Dec 02

Last week my son sent me the following text:

I read this from time to time and thank you for it

The Public Policy Forum a few months back said Milwaukee’s really short of low-cost rentals. If more people went into the business, researchers said, it could help. Yet Ballering, who’s owned for 32 years, told his son to find another occupation: “It’s such a difficult business,” said Ballering.

“There’s better things to do with your life.”

Not what a city in need of rental housing wants to hear from entrepreneurs who provide it.

Source: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/opinion/59534347.html/

The back story:

My son was nearing high school graduation.   I asked him what his plans were.  He said that he was going to follow me into the rental business.  He was initially upset with me when I told him no.  Today he is happy as a partner at a major marketing firm.

Although being in rental housing has done well for me, it is a harsh business.  There is little to no appreciation for the amount of work and risk involved. Many who enter the industry leave broke and broken. Your properties get damaged, your tenants do not pay and, to quote the late Rodney Dangerfield, we get no respect.

The government, who would benefit from successful rental housing, seldom support us or gives us the tools we need to succeed.  As an urban housing provider, you become responsible for the misdeeds of your tenants, while those who commit crimes are often not prosecuted.

There is an eviction crisis.  Yet instead of putting resources towards the causes, poverty and social issues, those claiming to want to solve the problem are providing more resources to free legal helps so that the nonpaying or disruptive tenant can stay a month or two longer due to an undotted i or uncrossed t.

So, yes, being a marketing professional seems like a much better life.

Jul 11

A worthy read:

Evictions: They Are Not The Terrible Landlord’s Fault

Apr 23

Heartbreaking Photos Of Eviction Day In America

Matt Desmond’s NYT best seller “Evicted” is impacting our industry in ways that even he probably never predicted.

In speaking to him, my company had a small mention in the book as well as Desmond and I were on an NPR broadcast on evictions, I do not feel he is anti landlord, nor that he puts the blame solely on our industry. Rather his objective appears to be universal housing vouchers, kind of Rent Assist on steroids.

Let’s face it, evictions are economically hard on rental property owners as well. Anything that would address the root cause would be good for owners and tenants alike.

But many “advocates” are reading the title of the book, and probably not much more than that, combining it with the eviction statistics Desmond has assembled and are using this as a rallying cry to end all evictions, blaming landlords in the process. They fail to realize or admit that tenants that do not pay rent or are causing problems are increasing the costs to those tenants who are paying as they should.

Apr 12

From today’s Milwaukee Journal Schneider: Desmond’s ‘Evicted’ is a flawed masterpiece

The article misses the mark in some aspects.
 
Homes in Milwaukee’s poorest areas often can be bought for as little as $8,000, with rents running upwards of $500 a month. In virtually no time, landlords can own the properties free and clear and the rent they collect is pure profit — as long as they can collect. As succinctly put by one of the landlords featured in the book, an African-American woman named “Sherrena,” (pseudonyms are used throughout the book) “The ‘hood is good.”
 
This furthers the misperception that landlording is a “get rich quick” scheme. Sherrena made statements to Desmond that sent up red flags, at least to us in the industry,  that she was already in the throes of failure at the time of the interviews.  

Attorney Heiner Giese did the research to discover Sherrena’s identity.  She was not becoming wealthy on these properties.  Instead, Sherrena began losing her buildings to foreclosure shortly after the Desmond interviews and was out of business well before the book was published.  Many of her properties have since been razed.

However, Schneider does recognize a fact that is missed by many who look at rental housing and urban issues from the outside

 

Further, despite the book’s grim portrayal of landlords, one can only imagine how far these neighborhoods could fall if landlords weren’t there to keep at least some semblance of order. If housing laws were to squeeze the amount of money property owners could make on their rental units, they may simply abandon these homes altogether, leaving a lawless landscape devoid of structure.

 

Mar 25

Published in the 3/25/16 Milwaukee Journal
By Heiner Giese

Matthew Desmond’s book “Evicted” with the subtitle “Poverty and Profit in the American City” has generated much discussion in the Milwaukee community and among us Milwaukee landlords. We generally agree with the Journal Sentinel’s March 13 editorial calling for more discussion on how to provide decent housing for the poor.

While Desmond does an excellent job of presenting and humanizing the struggles of the poor to pay their rent, he doesn’t adequately cover the “profit” aspect of his subtitle. Out of 30 landlords interviewed, he only presents case studies on two successful ones. The marginal operators and the failed shoestring capitalists (to say nothing of the many nonprofit housing groups who have failed) are not featured.

I have been involved in housing issues for over three decades — as a former hands-on landlord, as attorney for the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin and as an attorney representing landlords (and sometimes tenants) in eviction and foreclosure court.

My clients have properties in all areas of Milwaukee and nearby suburbs. But in the inner city, many landlords have failed. I have sued them or defended them when their rental property was foreclosed on because they couldn’t make the mortgage or land contract payment because the rent money wasn’t coming in. A good chunk of the abandoned houses you’ll see when driving through central city Milwaukee were once owned by landlords.

Desmond is right in pointing to two correlating equations: difficulty paying your rent because you’re poor = getting evicted; getting evicted = getting deeper into poverty. And there is a third equation: getting evicted once = getting evicted again.

The details are not in the book but one of Desmond’s featured tenants had seven evictions filed against her in the 12 year period from 2003 through January, 2015, three of them since she was in his survey in August 2008. So ask yourself, what responsible landlord who needs the rent to pay the mortgage, the taxes, the water and sewer bill and the repair costs for the windows broken by neighborhood vandals would rent to this struggling lady?

Housing vouchers for all, so no one pays more than, say, 40% of their income for rent is an answer. Except you wonder if it is politically doable. Will John and Mary Homeowner give up some of their mortgage interest tax deduction so their government subsidy can instead help their neighbor on the other side of the tracks pay her rent?

Converting part of cash welfare benefits to a voucher for those who have an eviction record would make them more acceptable in the private rental market.

Another remedy touted by Desmond is to provide lawyers for those facing eviction. But that will not prevent eviction for the vast majority of defendants in eviction court who are behind on the rent.A lawyer can only help them delay the eviction. So they get another free month out of their landlord and who winds up paying for that “free” month? It is their low-income neighbor in the unit upstairs whose monthly rent is $50 higher than it should be to make up for the landlord’s loss. No wonder, as Desmond shows, that rents in the inner city aren’t much less than in the suburbs.

Some solutions proposed by Desmond would work, but others won’t or can’t garner legislative support in today’s political climate.

Ron Hegwood, our association president, recently wrote: “A good tenant is worth their weight in gold. How can we create more good tenants and protect and help the ones we have?” We look forward to meeting with tenant advocates and public officials to seek answers to that question.

Heiner Giese is a Milwaukee attorney who represents the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.


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