Notes from Housing Court

When landlords and tenants get into a tussle, they end up in housing court. From the bleachers it appears the dominant activity addresses evictions. But a tenant may also ask the court to hold their rent in escrow until their complaint against their landlord is heard. That way they are not viewed as delinquent yet they are still denying the landlord access to their monthly income.

A typical rental turnover includes a tenant giving proper notice to a landlord regarding an intent to move. This is usually thirty or sixty days. The window of time allows the owner to reveiw the present condition of the unit, determine whether it needs any freshening up, and either proceed with improvements or decide to rent it as is. During the tenants remaining occupancy, the place is shown to prospective tenants and most often a new lease agreement is drawn up to match end to end with the term of the existing lease.

And then, there are times when this is not the case.

The tenant stops paying rent on the 1st. By mid-month it may be clear for a bunch of reasons that the teanant will no longer being paying rent. At this point the landlord needs to give them a two week notice of their intent to evict. Once that timeframe is completed, the landlord goes to housing court to file a complaint. In days of yore the courts were committed to processing the complaints in 6-14 days. In a post Covid, post eviction moratorium world, the wait is six weeks.

Keeping count of the cash flow reveals the landlord misses three months of rent in this last scenario- or a quarter of their annual income on the unit. One might point out that they keep the delinquent tenant’s deposit. True. But a delinquent tenant who won’t vacate a property more than likely has left the unit in rough to very damaged condition. These are folks who are often experiencing a few bumps in their lives.

On the one hand activists want landlords to house people with flaws on their rental applications. On the other hand when a landlord takes a hit on a scenario such as this one, and internalizes the loss of a quarter of annual income, it would be reasonable to expect the public to at least acknowledge the sacrifice. Instead the activists vocally promote the idea that all landlords are opportunistic wealth hoarders.

Wouldn’t it be cool if one could demonstrate who bears the social costs of things?