Opinion
OPINION: If the council again enacts this poor idea, what problem is it going to solve?
November 7, 2017
3

This is letter I sent to the Mayor, Hollis Tharpe, and the town council. My intention is that this is an opinion or letter to the editor.

I retired after 29 years of listing and selling real estate. I have managed my own rental property the entire time as well as advised clients on rental property and occasionally rented it for them by selecting the best tenant we could. Therefore, I have plenty of experience with tenants and rental property.

I have great concerns on the Landlord/Tenant ordinance that is being proposed. I have addressed the council on this matter twice recently as well as in the past when that poorly thought out ordinance was enacted and then dismissed due to failure. Always my first thought for any problem is…. what is the real problem… what is the root of the problem… how do I solve the problem?

As I see it, the real problem is a people problem, not a government problem. If the council again enacts this poor idea, what problem is it going to solve?

First a discussion of what “regular” landlords are looking for in a qualified applicant: Credit scores that meet the landlords criteria Income to support the monthly rent payment. References supporting that the tenant left the previous property in good condition and paid rent on time. Property managers also run a criminal background check.

So, now what do we do? How do we solve the problem? I have the answers to my questions. The real problem is tenants who do not have an acceptable credit history and/or adequate income and/or a criminal background history. Tenants who left previous rental property in poor condition and/or did not pay rent. The root of the problem is people behavior.

The way I solve my problem is to rent to the most creditworthy tenant who has shown past behavior of paying the rent and leaving the property in good condition. If perspective tenants do not meet my criteria, the application is rejected. Personally, I discuss this ahead of time with the applicant and if they think they won’t meet the criteria, they do not complete an application. Generally, property managers have the same process.

You can inspect my properties and the properties of the landlords providing poor housing, but you can never make me rent to tenants who do not meet my qualification standards. Those standards consist of a credit score of no lower than 640, acceptable former landlord references, and the income to support living in the property. Most property management professionals also do a criminal background check and tenants must meet that standard.

Since I am renting for myself and not a client, I do not consider hospital bills that are so high a person cannot pay them, nor some bankruptcies or other credit issues. I consider each applicant on a case-by-case basis. No matter what ordinance is enacted, I will not rent to perspective tenants who do not meet my criteria. Other landlords and property managers will not rent to perspective who do not meet their criteria. So inspecting my property and others like it are not going to resolve the issue up for discussion. I can say with 100% certainty that I am not going to rent to the tenants who occupy Batouli’s properties or those like his. Those tenants are generally in desperate situations and generally have very poor credit, often have issues with substance abuse, and criminal backgrounds.

Everyone knows what I am talking about here. I have owned a property next door to Mt. Vernon apartments for 15 years. I have had occasions to talk to some of the tenants there who have asked me about housing when they are being evicted or are moving because they cannot tolerate the conditions. I have asked them why they rented there and it is always the same answer. I desperately needed a place and no one else would rent to me.

So they do know the conditions of the property when they rent it. The only way some of these tenants can change their living conditions is to upgrade their credit, get a job or a better job or move somewhere else where they can live on public assistance.

Bottom line, I do not think this problem can be solved with an ordinance. Our tax dollars will be spent with a new office requiring everything an inspector needs to work, perhaps an assistant, the benefits costs to the employer, vehicle cost, and only the Historic District is affected. So the rest of Front Royal can rent anything in any condition. This is not acceptable to me and shouldn’t be to you either.

This is government for the sake of government to quell some squeaky wheels so the rest of the landlords can abide by an ordinance where these tenants cannot live. Doesn’t make any sense to me. If you seriously want to solve this problem, get a committee together of people who know what the issues are, tenants who are having problems, town officials, and go from there. Perhaps there is a way to solve this, but I don’t see the answer as an ordinance for Landlords in Front Royal.

Look at it and see how we can solve it. At a previous town council meeting, I offered to field calls on this issue as a volunteer. I am still willing to work with a group to see if we can solve this issue. I do believe everyone is entitled to a roof over their head. Perhaps Front Royal needs to consider a “project” type of housing to meet the demands of this kind of tenant. Who would be the property manager? Not I. Too much of a bad thing. I’ve read newspaper articles on building “workforce” housing. Those folks generally meet my criteria for renting as well as other property managers. That is a no brainer, but for those who don’t meet the criteria and who don’t, won’t, can’t pay the rent, we still have a problem.

Please start a committee so we can start to work on this issue. At a minimum, everyone would gain a lot of knowledge on the subject.

Sincerely,
Nancy Heflin

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There are 3 comments

  • Michael says:

    Nancy, Mr Costello also has an opinion about this topic. It appears that Mr Costello has figured out the magic of repairing his rental properties and maintaining them while offering nice, low cost rental housing in our community. A great example was when he bought the Cherrywood apts and turned them into a nice rental area.
    Nancy, the problem is that Front Royal has an increasing number of poorly maintained rental properties with landlords not required to repair and maintain. This trend will continue to depress real estate values for those of us private property owners and will turn people away wanting to move to our community. Just drive through our neighborhoods and you can tell who owns and lives in homes compared to those that are renting in the appearance with no rules in place to force the rental owners to rent to good renters and maintain their properties. I would love to hear your thoughts on possible solutions for this issue.

  • Newman says:

    Good points. I have to assume many landlords like other institutions use risk based pricing to protect their property/assets. High rent = higher risk. Market rent = stable and well referenced tenant. Good tenant= good conditions. Risky tenant = below average accommodations. I know this relationship seems counter intuitive but that is the way it works. I’m sure the EDA and their “work force housing—market rate apartments” will be more than happy to assist when this project comes to market.

  • Sarah Belville says:

    Well stated! So many want to create more problems and less actual solutions that require people be responsible, it’s the tenants responsibility to maintain a rental, per whatever the landlord requires. It’s sad that not only has consumerism become more protective for the corporations and banks, now it’s rolling downhill and taking more responsibility away from landlords and giving it to crappy tenants who don’t care how they treat a home. I rented for 3 years, wasn’t worth it, people are ignorant and have no respect.

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