Every time rent day looms, there will be a group of people struggling to make rent, likely:
- dealing with anxiety and stress related to their situation
- facing impossible decisions about how to cover their basic needs
- facing the reality of becoming homeless
In times of crisis; natural disasters, wars, economic downturn, and pandemics - such as the COVID-19 crisis - unemployment, precarious employment, and welfare reliance spikes, placing strain on the renting market. Let's be clear, this strain is unnecessary and is an outright failure of the capitalist system.
In British Columbia, Canada, evictions have been temporarily suspended amid the COVID pandemic. Landlords are literally banned from evicting tenants - although they have been trying... In a disgusting show of heartlessness and vindictiveness, a group of Vancouver landlords strategized ways around the new rules and evict tenants. Gross.
Eviction bans are a much-needed move, one that other countries would be cruel not to adopt, but without long term support in place for renters, eventually, people will be evicted as a consequence of their lack of ability to pay rent during a crisis (and this inability may also inhibit their ability to secure future rentals.) Evictions leave landlords open to increase rent on a property, which prices some people out of specific areas, usually areas that have undergone gentrification, and areas in and a city.
It's a very real situation, that many people before, during, and after enduring this crisis aren't afforded the right to safe and secure housing. THIS IS A FAILURE OF THE SYSTEM. The commodification of housing and shelter is a colonial, capitalist practice that enriches the rich by further marginalizing the marginalized. Systematic oppression of this kind enables property owners to buy more property, pushing everyone else further from the ability to own land and housing. It is this ownership of property and lack of affordable housing that drives the cost of shelter up. It is essentially malpractice against human rights and dignity.
With all this in mind, it's time to get myth-busting and take apart the illusions surrounding landlords and property ownership.
1. Landlords can enter the property you rent at any time.
LIKE HELL THEY CAN! This is part of the bigger myth that landlords can do what they what with the property they own. But, if you live in a rented property, you have the right to live there peacefully and without harassment, including from the owner. Landlords have to ask permission to enter the residence, and that permission has to be within reasonable notice. In some countries, a text isn't even a valid form of notification!
2. If you owe rent, landlords can:
- Remove your belongings from the property
- Take possession of your belongings
- Cut off utility services
- Change the locks
No. No. No. And no. Again, landlords can't just do what they want. In many countries these things are illegal, and if any a landlord does any of these or threatens to do any of these, you have the right to seek legal guidance. It's downright criminal for landlords to steal or move possessions, and create unsafe situations. And if for any reason these actions are permitted in a country, take it as evidence that particular government does not sufficiently care for all people in its society.
3. Landlords are just trying to get by.
Firstly, anyone who owns more than one property (or even one property) is not "just trying to get by", they live a very comfortable life that many will never be afforded. In fact, they are part of the world's richest 1%. Secondly, owning multiple proprieties grows their wealth at others expense, whilst also making housing inaccessible for marginalized people. Whether an individual, family unit, or corporation with a huge portfolio, we have to acknowledge that all landlords have a set amount of privilege and resources that enabled them to buy and rent out property. Owning assets, such as housing, provides far more options for stability and security, which become a dividing factor between 'haves' and 'have nots' in a crisis.
4. Being a landlord is a job...
Being a landlord is part of a system of oppression. I guess some could (and will) argue it is a job, but would you want to argue that your job is to oppress people?
5. Landlords provide a service.
If we look at the two definitions of service (noun) they are:
- the action of helping or doing work for someone
- a system supplying a public need
Landlords don't service people, they service themselves as part of an oppressive system. There is a public need for affordable housing, and 99.9% (I'm guessing, but I'd be willing to bet it's accurate) of rented property is not truly affordable. The only service we need from landlords it for them to stop buying property they don't need.
6. If it's in the lease it's legally binding.
If you couldn't tell already landlords can be gross. The truth is, not everything in a contract is legal. If there's something in a rental agreement that contradicts the law on any level, it's not enforceable, even if you signed the lease.
7. Landlords worked hard to own property, so of course, they should earn money from it.
People deserve basic human rights, and due to unrealistic rent prices and lack of housing those basic needs of housing, and shelter aren't being met. Anything on top of those rights is a privilege. I know I sound like a broken record here, but landlords are part of systemic oppression. Most people with a job work hard, but not everyone with a job is afforded the privilege of being able to buy property.
8. Buying property is risk-free.
Bahahahha. We gotta laugh at this one. Property is an investment, and just like any other investment, there is risk and reward. The property market has been paying out rewards to those with privilege, but right now many owners are experiencing the risk factor taking hold. They can see their profits dwindling and they're panicking. Any loss is NOT the fault of the tenant and it is NOT up to the government to provide a bail-out.
9. There is no alternative to having landlords.
If landlords or some other capitalist system didn't exist, we would have a host of properties that could be managed by non-profit or government agencies. These organizations could then manage the affordability of rent and potentially put any profits towards building more housing (in a sustainable way). And there would also be more housing on the market for people to buy, again at more affordable prices.
Before anyone comes at me, yes, I do rent. I am EXTREMELY fortunate to be working and have a partner who is also working, especially through the COVID crisis. I want to point out that just because I pay into this system, doesn't mean I agree with it. I can see better alternatives that protect the majority of people in society, rather than just the lucky few.