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Just who owns that property anyway?

When I first moved to the area over 42 years ago now, I would occasionally see the same two older gents riding around town in pickup trucks with assorted doors and the requisite hardware for them in their truck beds. I noticed also that it was never the same doors. I was puzzled but, being young, naive and somewhat shy, I did not ask either the obvious question though both went to my church. Early one cold morning, I caught both of the men at a local breakfast place and sat down with them, a country ham and cheese biscuit with mustard and a cup of coffee. I discerned that both had multiple rental properties. They also had multiple tenants in common, those who would be evicted by one only to rent from the other. They referred to these renters as the ‘deadbeats’. Having seen both their trucks outside the cafe with doors in the beds, I worked up the nerve to ask about them. Both chuckled to themselves and proceeded to tell me how, when the rent on homes was past due by a certain number of weeks, they just took the front doors off the homes. ’You’d be surprised how fast they find that rent money once that door comes off,’ one said. ‘Just who owns that property anyway? Most of the time, when I show up with the toolbox, they go ahead and pay,’ the other chortled. I remember thinking this was pure genius – harsh but pure genius. Fast forward to the COVID crisis. Governments at the federal, state and local levels moved to impose restrictions on evictions due to the pandemic and many renters being out of work. That was a kind and compassionate move or at least it would have been if initiated by a landlord with a conscience. But, when government issues edicts, they seem never to expire. During this same time span, the government was handing out stimulus money, rent and utility assistance money and enhanced and extended unemployment benefits to the point people took home more cash if they just stayed home instead of taking one of the millions of jobs that returned as COVID lockdowns faded away, hopefully never to return. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next, some of the folks taking all this government cash still didn’t pay all or part of their rent both current and past due. They expected the moratoriums would be continued, were correct in that assumption and lived rent free. The good and compassionate move on the part of the various governments turned into a disaster for the owners of those rental properties who were still expected to pay property taxes and maintain their properties to the standard they had when they were actually collecting rent. During the summer as COVID seemed to be subdued, many called for the moratoriums to be lifted and, late last month, most of them expired and evictions were once again allowed. Then, on August 3, the Centers for Disease Control issued orders temporarily halting evictions in areas with high rates of the new Delta COVID variant. The CDC is supposedly a health agency though its guidance on dealing with the virus has meandered all over the place and never really exhibited any clarity. The CDC has no business in the housing business and has no authority over landlords. In fact, no government at any level should be in the housing business. It would be much more efficiently operated and policed by private sector landlords with the marketplace – not bureaucrats – setting rents. The vast majority of landlords understood the situation and dealt with it. Likewise, the majority of renters no doubt have or will make an effort to pay all or most of their back rent. But, there are many who will stay in their current homes as long as the CDC or whomever lets them then move out while laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of their landlords. These are the same type folks who saw the two old gents remove the front doors of their homes and toss them in the back of a pickup truck. I wish those guys were still around to offer the CDC their wisdom and expertise in dealing with deadbeats. With their common sense, they’d soon be running the place.

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