Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Agitated aggregate of angry Ann Arbor landlords loudly lament lease legislation

23. November 2005 • David Boyle
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     In “Lease-signing proposal attacked: Landlords oppose mayor’s ordinance to push back lease signing to December”, today’s Daily unloads on MSA members and associates (read linked article for snarkily-delivered details), but at least the article does show the near-hysteria of landlords, a mess of them talking about their putative violation of personal liberty under the proposed ordinance (re setting later deadlines for signing leases), as if they were so many Thomas Jeffersons of the real-estate world, in battle with the tyrannical couch-lounging students and their neo-Bolshevik minions infesting our City Council. Well.
     I also heard chatter that the landlords at the meeting were denigratory to students. (Surprise!) —I don’t know how this’ll all end up, but is Daily snarkery towards the student side necessarily going to help students’ welfare? The D could have chosen to be a little acerbic to the landlords, too.
     (Though the Daily is right to say that there should be maximum student participation and attendance at these meetings, of course, as opposed to student apathy.)

  1. [snort] After the past two years, you’d think most landlords would be thrilled about ‘greater perceived demand’ for their properties, considering the drastically higher vacancy rate at the beginning of the fall term.

    I reiterate that this kind of effort would overall be a positive thing for both tenants and landlords but there’s virtually no way to enforce it, as some of the landlord reps emphasized by talking about how their application routines would evade the intent of the law. And if most of the landlords are going to stand on the ‘personal freedoms’ crap, there’s no way the city will pass it for fear of being sued and having to spend money on a lawsuit that would likely put them across the aisle from organizations like the ACLU.
       —Marc. R.    Nov. 23 '05 - 05:10AM    #
  2. that’s one of the most impressive alliterations i’ve seen in a while.
       —maximalist    Nov. 23 '05 - 04:23PM    #
  3. Well, I was at this meeting and I thought the Daily actually was pretty easy on the MSA reps. I was embarrassed for them, even if they weren’t embarrassed. There was Jesse Levine who breezed in late, said he had to leave early because he “had a 15-page paper due later,” and left about 15 minutes after the meeting started (he was one of the speakers). Did he think the rest of us were there just because we had nothing better to do? Then there was Forster who stayed a bit longer, but ended up leaving the room twice to take two separate phone calls (the Mayor had a call too, but he sent his to voice mail and did not leave the room). Forster then made a pretty grand rude exit as he got up in the middle of a reply to his questions by Councilperson Woods, leaned over with his back to Woods to get all his stuff, said goodbye to Van Hyfte and walked out—seemingly oblivious to the fact that Woods was actually talking to him. Woods sputtered a bit, raised her eyebrows and then finished her thought to Van Hyfte. I won’t even get into the behavior of the Daily “reporter” and photographer.

    As for the “near-hysteria of landlords,” I would hardly categorize the discussion in this manner. The early applications issue was brought up because in speaking with people in Madison, that was something that had happened there.

    This was a regular meeting of the Campus Neighborhood Improvement Task Force group. The group meets monthly and has for some time. They talk about a lot of issues, many of them where the landlords are actually strong advocates for the renters. There are about 100 people on the mailing list, although only a dozen or so ever show up. If you are truly interested in participating, they are looking for people.

    This lease-signing is a big issue for both students and landlords and both sides brought up good points and egregious points. I wouldn’t base your knowledge of the issue or the discussion Monday just on a Daily article.
       —Juliew    Nov. 23 '05 - 05:01PM    #
  4. I apologize for having to leave early, but I had a class at 530 that I could not miss, and while I also did leave to take a few phone calls I actually had to answer them because I had to coordinate with other members of my class. I take my role as a member of the MSA/City Council Commission seriously and think any attack on the students who were there is unfair. I think we represented the students well, Laura in particular, especially in the atmosphere of that room (Laura remarked that she felt like “David vs. Goliath”). Again, I apologize for my behavior, but hopefully next time it will not be 3 against 20.
       —Forster    Nov. 23 '05 - 05:30PM    #
  5. Thanx Marc. R.! Yeah, those landlords flapped the “freedom” thing like Lee Greenwood doing “God Bless the USA” etc.

    Thanx maximalist! Astounding alliteration is archly appropriate for an Ann Arbor Update blog.

    Thanx Juliew! Interesting details. ...The Daily REPORTER (& photog) misbehaved? Wow!

    Thanx Forster! No doubt there will be more people at meeting next time! “Go get Goliath!”
       —David Boyle    Nov. 23 '05 - 06:33PM    #
  6. Jim Kosteva, UofM community relations guy, seems to update the Campus Neighbors list. Sending him an email, like I just did, at jkostevaATumichDOTedu looks like the best way to get on the list.
       —Dale    Nov. 23 '05 - 06:40PM    #
  7. “denigratory”

    And here I was ready to snark on this as being a made-up word:

    I’ll keep that in mind for Scrabble.
       —John Q    Nov. 23 '05 - 06:50PM    #
  8. Well, if someone already had spelled TORY, then it might help. (Or GRAT, or RATO. Yes, I looked these up.)
       —ann arbor is overrated    Nov. 23 '05 - 06:58PM    #
  9. I agree that the three students made very good comments, as did many of the other participants. I did feel a bit sorry for Laura, but she handled herself very well. It was the behaviors that bothered me, not what anyone said. Everyone understands having other commitments—the mayor and Councilmember Woods both had to leave early too, but there are better and worse ways of doing that.

