1. Person needs shelter to survive (let’s run with this premise, shall we? I know there are some who would believe this is not really necessary for everyone, and that the “free market” will fix everything and create tons of housing, but let’s start somewhere.)
1b. Thus, let’s also say for now that housing is a human right (although it’s not recognized by the US constitution, the UN seems to think housing is pretty fundamental and most people would agree it’s far better than the alternative, of being out in the street with no plumbing or heating or electricity).
2. Person does not want to be restricted or penalized financially for entering into a housing agreement, but is presented with a lease as a condition of securing housing, which, from 1., we have learned is necessary to survive (and from 1b., is a profoundly important human right).
3. Person cannot get any housing without signing a lease which ultimately does not protect the renter, but does protect the landlord.
4. Since person cannot get any housing without signing said lease, and since housing is a human right, we can therefore understand now that there is some element of coercion involved here. In other words, signing a lease is not mandatory per se, but see how far you get when you refuse to sign one. Like scabs in a strike situation, people willing to sign leases can always be found. There’s always someone who will cross the picket line in a selfish concern for themself, not seeing how they make things worse for their fellow.
5. Person signs lease, and moves in. Person grows increasingly frustrated with apartment because several things about the apartment were misrepresented. Person grows frustrated with landlord’s complete 180-degree change in behavior from nice and maybe even welcoming to “too busy” and unwilling to change problems they are aware of.
6. Person wants to move, but is aware they have signed a lease and fear repercussions. I hark back to 4., where they were required to sign the lease in order to get shelter in the first place. Note: I don’t want emails saying “the person could have went somewhere else.” Can we get real? That’s terrible logic, like blaming a person who died because they “went to the wrong hospital.” There’s a shortage of housing, especially affordable housing, and everyone has to move within a certain time–people don’t have years to look for an apartment; the time frame for the search is finite. When people need to not be homeless by a certain date, or when people really hate their living situation, or when people can’t afford just any apartment, there isn’t a “free marketplace” of choices. Yet another proof that true democracy is not possible under capitalism, which is inherently an economic system designed to stratify people–i.e., create separations and segregations between people.
7. What should our Person do? Will their credit be ruined? If they get a new place, will their ability to find a new place in the future be impacted? Does this system seem fair and lgical, if you step out of the system and try to see it objectively?
We know the landlord will likely immediately re-rent said apartment, but can choose to also deceive renter who left before the end of their lease, saying, “You cost me [x] months; I still haven’t rented the place out yet.” According to the “lease,” they could get money out of our person until the end of the lease, and hide the fact that they may have re-rented it a month later. As people in my family would say (sarcastically), my heart bleeds for you, o landlord.
We can thus conclude that leases promote a kind of bondage, keeping renters in miserable apartments until the end of their sentences, because they are afraid of unevenly enforced and costly draconian provisions. So we have many renters stuck in places where they may be miserable–because I have yet to meet a landlord who has ever told the truth about a) noise in the apt. and surropunding area; b) building maintenance and repairs procedure; c) getting deposits back (the subject of a future post: why “security deposits are ridiculous, unfair, illogical, bad business practice, and discriminatory); and other matters. Finally, for those units with “cleaning fees”–when is anyone going to blow the lid off this? It does NOT cost $150 to clean a small carpet. NOR does a “credit check” cost $30+. Finally, since housing is a human right, references and “rental histories” should not be REQUIRED to procure housing. They should be provided VOLUNTARILY and remain optional (a plus if a particular apartment/ area is sought after). They should not be used as another tool of discrimination (gee, who has more “references”/ social connections/ longer rental histories–> people in the middle class and up, that’s who!). People know what I am saying is the truth; they agree with me; but nothing changes. They don’t want to rock the system; they fear retribution. This is not idealism–I know landlords have to (supposedly) recover their “investment.” They only make from every person in a typical building a hundred percent or more in profit–with property taxes being paid by renters in the form of rent. Light bulbs for hallways and common areas are particularly expensive, and hiring one maintenance guy who comes by twice a week (or a grand total of eight days a month) is really taking its toll as well. I wish I could get away with paying eight days worth of rent per month.
Break your lease now! Refuse to be harassed and intimidated! Refuse to sign leases (or only seek out month-to-month leases)! Read your lease if you must have one! Real Renter’s protection laws now! Affordable Rental Housing Now! Not all new apartment construction has to be condos and co-ops for the wealthy! Protect your right to mobility and Protect your freedom of locational determination–the ability to move when you want, not when your landlord tells you it’s okay! Landlords have enough protections–and enough money! It’s not like they’ll ever stop making money–maybe we could protect the other 90% of the population for a change? When will people become discontented enough to open their mouths and insist on their rights?
I am on a lease now and I hate it–but I have to build up a damn “rental history.” Stay tuned.