5/03/2006

Rent Control

First, let me preface this be stating up front that I am not a callous old bastard. When I hear that a bunch of senior citizens get their rent raised, I don't giggle like a bad actor playing Ebeneezer Scrooge. (No offense to bad actors everywhere) But I don't think we ought to run to the legislature and change the law, either.

The Rainbow is an "elegant...retirement community" in Great Falls. Recently the landlord decided to raise the rent for the seniors that live there. No hilarity ensued.

Mr. Kranick, a retired school administrator, saw his rent increase by 25%. He complained to authorities, but "there's no rent control in Montana."

According to the article, "renters have little say over increases." Landlords "can do what they want," according to Terry Youngworth, "a city housing specialist."

Now, that's not entirely true. The landlord/tenant relationship is a legal, contractual relationship. Either the parties here are operating without a written lease, or the written lease specifically contemplates rent increases. As a general rule, if you have no written lease, you are occupying the land on a month to month tenancy and either party can terminate the lease or change its terms on a month's notice. If you are a party to a lease contract that allows one side or the other to change terms unilaterally, well you got yourself into this one.

The article does not say, but there are some circumstances that could make the tenant much less sympathetic. For example, if they were offered the option of a longer term lease with a fixed rental and they turned it down, it would look more like their own fault. Or what if their long term lease contained below-market rent, and it recently expired? The point is that the mere fact that someone experiences an unfortunate event does not render that person a victim. And not all unfortunate events require that the government insist itself into private business relationships.

Further, as the article notes, the Cato Institute would argue that rent control actually increases rental rates. Economists will tell you that rent control helps to cause housing shortages. If the state legislature passed a law today mandating that no gasoline can be sold for more than $00.50/gallon, do you think you could find gas for the drive to work this morning?

I wonder about these Rainbow residents 20 years ago. Did any of them own rentals? What would they have said if the government said they could not raise their rent to reflect higher costs? Would they have been willing to pay a withholding tax to pay for subsidized housing for others? Or, just maybe, do they just want what they want and don't care if or how it affects anyone else. Is our whole society becoming completely me-centric?

(Thanks D.B.)

4 comments:

WolfPack said...

It would be interesting to know if long term leases were available and how many of the complainers opted not to sign up. I wouldn’t be apposed to regulating senior living facilities because seniors can be an easy mark due to their declining faculties but the people quoted in the article seemed more than capable of complaining to the proper authorities to ensure their rights were protected. It’s the one’s we don’t hear from that I worry about.

Eric said...

Every time there's a mill-levy vote in Billings, a few people complain that renters don't pay taxes.

As your post shows, renters end up paying for everything, including a profit to their landlords.

SallyT said...

thanks for noting the facts that ever elude the Trib

Anonymous said...

Let 'em eat cake!