While I love Last Week Tonight and I normally feel like it’s a good resource, I think they really dropped the ball on this one by characterizing landlords in general as greedy bastards who should be forced to completely forgive rent, not just accept late payments. To be clear, I do not think evictions are the answer right now, not at all. A landlord should, where possible, work with their tenants on a mutually-acceptable payment plan without interest, so the tenants can have a chance to get back on their feet.
But what got completely left out is that:
A) not every landlord has a rental empire
B) not every landlord is charging exorbitant rent
C) owning property is very expensive and there is no talk of relief for that
-I rent out part of my house to help pay for taxes. Property taxes vary a lot by city in the US, but here I have to pay $6k a year, and it goes up every year. There is no talk of relief for that.
-Any money I charge for rent is income, so a large chunk of that gets taxed away itself. There is no talk of relief for that.
-It’s my house, so I pay for the utilities and internet. That cost doesn’t go away if I stop charging rent, in fact water and electricity bills are significantly higher with someone home all the time.
-In order to rent that part of the house, the law requires that I register it as a separate unit (that license costs money, too) and have it regularly inspected (which I also have to pay for). And because it’s a “separate unit” I pay double for sewer and trash, even though (as you might guess) I only have one sewer connection and I still only get one trash bin. That cost doesn’t go away.
When it’s all said and done, there’s nothing left you would traditionally call profit - the best I can do for a reasonable rent is offset only part of my property taxes. For a “casual” landlord like me, with a job and who exists in the same fluctuating economy with its layoffs and furloughs as everyone else, the financial burden has only increased. As I mentioned before, I do not think evictions are the answer and I am not even considering it. But with no talk of relieving the burden of property ownership, neither is demanding rent forgiveness an acceptable answer. Tenants need to pay when they have the money, and it’s fine for me if that time is down the road. But not every property owner here is going to be completely prepared for the propety tax bill that shows up tomorrow, 7/1, and those people are citizens too.
My suggestion would be a property tax credit that must be passed on in savings to the tenants. So if they want to temporarily abolish rent, the credit would be for the full rental amount. If they want to cut rent in half, the credit would be for half the rental amount. Etc. Simply forcing the financial burden on to property owners is not the answer, but so far as I can tell, it’s the only thing being considered.