A yearlong investigation by The Baltimore Sun found that the rent court system routinely works against tenants, while in many cases failing to hold landlords accountable for not meeting minimum housing standards.
Doug Donovan's article (“New videos aid tenants, landlords with court process,” Jan. 20) is typical of the grossly unwarranted negative view of landlords in Baltimore. First, he researched Maryland's court records on tenant/landlord cases, found Prince George's County and Baltimore County to be highest, but chose to focus and pick on Baltimore City landlords who provide housing for all those urban folks who cannot jump the hurdles to become homeowners.
Then he picks on the Baltimore City District Court judges who rule on escrow cases in the landlord's favor, as though being found innocent by a judge has to be somehow wrong. Then he turns on eviction cases where rent has not been paid. By the statistics he provides in his article, out of nearly 70,000 eviction cases, less than 7,500 end up in eviction. He chastises the judiciary for dispatching non-paying tenants quickly. His article ends with then praising the judiciary for providing more legal assistance in tenant/landlord cases.
Other random articles in The Sun piteously decry the lack of affordable housing. So, the reality is that owning rental property is a much needed business. Yet, the state and city annually add legislation for clauses, laws and requirements to protect tenants, bolstering the cost of administration with fees and penalties on rental property owners. This decreases the amount of revenue a landlord might have to reinvest in their property and increases rent.
Additionally, Baltimore’s housing inspectors are frequently not adequately familiar with housing stock. So, if the landlord presents his case that a "code violation" is not really what it seems and proves his case to the judge, that might be the reason so many escrow cases are found for the landlord. Perhaps the hiring procedure for housing inspectors needs to be examined.
Just as grocery stores are not held accountable for the hunger of the person who gets to the cashier and cannot pay for their groceries, or the clothing store held legally liable by the government to clothe those without a coat, being a landlord is not running a source of housing for those in need. Oftentimes, the tenant had the rent money at one point, but spent it. However, the number one priority for a family should be the roof over their heads. The reality is that all too often rent is not considered a top priority.
Additionally, resentment and frustration increases with the inability to pay rent, and tenants many times no longer care and/or damage the property involved, as though the looming eviction was the landlord's fault. So, just as someone is escorted with their belongings immediately from their office upon being fired, it is better if tenants are quickly dispatched from the property if it is deemed rent will not be forthcoming. They have had ample time at that juncture to satisfy the landlord and have not done so.
No landlord enjoys being dragged through court for an escrow charge, or having to evict a tenant, file all the paperwork, pay all the fees, lose a month's rent, repair damages, upgrade and get the unit reinspected for lead paint, advertise and find another tenant — hopefully, one who is able to pay the rent with regularity for a year. Owning rental property in Baltimore must not be viewed as a charity, but a valuable, revenue and tax-paying business, the condition upon which comps and real property taxes are based.