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THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD LANDLORD

The only thing your landlord cares about—especially during times of national strife—is stealing your paycheck every month. 

Beyond wreaking havoc on the world, COVID-19 has illuminated many of the fact that capitalism—especially here in the U.S. under a fascist government—has created mass inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. More people are recognizing the inherent injustices of many things—the lack of universal healthcare, terrible working conditions, the ethos of grinding until we die, white supremacy and its insidious effect on every aspect of our lives, and yes, the stark reality that housing under our current conditions is terrible for millions of people who have to take a big-ass chunk out of their paychecks to enrich their landlords. 

Without work, without income, without any financial stability, millions will get to April 1 without being able to pay rent. And why should anyone have to? Pleas to local and state governments to put a hold on rent and mortgage payments have brought up discussions of justified and necessary rent strikes, as well as the very real fact that landlords are quite literally parasites benefiting from some of the worst aspects of capitalism. 

On Saturday, Twitter user @Johnatron4000 tweeted, “I think a rent freeze might make sense but you kinda lose me when you pivot to “owning real estate is inherently immoral all landlords are bad” like…girl reel it in” to which YouTube personality, Tyler Oakley responded, “yeah anytime i see that i’m like oh shit i’m bad”. I can only agree. Oakley is bad, landlords are bad. 

In a piece published by Huck magazine, Taylor Cross aptly stated, there are no good landlords, only varying degrees of bad ones.” Landlords perform no social utility, they are simply profiteers of a system which systematically marginalizes the poor, and those who cannot afford to buy property or who don’t inherit it (see: generational wealth and white supremacy in the U.S.). In the same piece, Cross describes how this system is beneficial to some over the many: The entire system is weighted in favour of those with the means to become landlords. The more they artificially restrict the supply of an essential component of living, the more money they make.”

None of this popped up overnight. Dating back to feudal societies (which obviously differ from capitalist ones) landlords “provided nothing—no help or capital improvements—in return for the payments.” Sounds familiar, no? These agreements, if you will, mutated and shifted over time in the form of sharecropping leases in more agricultural regions to cities in which those with capital purchased homes to lease out to tenants. 

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Fast forward to today and landlords maintain their rapacious and predatory grip on our societies. As Rhik Samadder accurately writes in an op-ed for The Guardian, “Whether your landlord is a genial profiteer or an actual psychopath is the luck of the draw. Anyone can be one, if they have made enough money or inherited property, and those are two of the worst qualifications imaginable. Like anyone who thrives off the housing crisis, they are social parasites.”

Across the U.S., real-estate company owners and landlords benefit from decades of severe redlining and the steady growth of wealth inequality. Many specifically purchase properties in neighborhoods devastated by the ravages of capitalism and white supremacy because they stand to make a higher profit. 

In a piece for Big Think, Matt Davis describes this phenomenon in Milwaukee:

Landlords place higher rent on properties located in slums because they come with higher risk. The less valuable buildings are likely to be in worse condition, and landlords are concerned about nonpayment from the poor. But these concerns are exaggerated. The researchers did find that repairs were more common in properties located in slums and rent was more frequently missed, but the profits of landlords were still significantly higher. Specifically, landlords in Milwaukee made an average profit of $151 per month from a single unit in a poor neighborhood compared to $21 per unit in more affluent neighborhoods.

Part of this is because buildings with lower property values can easily be bought outright, which cuts out the cost of mortgage payments. Coupled with the fact that landlords frequently own multiple properties, being a slumlord can quickly become extremely lucrative:

Because landlords operating in poor communities cannot know with certainty whether a new tenant will cost them money, they may attempt to mitigate that risk by raising the rents of all their tenants, carrying the weight of social structure into price. Poor renters pay double — purchasing the good and the risk — but because losses remain infrequent in absolute terms, landlords typically realize the surplus “risk charge” as higher profits.”

This brings me to my next point: Landlords are parasitic scum and housing should be free, safe, and a human right.

As an anarchist, I am striving for a fully autonomous society, one in which no one is coerced into working. We don’t work because we want to—we work to earn the amounts of money our jobs are valued at by others who serve little purpose and we use that money to survive. The vast majority of the working-class are forced to enrich capitalists and the very bodies we use to earn wages need homes to rest in so that the following day we can produce more goods for capitalists to enrich themselves with. Because of this, I also believe that housing should be free and safe. Capitalism certainly hasn’t given us all safe and adequate housing. Some have access to it, but many don’t. Tenants are forced to line the pockets of parasites who serve no purpose. When we are coerced to work, when housing is essential, rent is theft. 

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In a piece published by the Rent Abolition Network, they state:

The landlords didn’t build those houses, some carpenters did. They didn’t wire the houses, some electricians did. They didn’t actually contribute to the houses’ construction at all. What they did was hand over some slips of paper (money) and said, “This is mine.” Then they left, never intending to live in those houses. All they do is use that concept of “mine” to take money from you, because you need a place to live, and don’t have enough slips of paper to call another building “yours”. So if the landlord is just taking money from you without contributing anything to society, just owns things, what does that make him? A parasite, no better than a tick or a mosquito. Likewise, what does that make rent? Rent is theft!”

If there is one thing I hope that people learn from the current pandemic it should be that capitalism and the illusion of the American Dream are nothing more than fragile yet deadly ideas that have resulted in destructive realities. Landlords have done nothing but act as vultures who benefit from these very systems of oppression and the policies which ensure their wealth. Do not pity the landlord, do not ever believe that your landlord cares about you. The only thing your landlord cares about—especially during times of national strife—is stealing your paycheck every month. 

Lara Witt (she/they) is an award-winning feminist writer who primarily writes about feminism, racism, pop-culture, mental health, and politics. Witt received her BA in Journalism from Temple University and interned for Philadelphia CityPaper’s arts and entertainment section and the Philadelphia Daily News covering local news, court stories, and crime. Following her graduation, she became increasingly committed to writing about gender, race, and queer identity by using Black and brown feminist theory to analyze current news and politics. Witt freelanced for national and local publications, which led to her working with Wear Your Voice Magazine eventually becoming their EIC and rebranding the site to focus primarily on using the analytical framework of Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality. Video Player is loading. Witt’s goal is to provide platforms for marginalized voices with a focus on having other Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) writers tell their own stories and explore their own narratives. Witt has spoken at local Philadelphia events, such as the March to End Rape Culture (2017) and curated a yearly series of events called The Electric Lady Series. These events highlight women of color in Philadelphia by exploring gender, rape culture, entrepreneurship, art, self-care, sex, and culture.

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