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Loving Landlords

New research shows landlords laugh and cry, just like people

By Allie Gottlieb

THE NATIONAL Low-Income Housing Coalition just released its "Out of Reach 2003" renters' study. San Jose ranked at the top of the least-affordable metropolitan areas. A renter receiving these findings would likely feel justified in chalking them up to landlord greed. Landlords charge because they can, one might pout.

But in the interest of "fairness and balance" (Fox News/Al Franken™), Biter now tempers this news with research findings from local landlords.

Landlords aren't greedy. Honest. As the Tri County Apartment Association, the biggest chapter of the California Apartment Association, a rental property owners' lobbying group, informed Biter in a media dispatch on Aug. 28: "Results of a recent survey of rental property owners shows that they are not the greedy, miserly bunch that have been depicted in movies and on television over the years."

"In fact," continued the release, "74 percent of the landlords surveyed by the Tri County Apartment Association in April of this year said that they have reduced rent or made concessions for residents who have fallen on hard times. Moreover, the word most landlords believe their residents would use to describe them is 'fair.'"

Kathy Thibodeaux, the apartment association's chief executive, said, "People with no recent firsthand experience are likely to base their opinion of landlords on cultural stereotypes."

So, Biter took a break from our usual Hollywood-influenced prejudice and used the weekend to reflect on our actual dealings with landlords.

Biter recalled trying to renegotiate our rent last year when we learned that the housing market was turning in our favor ("Revenge of the Renters," Jan. 31, 2002). As we, Biter's housing market correspondent, narrated at the time, "On Jan. 20, I decide to take the big step and write a letter to my apartment's property management company asking that they consider lowering my rent from $1,395 to $1,250."

Despite the argument that no one would pay nearly $1,400 for our tiny apartment when ads showed at least nine nearby available apartments were renting for less, Biter's landlord declined to haggle over the price of our 500-square-foot junior one-bedroom.

The negotiation lost, we moved to a comparable apartment three blocks away that rents for $1,135. We have lived in the cheaper apartment for 10 months now.

Outside the old apartment, Nameless Property Management's "For Rent" sign remained up until this month. Biter noticed the sign was missing and stopped by to investigate on Saturday as part of our aforementioned landlord-greed stereotype check. The new tenants answered the door wearing tank tops and bandannas to manage the sweat while they crammed their belongings into every corner of their cozy new digs.

A quick chat revealed that Nameless Property Management was charging them $1,195 for our old place. That's $55 less than we offered them 10 months ago. We even had to take NPM to small claims court to get back some of our withheld last month's rent money.

The urge to kill has faded now and Biter is moving toward the acceptance phase of the rental-grief healing process.

Tri County Apartment Association says that further research shows that "more than half of the general public surveyed had positive feelings about landlords." It specifies that "small property owners were more likely to say that their relationship with tenants was 'friendly,' while larger owners related better to the phrase 'businesslike but cordial' to describe their tenant relationships."

Biter theorizes that the happy half is the one that moves in after the bitter half storms out defeated.

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From the September 18-24, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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