History of Landlord and Tenants
Landlordism was a relic of our feudalism past when agriculture was the mainstay of the economy and land was power. The king owned all the property in his kingdom. He could not cultivate all of that, so he parceled them out to his kith and kin, who repaid the favor by providing state services.
The hierarchy went like this: Church, King, Overlord, Lord, service providers, peasants, and farmers - the last known as serfs or lessees. The King, Overlords, and Lords owned the land. The lessees were not allowed to own the land and could only work for a fee or sharecropper. They also could not leave the work at pleasure. Because the landlord could evict the tenant by choice, and the tenant could not abandon by choice, the relationship between the two was always strained. It took revolutions to change the land ownership system.
Today, land is not power; everyone can own land. The rented house is not on land granted for free by the State. The owner rents the home, not the land. The owner is not a Lord and rents the property on the back of a lease that the tenant voluntarily signs and most governments regulate. Conditions limit the rights and duties of the lessor and the lessee. Therefore, calling a homeowner who rents their property a landlord or a renter as a tenant is a misnomer and antiquated aberration that should be abolished.
The government has Russianized America (the Russia of 1917) by taking sides between two parties in its cognitive laziness. They have driven a sharper wedge deeper between the two. Owners are helplessly watching lessees damage their property, deliberately not pay rent and utilities, and creating a nuisance. Many do not have a lease, or their lease has expired. Some are damaging the home irreparably. The government did not want to think through details about the eviction moratorium during the pandemic and put a one size fits all order. They decided to decimate one party while favoring the other. The lessors are providing an essential service but are treated as villains. Imagine a situation if no one is allowed to buy a home for rental purposes? How and where will the government house those lessees?
Why the Eviction Moratorium is a bad law
As this goes to press, the Supreme Court has already judged that the self-certified declaration is inconsistent with the Due Process Clause.
The moratorium may have postponed evictions, but it cannot prevent them. The blanket order has not seen any revisions with experience.
Here are why the order is cognitively lazy:
- The order started with an income ceiling of 99,000 per person or 198,000 for a couple. Could they have revised the threshold at every subsequent extension so that they could separate the wheat from the chaff?
- The lessee declares the status of their income. Who verifies that number? Only the government has the income information of its people. How will the owner verify that information? When will the data be verified?
- The declaration is provided under 'penalty of perjury.' How does an owner prove perjury?
- Has there been any factfinding review of the order? Does the government have the following data, among others:
- How many lessees are in the country? How many are defaulting on their rent?
- How many are lying about their income and are guilty of perjury?
- How many lessees have lost their jobs or income?
- How many lessees have gone back to work?
- How many lessees are not going back to work, despite jobs being available?
- How many lessees have taken the vaccine?
- How many lessees do not want to be vaccinated?
- How many lessees are deliberately delinquent?
- How many lessees are not cooperating with the owners to claim rental assistance?
The government started an "Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)" to compensate the owner to help lessees pay rent or owners receive rent. The ERAP is another cognitively lazy piece of policy. It does not help either the lessor or the lessee.
For the owner, it lays down that the lessee must get involved in the application process. What if the lessee does not respond? Can they be then evicted?
You cannot increase rent for a year if you accept assistance. Gas prices go up, hourly wages go up, salaries go up, food prices go up, property taxes go up, and inflation goes up; why punish a homeowner providing essential services.
You cannot evict for one year after you receive the assistance. What if the tenant stopped paying again, creates a nuisance, breaks windows, and leaves garbage lying around everywhere?
As per the 5th amendment of the US Constitution,
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Where the government is exercising its rights, it is neglecting its duties. By ordering a moratorium, the government has effectively taken over the property. Therefore, the government must compensate the lessor as per the lease, with no strings attached. As long as the government pays the rent under the rules of commerce, the tenant can stay. The lease will be between the homeowner and the government, dated the 20th of March 2020. There will be a clause that the government has a right to sub-lease. If the landlord received a part of the rent during that period, they would reimburse the government with that amount. When the government decides to lift the moratorium, they must give reasonable time to both the lessor and the lessee to settle the future matters between themselves. Let justice prevail and not populist measures.