Justice for slumlords
By Betty LaMarr
Mark Twain once said, “One may make their house a palace of sham, or they can make it a home, a refuge.” This quote, by one of the most famous authors of all time, strikes a chord in some of us. For many, home is an amazing place. It is where we go to relax and to be ourselves after a long day at the office. Home is where we feel loved and at peace. For others, “home” and “refuge” are polar opposites. Home is a place of chaos, discomfort, anger, sadness, and despair.
So what makes the difference between a home of refuge and a home of distress? There are many things that make a home more than a place to live, but respect plays a large role. We must respect ourselves, respect others, and respect our belongings. For some people fortunate enough to own a home, they have control over many of these aspects. But what about the rest of us? There are many of us who rent instead of own, sometimes living paycheck to paycheck in the midst of chaos. What I want to talk about this month is those of us who have respect for ourselves, others, and what we own but are forced to live in a state of filth or in hazardous conditions because of those bottom feeders of society we call slumlords.
If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, a slumlord is defined by USLegal.com as “an unscrupulous landlord who milks a property without concern for tenants, neighborhoods, or their own long term interests.” These individuals buy up properties in poor neighborhoods faster than floor seats to the Grizzlies game and then let the properties deteriorate into shambles.
How do you know if you live in a slumlord property? Just look around and you will have a pretty good idea. If there are consistent hazards to your safety and your health, most likely you are living in one of these establishments. Many of you have noticed these hazards and have told your landlords and the maintenance staff of these issues to no avail. It seems nothing ever gets worked on, and you hear phrases such as, “Oh, I thought I fixed that.” or “Just put a towel around it and it will stop leaking.” Calls often go unanswered, but somehow these slumlords always show up on time to collect rent. It’s funny how that works.
The reason that this subject hits so close to home is because during an unfortunate time in my life, I rented from a slumlord. Before that, I ran a successful business, owned my own home, drove a Porsche, and had very good credit. But when it rained, it poured, and I lost it all. My mom always said that I was the strong one in the family, and therefore, I had to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. But at that point in my life, I barely had bootstraps to pull myself up with. I was deceived by the nice looking façade of a property and decided to rent. It was a disaster! Mold in the walls made us sick, rodents and other animals inhabited the roof, and the neglected common areas became a haven for drug addicts and dealers.
During this very tough time, I realized something. Despite my credit score and my financial situation, I did not have to live like this. When talking to your landlord seems futile, there is still something you can do. Report your landlord to the necessary authorities. Keep track of all neglected complaints, and take pictures of hazards or damages. Check out Nolo.com and their Renter’s Rights resource center. Remember that legally a landlord cannot evict you for reporting him or her, and have confidence that you are not alone.
A credit score does not define you as a person. However, when you start to lose respect for yourself, others, and your property, you are losing something much more valuable than economic status. You are losing your self worth. Be proud of who you are no matter what situation you are currently in, and work to make it better. No situation is hopeless, and together we can help put those corrupt landlords in their place and start creating homes and neighborhoods that are true refuges in times of despair.
For questions or comments you can email Betty LaMarr at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her at askbettylamarr.blogspot.com.