Proposed renter protection legislation by Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn would do the opposite of what she thinks it will do. Her proposal represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the industry.
Application fees: They really do cost landlords money, between $35 and $50 per person, to do a background check and a credit check. Of course, that is only the cost paid to the reporting agency, it doesn’t include any of the landlord’s time assessing the reports and the prospective tenant. Often, landlords charge prospective tenants for this as a defensive measure. When landlords pay the charges themselves, many will apply to multiple places, driving up costs for those landlords who pay it themselves. It is normal then for the landlord to pay for the checks, then approve applicants who then say they are not interested, wasting time and money. In addition, many applicants lie on their applications. They are less likely to lie if they themselves are paying for the verification that will contradict the information they provide.
Pet charges: Despite the fact that virtually every pet owner insists his/her pet is the perfect animal, never soiling the floor, never damaging anything, that just is not true. Not only do pets often damage things, damage that reaches into the thousands of dollars at times, but also they significantly increase “normal wear.” The soiled carpet may not need immediate replacement, but will have a shorter lifetime. The torn-up landscaping, even after repair, will never be the same. So, we charge pet rent to cover some of those costs. Although that additional rent is, in some cases, more than the wear, more often than not, the wear exceeds the pet rent charges. In almost every case, the unit will require more cleaning work when the former tenant had a pet.
Fees: Those fees are often not at all about making money or covering costs; they are about discouraging specific behaviors. We charge $1 per cigarette butt for picking them out of the gravel. We much prefer there be none to pick up. We have a separate fee for having a pet without a prior pet agreement. We would much rather deal with the animal up front, ensuring the safety and tranquility of the neighborhood from vicious or loud animals. How could we possibly prove those costs as Fiebelkorn demands?
Income and credit score: Nothing is fixed in stone, yet Fiebelkorn demands it be so. Sometimes, we will approve a lower credit score when there is a reasonable explanation and evidence that the prospective tenant has dealt with the issues. Sometimes, a parent will guarantee a payment, or even make the payment, even though the parent is not a tenant. This proposal will injure those she would want to help.
Fiebelkorn’s proposal does not do what she seems to think it will do. It will not help at all; it will make things worse. The real issue is Fiebelkorn just doesn’t know. She knows what tenants tell her, but she has failed to put in the work required to determine why landlords do what they do.
In conclusion, money goes where it is treated best. Fiebelkorn would chase more landlords away, decreasing the already short supply of rentals, driving up rents further.
Thom Wright manages nine rental properties in Albuquerque.