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Polis Report

Feudal Landlords

By Michael Learmonth

He's corpulent, pasty-skinned and balding. He's dangling in his pudgy fingers what I presume to be a housekey on a ring. His head is tossed back in maniacal laughter. He's wearing a shiny blue synthetic-fiber pimp shirt, and his molars are riddled with silver fillings.

He's the picture of the devil in the form of an aging boomer landlord--and the Mercury News wants him to advertise.

In the latest issue of Apartment Management magazine (you mean you haven't seen it?), the San Jose Mercury News revels in the housing shortage they've so sympathetically covered in the newspaper. The ad portrays a laughing landlord holding keys out of reach, taunting the homeless, the overcrowded and the destitute victims of sky-high South Bay rents.

"Mercury News advertising tip No. 12," the headline reads. "Look sympathetic when you tell people they're No. 272 on the waiting list."

Could this be the landlord who said he wanted four months' rent--$3,000--up front? Or perhaps he's the one who told me I ought to put a deposit down on a one-bedroom before I had even seen the place. ("Other people do it," he reassured me.)

But with occupancy rates above 97 percent, the land-owning class is simply charging what the market will support.

Caroline Latham, president of Real Facts, says that Santa Clara County vacancy rates actually took a dive from 99 percent last year to 97.1 in June. Finally, the market swings in the renter's direction.

Latham says the average one-bedroom in Santa Clara County rents for $1,055, the average two-bedroom for $1,435. These rents are the highest in the state except for posh resort communities like Marina del Rey.

Good news, Mr. Landlord. Maybe you can skip the ad in the Mercury News and just put a sign in the window.

And hopefully, Social Security means-testing will pass Congress before you retire. Oh, and I almost forgot, do you have any vacancies?

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From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of Metro.

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