresponsible tenants. Once again we have government whipping out the sledgehammer to deal with six morons who are making things miserable for the rest of us.
According to the city, there are a few rentals occupied by renters who don’t seem to have their collective “stuff” together. You know … the kind of people who can’t land a job because they stay up all night partying and wake up just in time to pick up their unemployment check before hitting the bars for another round or 10.
Neighbors – especially neighbors who have to get up early and go to work – don’t like living next door to people who party all night, so they call the cops.
The cops show up, tell the losers to keep the noise down, their pants pulled up and their mouths shut and then leave. In a few instances the cops have been called to a single residence more than 40 times, which makes you wonder at what point should the cops drag the loser to a squad car, straighten him out and toss him in jail.
The ordinance would instead result in a $1,000 fine to the landlord if he or she has a loser for a tenant who is causing enough trouble to have the cops show up 40 times a month.
California doesn’t allow landlords to ask a potential tenant if he or she is a loser. You cannot discriminate against losers. They are protected under the Endangered Loser Act, passed in 1979 when losers were nearly extinct. The population of losers has quadrupled since then.
Landlords, on the other hand, are not protected. Especially not in California, which requires landlords to provide a 35-year notice before eviction.
A representative from the Rental Housing Association of Sacramento Valley told our reporter that the proposed ordinance would force landlords into a position of making evictions after a single tenant arrest, something I assume could also be argued as a violation of tenant rights.
“You don’t want to engulf good owners in a problem caused by one or two rental owners,” said the fellow from the association.
Grass Valley police Chief John Foster – who, by the way, is one of the best community cops I have ever met – says he’s just frustrated by some landlords who keep renting to losers (I called them losers. John called them problem tenants). Apparently there are a couple of landlords who believe that even losers need a roof over their heads so they can cause problems without getting rained on.
According to the chief, one particular landlord owns two Grass Valley rentals where the cops were called a combined 60 times last year. Again … after about the first 30 calls or so, I’m taking a couple of tenants to jail after I make them do “The Chicken” with my police baton (I read that in a book called “The Choirboys” several years ago. A cop named Roscoe has been my hero ever since). The only way to get through to a loser is with mace, or a baton, which is why I have failed every Police Academy entrance exam I’ve ever taken. I shot every single person in one of those “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” video games. Half of them were innocent bystanders, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
The City Council ought to back away from this ordinance and maybe put a few more teeth into the current ordinances designed to regulate losers. There are plenty of those already on the books and all we need to do is enforce them.
Jeff Ackerman is the editor/publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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