I scour various news stories to find interesting topics to blog about. Among my sources is the Google landlord feed and tenant feed. Initially I thought that I would find interesting articles that told of tenants’ struggles or tenants’ victories from the tenants’ side of the feeds, and articles favoring landlords on the landlords’ side of the feed. But what I have found instead is that most of the juicy stories come from the landlord side, and most of them depict landlords as greedy, selfish pigs. I don’t usually write about these stories because they don’t necessarily relate to tenants’ rights, but I thought I’d share a few of them, just from today’s feed, because it’s an interesting sociological study.
The first story is about a landlord who shot a 78-year-old tenant in a wheelchair after some argument. The next story is about an app that helps landlords with accounting. Then the next story is about a landlord (a different one) who was convicted of shooting a tenant in Florida. The next story is about a mass illegal eviction in New York. A couple of stories down is one about a not guilty verdict for a landlord who shot his tenant. And then the next one is about a landlord who got a 16 year sentence for stabbing one of his tenants.
As I’ve gone down the feed I’ve found six stories about landlords killing their tenants. And that’s just in one day!
I’m not saying that every landlord story is about this level of misconduct, or that there aren’t grisly stories on the tenants’ side of the feeds. And, of course, I recognize that the news likes sensationalized stories such as murders. Still, it’s interesting, looking at today’s and previous feeds, that the landlords’ crimes are crimes of power, that derive from the imbalance in power between landlords and tenants, whereas the stories about tenants’ crimes derive either from the tenants’ poverty or the tenants’ drug addictions. Either way, they give you a glimpse, although through the tiny peephole that comprises the news, of that very imbalance in the landlord/tenant relationship.
What the news does not focus on are the real stories: of tenants being harassed, of a playing field so imbalanced that the landlord/tenant laws dramatically favor landlords; of judges in the lower end courts (in Arizona, the Justice Courts where nonpayment cases are heard) shooting from their hips in their rulings and throwing tenants who haven’t done anything wrong on the street; of apartments where tenants live with such egregious conditions because they are too poor to move elsewhere; of poor tenants being displaced by new development, either literally, because the development swallows up their homes, or financially, because the new development raises surrounding property values – and rents along with them.
We generally deal with landlords who have disobeyed the law. But it’s funny that, although the stories the news that tell about landlords aren’t the important stories, they do show landlords as being the group that engages in so much misconduct.