Have you heard about the "Keep Your Rent Movement" that's cropped up along with the Coronavirus?
Many tenants in the U. S. and Canada, especially in the larger more-expensive cities like New York, L.A., Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, have decided that they shouldn't have to pay rent as long as the Coronavirus pandemic keeps people self-isolating and out of work, or on reduced hours working from home.
They argue that landlords are getting a break because many of them are benefiting from deferrals on their mortgage. So if landlords don't have to pay their mortgage, why should tenants have to pay rent?
Besides, greedy landlords have been taking advantage of housing shortages in recent years by raising rents well beyond the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, renters have not enjoyed similar increases in pay -- and now they're being squeezed even more because they've been let go, fired or furloughed. They're on reduced wages, or perhaps on no wages at all!
As one protester wrote: "Why are rental property owners the only class whose income in guaranteed during this chaos? You landlord cannibals need to PAUSE THE RENT without future collection while the people of L. A. count the bodies . . ."
If tenants are sick and self-isolating, the argument continues, the last thing they should have to worry about is how they're going to pay rent. Besides, no one wants people infected with Coronavirus out on the streets looking for a new apartment, moving in with elderly parents, or squeezing into tight quarters by bunking in with friends.
In addition, governments have passed legislation banning evictions during this period. For example, the mayor of Los Angeles announced: "During this crisis I know many Angelenos are worried about paying rent. If you are able to pay, you should continue to do so. But for those who aren't able to pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your City has your back. No one should be evicted for this emergency."
So, the Keep Your Rent people figure, if the government is protecting them from being evicted, why should they pay their rent anyway? People joining or supporting the Keep Your Rent Movement are hanging white sheets out their windows or off their balconies to show their solidarity.
Of course, the greedy landlords have something to say about this movement. Even if their mortgage payment is deferred, they argue, they'll still have to pay it in the end. And in the meantime they have real-estate taxes to pay, condo or association fees, insurance, maintenance and utilities like heat and air conditioning.
Also, not all landlords are big, greedy corporations. Almost half of rentals in the U. S. are made by individuals who rent 1 - 4 units, not as a get-rich-quick scheme but as a sideline to supplement their income. And they know that their tenants, even if they lose their jobs, will be receiving unemployment plus extra money from the government -- and their expenses other than rent will be going down, since they can't go to restaurants and won't be doing any traveling.
Besides, the renters signed a lease. They agreed to pay a certain amount of money in order to take over this property and live in it for a period of time. They made a promise. Is it right, is it ethical, to just welsh on their part of the deal? Why is it any more acceptable for people to steal lodgings from a landlord than to steal food from a grocery store?
Me, personally? What do I think? I of course sympathize with tenants who through no fault of their own are forced to choose whether to pay rent, or pay for groceries. But in the past I was one of those small-time landlords, and I know some people will take advantage. I can remember driving over to the condo I rented to a young couple and collecting the rent in cash, month after month, because their check had bounced several times . . . and how often the cash was $50 or $100 short because . . . well, they both had jobs but they also had a hundred excuses. Boy, was I glad when they moved out! And I was even happier when I finally sold the unit and retired as a landlord.
So who's side are you on? Are landlords being cold-hearted by insisting on collecting the rent? Or are you hanging a sheet out your window in solidarity with the folks who are on strike to Keep Your Rent?