Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
Subdivisions and franchise shopping centers, the disappearance of unions and local manufacturing – these are a few of the many features of modern life that have slowly led to a disappearance of strong community feelings in much of America. Have you ever met your town mayor? Do you even know who is sitting on your city council? Do you feel informed about where decision-making power lies where you live?
I ran into something on Craigslist the other day that caught my notice. Because craigslist posts expire, I won’t link to the entry, but the gist of it was that a man in Humboldt County, CA. was fed up with local rent rates. As he explained, local wages simply aren’t commensurate with rental housing prices, and on top of this problem, the author was expressing his indignation over the mistrustful way in which prospective tenants are treated by landlords. 3 of his points certainly struck me as worth complaining about:
1) Landlords demanding credit checks. After all, it’s rent history that counts – not credit card debt – and credit reports never feature rental payment history. The author justly cites this activity as a violation of privacy and immaterial to the renter/landlord relationship. The landlord should only need to know if a tenant has a good history of paying rent. I have to add, with the country’s current housing crisis, I think landlords are completely out of touch with the times if they think they’re going to find tenants with perfect credit ratings. In today’s economy, people with perfect credit are attempting not to lose their homes and those who have experienced foreclosure are going to need to rent. Most of them will be well able to afford a rental, but if their credit history is what is being used to judge that, landlords are going to have a mighty interesting time finding anyone to live in their homes.
2) Landlords demanding first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. According the the author, this is a newfangled notion and because the security deposit can be withheld by the landlord for rather vague reasons, it leaves the tenant vulnerable to abuse. Shouldn’t the last month’s rent make the landlord secure that he won’t be ripped off? Or, why not dispense with the last month’s rent and simply charge a small security deposit? Demanding all three puts a very heavy burden on the tenant to come up with 2X the rent plus additional security money in order to move in.
3) Requirements to the tune of no pets/no smoking/no drugs immediately make the landlord appear overbearing and controlling. The author stipulates that if a renter is paying for use of a home, having a cat or choosing to smoke are personal preferences that should be no business of the landlord’s. And, as he adds, are drug addicts actually going to be dissuaded from renting houses by a ‘no drugs’ warning? Seems unlikely. The author warns that landlords who make all kinds of personal demands of this kind are unlikely to have any respect for their tenants’ privacy and I have to agree with him on that.
The whole setup is one that begins with a landlord requesting large sums of money for a service while at the same time expressing mistrust for anyone who might take them up on the deal. It’s not civil. I can’t imagine trying to open a business deal with a client by requiring them to pay me 2x what a website is worth, up front, telling them I’m suspicious that they are going to try to rip me off. I can’t imagine saying I’ll need to see their credit history, or warning them that while they work with me, they aren’t allowed to go about their private business in whatever manner they see fit. Who would feel good about doing business with me if this was my attitude?
So, the author was clearly fed up with both non-affordable housing as well as a disrespectful treatment of renters. In order to address this situation, he posted his list of complaints on Craigslist and invited his community to form a Yahoo! Groups organization that would work to try to establish rent control in his county. When last I looked, at least 11 neighbors had begun to participate in the group. I think that’s very cool.
I am very happy to see private citizens becoming educated about the powers the Internet has in store for them. I am delighted to see them using that power to try to improve their local communities. Every-man-for-himself may be the mantra in a capitalist society, but its end result is too often a lack of humane standards for all neighbors. I bet the Humboldt County rent control group will set about tracking down their mayor, their city council members and other officials in order to discover whether laws exist that can protect their right to fairly-priced housing.
Many people say that the Internet is one of the greatest contributors to modern isolationist views. But what about when it’s utilized to bring back something of the cohesion and communication communities enjoyed in days gone by? There’s a kind of poetic justice to it, isn’t there?