    It is important to note that of the 20 or so people at this meeting, three were students, one was from Ann Arbor Waste Management, three were from neighborhood associations, one housing inspector, one police liaison, one from UM Off-Campus Housing, a fraternity representative, one Councilperson, one Mayor, and the University Director of Community Relations. So the majority were not landlords. The purpose was to have a discussion and to hear different points of view from multiple stakeholders. I think that was accomplished, even with the somewhat overblown rhetoric from the landlords (particularly the representative from the Washtenaw County Apartment Association) and the students.
       —Juliew    Nov. 23 '05 - 07:19PM    #
  10. To echo Juliew’s thoughts, I think that from reading the Daily article the tendency is to focus on the somewhat acrimonius mood of the meeting. But overall, i think the fact that all sides were represented and there was an open dialogue will only serve to improve communication and lead to a more thoughtful oridance in the end. I’ve been going to a quite a few Campus Neighbors meetings, and this one had the largest number of students, and the most fruitful discussons.
       —Forster    Nov. 23 '05 - 08:28PM    #
  11. Just the same, Mike, this is a political issue and politics are frequently informed by impressions. If you did, in fact, give the impression that the meeting was very low on your list of priorities and walked out while someone was answering one of your questions, that’s something that’s going to sit with them. Most professionals in this town already take a very dim view of the level of awareness or even interest of students about the community as a whole. They typically assume that students will bitch about whatever issues directly impact them for the short time that they’re here and not consider what it means long-term. Giving the meeting short shrift will only serve to reinforce that.

    By the same token, as I have tried to convey to the landlords I know (and work for), falling back on pettiness like ‘personal freedoms’ does no more than reassure those students who already feel like landlords are taking advantage of them that they’re right and that nothing can be gained.

    It’s simply a matter of giving people the perception that you are doing WITH, rather than doing TO. If the meetings go as well as you say and the Daily is simply living up to its usual low standards, so much the better. But I think a little diplomacy and acknowledgement of the other side’s viewpoint and using the mayor’s initiative as a launching point, not an end in itself, is the best approach here.
       —Marc R.    Nov. 23 '05 - 09:23PM    #
  12. AAiO, sorry, but TORY is a proper noun.
       —FAA    Nov. 23 '05 - 10:10PM    #
  13. Yes, I do regret that I gave that impression. I could have made an announcement that I was leaving, but I didn’t want to be a distraction. But just for the record, I the class I was going to is my tutoring class, in which I’m trying to teach a 7 year old Mexican immigrant how to read. I thought that was a little more important than listening to another half hour about how the landlords know what’s best for students. I think this a microcosm of the problems of Ann Arbor. I leave a meeting early because of a previous engagement and it is misconstrued that I don’t care about the issues, or that I’m disrespecting someone. I think both sides need to do a better job of understanding each other.
       —Mike Forster    Nov. 23 '05 - 10:50PM    #
  14. It’s in the Scrabble dictionary, though. Of course, since they approved QI and ZA, I have trouble citing them as an authority.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Nov. 24 '05 - 03:25AM    #
  15. What struck me from the Daily article was the statement, “Ehn said landlords would not let legislation prevent them from doing their job. ‘Landlords will respond in whatever way they need to in order to lease their property,’ she said.”

    Ok, so in order to rent properties, they’ll break the law? They already do, with the whole paying full month’s rent for the last month of a lease for less than a full month’s occupancy, etc.

    What good will legislation be if landlords just continue to break laws they don’t like?
       —Jared Goldberg    Nov. 24 '05 - 09:21PM    #
  16. Jared wrote:

    “They already do, with the whole paying full month’s rent for the last month of a lease for less than a full month’s occupancy, etc”

    Read your lease or any lease you’re about to sign in which the prospective landlord states their intent to do so. What you’ll likely find is that the lease is not chronologically based, but is instead an ‘installment’ lease, wherein the full value of the rental for the stated period of time is presented (e.g. $9600 for 9/1/06 to 8/18/07) and the total is then declared to be broken up into 12 separate installments of $800 due on the first of every month (or thereabouts.) In other words, it’s just like leasing a car. Most landlords do it not for the sake of screwing people out of two weeks of residency, but because it makes bookkeeping easier and it allows them time to clean, repair, and paint the units for the next occupants. This is the same reason you end up moving in to your new place on 9/1, before the term starts, rather than on 9/14, two weeks into it.

    And most landlords that I know of would gladly support this law if they knew that all the other landlords would not attempt to evade it in order to gain advantage on one another. Here the problem is not landlord vs. tenant; it’s landlord vs. landlord. If we can find a way to not only enforce this ordinance but also get landlords to cooperate with it (and each other) in said enforcement, we’re golden. Until then, it’s a nice idea.
       —Marc R.    Nov. 25 '05 - 12:02AM    #