At the May monthly meeting of the Clark County Renters Association, it was our pleasure to be addressed by Superior Court Judge David Gregerson. Judge Gregerson was the Association’s attorney for many years and thus has a unique perspective regarding Landlord/Tenant Laws.
Due to his current position, he must be very careful not to interject his personal opinions in laws and current political activities. However, he did point out some interesting items in the news as it relates to the landlording business.
There have been hundreds of articles lately about the housing crises in the Portland/Vancouver metro areas. Most of us are aware of the many factors creating the problems and most of us know that proper solutions only come from getting the government out of the way and creating an incentive for the behavior you are seeking to encourage. Sounds like a dream state of some sort, right. It was Ronald Regan who said the the most feared 9 words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.
Judge Gregerson made an interesting correlation between the court system, prior foreclosure processes in recent years and the current housing crises. He noted that in the Superior Court about 90% of the attorneys are court appointed. They are paid by tax payers and I find it hard to believe that 90% of the defendants are indigent. He also stated that many tenants now want to defend themselves with the “reliable legal information” they have discovered on the Internet. You can imagine how that gums up the works.
During the heaviest of the foreclosures in our country, the federal government stepped in to prevent banks from executing the foreclosure clauses of the contract with mortgagees. They added many steps to protect the general public from unscrupulous predatory lending practices. However, the government did interfere and negate provisions in private contracts and the public stood idly by and let them do it “for the greater good”. Additionally, for the protection of the general public (tenants) they made an entire series of notices needed and gave tenants rights that violated provisions of lease agreements already in place (like allowing them to use the security deposit on file for the last month rent and giving them longer notice than called for in the contract between landlord and tenant). Seemed to give rights not established in the past and violate private contracts.
In the current housing crises, the idea that housing is becoming a right of citizenship is under question. If it transitions into an actual right; landlords will lose on all fronts. They will abolish the No Cause Notice. They already have reclassified in the mind of the general public that the notice of termination (of any kind, even if the agreed upon lease period is completed) is now an “eviction”. More notice and further actions will continue to be called for no matter what the private, agreed upon contract provisions of an Agreement call for . No wonder nobody cares what a contract says anymore, just sue to get what you really want and appeal to how they feel about it on that day; rather than what the legally binding language specifically states and was agreed to.
My point is really this; if housing becomes a right, will tenants have an inherent right to representation as well? And if so, will the majority of this legal representation come as court appointed and charged back to us taxpayers? How would that ever be the correct thing for our society?
Why wouldn’t it happen that way? Doesn’t the constitution actually limit the number of actual rights we have and don’t those rights come with responsibilities? Perhaps housing really is a privilege, the free market might work for the majority of cases and housing for the underprivileged might best be handled by the church? Most solutions fail to take into the consideration of human nature, such as moving toward incentives (pleasure) and moving away from unpleasantness (pain).