“How many of you want to go to jail because you did the wrong thing with an investment? None of you? Then we’re on the right track!” So started Think Realty’s legislative panel, “Navigating the Legal Landscape,” moderated by Brian Wojcik, founder of Landlord411 and NAIL411.org, landlord-advocacy groups based in Baltimore, Maryland and influential throughout the country. Panelists Kathy Howard, general counsel at Regional Management Inc., and Revée Walters, an attorney with Offit Kurman’s Commercial Litigation and Landlord Representation practice groups in Bethesda, Maryland, discussed issues that affect landlords seeking to provide affordable housing in the region.
A Perfect Storm for Landlords
Wojcik has previously described the situation as a “perfect storm” of which many landlords are completely unaware because they believe that they are not operating big enough businesses to attract attention from regulators and legislators. In reality, however, in many municipal areas well-intentioned regulation and legislation can go far awry, said Wojcik, often actually decreasing the amount of affordable housing available in an area as unrealistic “protections” for tenants drive landlords out of business.
“As landlords, we provide housing that is badly needed and in short supply,” said Wojcik. “Landlords should not be blamed for the disparity between income and market rent, nor should they be labeled as individuals who are taking advantage of the poor.” He went on to say that landlords have a responsibility to self-police in order to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes about this investing sector as well as promoting responsible landlord practices.
Understanding the Issues
The group went on to discuss a number of recent legislative actions dealing with how landlords can enter and exit their rental properties, how they must deal with evictions and associated costs, including the cost of utilities, and how to define rent. This last, all concurred, is vitally important because the legal definition of rent in a given area defines what parts of any legislation revolving around rental properties, landlords, and tenants will affect a given investor. For example, in some extreme cases, an Airbnb property owner might actually find themselves in “rent court” if they handle certain aspects of their business improperly. More often, however, landlords find that simply handling basic tenant-landlord relationships inappropriately can result in serious headaches and legal action.
Wojcik concluded by describing a vision for NAIL411.org that includes the association becoming “a collective voice to advocate and advance interests for private, individual, and small-portfolio rental housing providers.” He, Howard, and Walters emphasized that landlords must work in partnership with the government “to demystify and simplify – or even eliminate – the variations in tenant-landlord law across jurisdictions at the state, county, and incorporated city level.”
You can make your voice heard by visiting nail411.org to join the Landlord411 meetup and fill out a survey on your own experiences and needs as a landlord.