Thursday, September 17, 2009

Misunderstood Slumlords

journalista, government, landlord, slumlord,
The journalista chronicle wrote a love poem to slumlords today that actually made me shake with rage. Her premise is, and I am not making this up, that if people want to live in subcode housing - holes in the floors, dangerous electric, broken window, leaking pipes - who is the government to step in and say that the landlord has to maintain their property to a certain minimum standard?

I have to ask, journalista: have you ever been within 20' of a poor person before, or are you worried that it might rub off on you?

This all goes back to the government, city, state, or federal, staying out of our business. Here you have a building that you own, that nice people live in, and here comes the government saying that people have to move. Why should they have to move if they are perfectly happy living in a building that just happens to be under the city standards? So what if the windows don’t have screens, or the door doesn’t have a separate dead bolt (just some codes in CA for example)? Isn’t that the choice of any American to make, about where and in what conditions they live? Yeah, it should be our choice, not the government’s. If the property owner doesn’t make certain repairs according to the city’s rules, but there are still tenants who want to live there, then that should be absolutely no business of the government’s.

Window screens? Those are for the wealthy people who made good decisions in their lives. If you want to keep insects and wild animals out of your house, you should have gotten a college degree. Dead bolts? I guess if you don't want to be raped, killed and/or robbed, you should live in a better neighborhood. Sheesh, if you're living in this shithole, you must enjoy assaults. You know how poor people are.

I am just utterly blown away that this woman seems to think that (a) minimum building codes are an unjustifiable government intrusion, and (b) people who live in substandard housing do so because they like it.

(a) Minimum building codes include things like fire alarms. You know what would happen if fire alarms were not required? Landlords would come to the realization that fire alarms are expensive, and changing the batteries every six months is a pain in the ass, and they're not living there, so whatever. Who cares if the children of poor people die in a fire?

(b) Journalista included a long, not-really-illustrative-of-her-position story, so I will, too, only mine will be short and on topic.

I have a friend, poor, like me, who is currently living in my basement with his girlfriend and one-year-old child. (It's very nice. Two normal size windows, a seperate entrance, a 3/4 bathroom.) They're living in my basement because they were evicted from their apartment. You see, they chose an apartment based on the fact that while they would be responsible for the electric and water bills, heat was included. Heat in Pennsylvania is a much larger expense than electric and water. It should be, anyway.

Two months after moving in, my friend gets his first water bill. $500. I don't use that much water in a year. Turns out, the toilet in the apartment was broken and water was constantly flowing through it, resulting in the insanely high water bill. My friend called the landlord repeatedly asking him to fix the toilet. Finally, my friend paid a plumber to fix the toilet and subtracted that amount from the rent (complete with receipt to the landlord.)

My friend was immediately evicted. Now he lives in my basement.

That's what happens when poor people complain. We get fucked. We're not happy living in dangerously ill-maintained apartments in crime-ridden neighborhoods. That's just what we can afford. The idea that the government needs to step back from protecting its most vulnerable citizens because those protections are annoying is obscene and shows a shocking lack of concern for one's fellow person.

Shame on you, journalista.


  1. Part of the problem is that many people who rent, especially in low-end housing, do not know their legal rights as tenants, and therefore take abuse from slumlords that they don't have to put up with.

    Before I got a real estate license, when I was taking the licensure class I remember thinking: it would have been nice to know some of this stuff when I was fresh out of high school. Things like how leases work, your rights as a tenant, and the basics of mortgages and home-buying probably should all be taught in highschool.

  2. UNRR, I agree. Many years ago my ex and I rented an apartment, our first, and when we gave the landlord notice that we were moving out he showed the apartment day or night, never letting us know if he was coming. One time they caught me in teh shower. Apparently in PA that is a big old no-no. That was only one of the things we put up with because we didn't know any better.

  3. The big problem with the original post is that throughout the long, pointless, rambling story that has fuck-all to do with the original problem (seriously, every person evicted from a dangerous building has a mentally unstable ex-husband to drag around?) is that I get the distinct impression that ol' Journalista's father is, himself, a slumlord. I mean, I don't actually know that for a fact, but that's the impression that I get reading between the lines.

    Also, there's a difference between a building that's not up to code and a building that's gonna get boarded up and torn down. If it's simply a matter of a few missing deadbolts the inspector's going to say to the property owner, "Hey, put a deadbolt on this door. I'll be back in a week to check again." If the building gets condemned that means that there's something seriously wrong with the building itself.

    But, hey, if you can tell a harrowing account of a woman's strange journey to Topeka that started because of decisions made following government intervention and get everyone distracted, maybe they won't notice...

  4. Yeah, that story had nothing to do with anything. How did the government have anything to do with that person ending up in Topeka? Now, if her argument had been that the government should have done more to help this woman and her husband, sure, but her argument seems to be the landlord who kept a building in such poor repair that it was condemned was blameless and it was all the government's fault.

  5. I don't think it's her dad; I think Teri is the slumlord herself.

  6. Hey, if the government tells landlords what they can and cannot do, that's socialism. And socialism is communism. And communism is against the American Way of Life.

  7. Also, I don't see the government kicking people out of a building because of a lack of screen windows, usually it requires a very serious danger to the tenants. Otherwise it is just a fine to the landlord, repeatedly, until he gets the problem fixed.

  8. My head hurt from reading her post. Journalista? Very bad writing, to be honest.

    I loved this: "Why should they have to move if they are perfectly happy living a a building that just happens to be under the city standards" And this: " Isn’t that the choice of any American to make, about where and in what conditions they live?"

    WTF? What world does she live in? More money = more choice. Always.

    I left a comment, but it's moderated, so we'll see.

  9. and I love how Obama and his "cronies" get wrapped into everything.... plus the health care and SBA loans. LOL. What is she talking about?

  10. The black guy, you know, he's in charge.

    I honestly think that journalista has lived a life of privilege from the beginning and simply has no idea what it means to be poor. She can choose where to live, so people who live in substandard housing must like it. Otherwise, they'd leave.

  11. Not that I like to quote from my former religion's leader very often, but he did tell a story about a pharisee, who sounds an awful lot like this "journalista":

    "God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get. . . "

  12. It's funny how much more Jesus said about poverty and helping the poor than he said about the homosex and abortion. I think the inaptly-named Journalista has forgotten those parts of her Bible.

    And also who seriously thinks that people are "perfectly happy" living in sub-standard housing?

    Ulyana, I once tried to leave a very polite comment on Journalista's blog that happened to disagree with her post, but she never let it leave moderation. Some people think the mere fact of disagreement is rude, I suppose.


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