“Every landlord’s worst nightmare” video

by Walter Olson on September 10, 2013

A video from the humor site The Chive has been making the rounds with a landlord’s narration of the ghastly extent of damage to a family home done by a single really bad tenant participating in the federal Section 8 housing-voucher program (and not responsible for most of the rent). Some landlords might react to such an experience by becoming more wary of Section 8 tenants and subjecting them to extra screening or interviewing, while others might be more convinced by assurances (from various quarters supportive of the Section 8 program) that horror stories are in no way typical and that tenants using the vouchers are no more likely to trash a property than any other tenants.

Such a difference of opinion might be of relatively limited interest — some landlords could follow one strategy, others the opposite, and experience would tell which was the more successful — except that the Obama administration and its allies are taking the position that “discrimination” against Section 8 tenants, whether in the form of extra scrutiny of their applications, turning them away as applicants, or anything else, should be illegal. That is one of the major demands of HUD’s lawsuit against Westchester County, N.Y., and it is the substance of laws passed in Cook County, Ill. and elsewhere lately, at the urging of “fair housing” groups, banning so-called source-of-income discrimination. [Chicago Reporter, Courier News, Tenants Union of Washington State] The message of these laws to hapless landlords like the one who narrates the Chive video is: sorry about your house getting trashed, but tough luck, see you in court if you try to protect yourself. (& welcome Above the Law readers).

{ 14 comments }

1 jdgalt 09.10.13 at 4:24 pm

I’d be very tempted to do violence to the tenant and see if a jury convicts me.

2 wfjag 09.10.13 at 4:25 pm

And, the unintended consequence will be that those who do not have to rent under Sec. 8, will not do so. That will result in the rental housing available to those relying on Sec. 8 to be reduced and of poorer quality.

3 jdgalt 09.10.13 at 4:48 pm

He should have put in a picture of the vandal, so that other landlords can be warned away, because you just know she won’t be above changing her name or moving in order to do it again and again.

4 Robert 09.10.13 at 7:24 pm

Does the landlord have any recourse from the Federal Government (and, by extension, We the Taxpayers) for this mess?

That house has to be completely gutted and redone. And she stole the appliances, too! Amazing.

If you don’t pay for something, you don’t value it. There’s no way around that. Can’t we just give people clean, safe barracks to live in? Why do people have to have the right to live in a house?

5 Bob Lipton 09.10.13 at 8:51 pm

It’s the American Dream to have a house to vandalize.

Bob

6 Hikaru Katayamma 09.10.13 at 9:33 pm

I have a roommate who used to live in Section 8 housing. The contract called for monthly inspections of the rental units. If violations were found, they had 5 days to correct or be evicted. It was one of the best kept Section 8 places I’d ever visited.

He just reminded me that the initial lease was 3 months, with renewal at their discretion. Made it much easier to weed out the losers at the beginning.

7 Mike Soja 09.10.13 at 11:40 pm

I lived directly across the street from a Section 8 house (in Parkersburg, WV, on a working class residential street) for many years, and watched the parade of endlessly changing tenants with horror (mostly) and humor (sometimes). It was the neighborhood focus for police and even fire calls. The place was owned by a local, successful doctor, and every few months, after the most recent abandonment had occurred, the doc would show up, go inside to inspect, and come out shaking his head. Therein would follow a period of “renovation”, and then a new tenant. People in the neighborhood pleaded with the doc, sell the place, bulldoze it, anything, to no avail. He wasn’t in it for the money, and never came around to witness the atmosphere when it was occupied, and somehow believed, apparently, that it was the right thing to do. I was back there early this year, and the place was still in business.

I *never* saw any good come out of the place. Even tenants who looked like they might be trying to make a new start at first, slowly accumulated all the wrong sorts, some of whom they had probably hoped to escape by moving on up, but who inevitably and unsurprisingly showed up to share in the joy.

The one funny moment I remember was the guy (a boyfriend of the tenant) who drove an old, beat up Camaro or somesuch, who burned his tires off every single time he drove away. Quite annoying. Until the day he dumped the clutch and there was a loud *THUD*, and no squeal from the tires. He’d snapped the drive shaft. I laughed uproariously for about fifteen minutes, while I watched him and his buddies crawl underneath the car with their Bic lighters trying to see the damage. It was a couple weeks before they got that thing out of there, and no more tire burning.

8 Mannie 09.11.13 at 9:37 am

[blockquote] If violations were found, they had 5 days to correct or be evicted. It was one of the best kept Section 8 places I’d ever visited.[/quote]

That still doesn’t protect you against the tenant vandalizing the place when you evict them. And te cops don’t care. Not a whit. You should be able throw those scumbags in jail.

It’s not restricted to Section 8 housing, though. I inspect repos. A lot of foreclosed owners tear the places up when they leave, soak the carpets with urine, etc. Should be the same answer – jail time, but I ain’t holdin’ my breath.

9 Robert 09.11.13 at 4:20 pm

@Mannie — people who vandalize foreclosed houses when they leave are basically bank robbers but you’ll never see a conviction. The press and most Americans treat deadbeats who get foreclosed on as “victims” who “lost their homes.”

10 Lord of the Manor 09.11.13 at 5:37 pm

I get a kick out of the sanctimonious garbage that spews from the ‘blame the victim’ crowd, because families and children who lose their homes to the likes of Bank of America are certainly deadbeats! This is simply a situation of ‘lessor beware’. Once locked into a lease, renters arent protected from slumlords, so why should there be protection on the other end. If lessors exercise due diligence (using references, asking questions in person) instead of discriminatory and nonpredictive shortcuts (sorry credit scores and partial income sources are not indicative of character, folks), they would ‘know’ their tenants and avoid these issues.

11 Not me, I'm a Special Snowflake 09.12.13 at 9:46 am

Lousy tenants/homeowners can live anywhere and represent all demographics. Some people may have a relative or a trust fund instead of a government program that pays for their rent/mortgage. There are too many factors for one to say that any one of them is dispositive.

As for weeding out deadbeats, it is a lot easier to gauge a lessee’s financial health as it relates to a one-year commitment (e.g. a lease) than it is to ascertain whether a person will have the ability to pay in 10 years. All a creditor, landlord, etc. has is the information currently available. Even with high income and ultraconservative saving habits, most people are not prepared to be unemployed for a year. Moreover, in the current economic climate it is quite a challenge to find employment at a comparable salary, especially the older the job seeker is.

There are also sects of society that are not comprised of criminals that distrust banks and prefer to transact in cash (e.g. depression-era types, survivalists, etc.) in which case a credit report would not reveal said party’s ability to pay.

Bottom line: Business is a risk for all stakeholders and due diligence is simply the most popular tool for assessment of credit risk.

12 theresa phan 09.12.13 at 10:48 am

Seems like the likely result of HUD’s position, and the “fair housing” crowd will be counter-productive. If landlords find it increasingly burdensome to rent to section 8 people, then they will get out of that business entirely.

13 LAB 09.12.13 at 3:14 pm

Section 8 guaranties a landlord the full market rent for the square footage of the unit regardless of where the dwelling is located. If a tenant’s share is only 10% of the market rate, Section 8 will make up the remainder. Even if the tenant doesn’t pay, Section 8 checks just keep coming in to the landlord, so the landlord gets something every month. Very lucrative for someone in it only for the money. Distressing for everyone else around that dwelling because the unfortunate thing is that Section 8 brings some pretty scummy tenants. That’s why mixed-income housing doesn’t work in the end.

14 grumpyoldfart 09.13.13 at 1:28 am

I always thought taking Section 8 was the plan just before burning it down for the insurance money.

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