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by Ray Wiseman

A tale of two landlords

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the era of rent controls; it was the age of civil rights. It was the season of heat; it was the season of cold. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness.

Not two countries. Two landlords. You can easily find them in the same county, maybe even in the same community. Both claim to have the interests of the tenants in mind. Both will assure anyone interested they follow all the rules set out by the Landlord and Tenants Act. Ah, but there the similarity ends.

Landlord A has a new building. When tenants move in, they enter units unsullied by human habitation. This landlord prides himself that he has contributed to the greening of the planet. Every unit faces south so that it soaks up the sun. He has installed the latest energy-saving features, banning equipment that uses excess power, including window air-conditioners and overhead fans. He has demonstrated his concern for his tenants health by banning smoking in the building. That ban includes hallways, every unit, even the balconies. Children, the elderly and infirm can live in a smoke-free environment.

The Building Code requires the utmost safety regarding apartment windows, so none of them will open more than four inches. Because all windows face south, no unit can experience even a minimal cross draft.

Do the tenants of this building appreciate living within this model of architectural perfection? Tenant “Jo” says, “We never see the sun from morning ’til night because we pull all the blinds to try keep out the heat. During this summer hot spell, the bedrooms never drop below 30 degrees Celsius. We moved here because it has an elevator and my husband can no longer handle stairs. But the heat will kill him more quickly than climbing stairs. If we had known what we know now, we would not have moved in. We plan to get out as soon as we can find something else. And as for smoking, when we complained about violators, they sent out a letter.”

Landlord B has an old building, which he has chosen to renovate. The air hammers and compressors nearly drive the tenants crazy. While workmen rebuild ancient balconies, boarded up windows and doors block access to balconies and reduce light into the units. Huge machines squat around the building and crowd the parking lot. Inside the landlord has begun repainting and repairing, and has even declared the building smoke free. All incoming tenants must commit, not only to not smoke anywhere in the building or on balconies, but to stop visitors from doing the same.

Surely tenants must hate living in what emulates a war zone. Tenant “Stan” says, “Wow, this is wonderful. We will soon have a safer, better-looking building and our fellow tenants with allergies or emphysema will have freedom from tobacco pollution.” 

I haven’t explained one big difference between the landlords. Landlord A, whose actions do not demonstrate real concern for the tenants, is a branch of government.

Landlord B, who put tenants’ comfort, safety and wishes up front is a numbered company designed for investment purposes. Surely, he can say, with the Dickens character, “It is a far better thing that I do.”

Vol 43 Issue 30


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