Predatory Landlords: A Blight on Real Estate


Predatory Landlords: A Blight on Real Estate

Man, these guys annoy us.

A 'Scumbag Steve' hat on a skinny purple Muppet.


We wrote a story about a tenant suffering at the hands of some con artists pretending to be landlords a few weeks back. Today, it’s time to talk about a different kind of criminal — one who gets away with their scam legally, albeit barely. We’re talking about the scum who give landlords everywhere a bad name by abusing literally everyone and everything involved in their transaction. The city, the tenants, the properties, and even the taxpayers are all hurt, and the only people who profit are the landlords themselves.



The Process

An evil SOB purchases some property on the cheap, and they do just enough repairs to attract a desperate tenant by giving them below market rent. Often this landlord does their best to avoid city inspections so they don’t have to make the repairs the city would require. They continually promise the tenant repairs they never do, threaten the tenant if they don’t pay the rent, and laugh all the way to the bank to deposit those rents.

When the property starts to have problems, they continue to ignore it. Instead, they spend their cash buying new properties and starting a second round of the same process: cheap properties, no real improvements, whatever tenant seems like they’ll be mostly-reliable for rent, ignore everything. Repeat. And repeat.

The End

Eventually, a property deteriorates so much the tenant leaves and the owner can’t find someone desperate enough to rent it at any price. Or, the city finally catches up with the owner, inspects the property and starts the condemnation process.

Often the owner stops paying the property taxes, while still legally collecting rent, and lets the property go to tax foreclosure. Or they might just walk away completely, abandoning the property.

The problem is that the property is so worthless (it wasn’t valuable to begin with and now it’s deteriorated for several years with no maintenance), that the city usually ends up spending money to have it demolished.

So, the owner, who negatively affected the surrounding property values while profiting from collected rents, sticks the taxpayer with the bill to fix the mess they caused.

The Damage

The tenant who paid rent gets a crappy place to live, that falls apart around them, only to end up being told they must find somewhere new to live.

The other homeowners in the neighborhood have their property values lowered or not keep pace with the market due to the eyesore a property like this is.

The city spends resources fining the owner, but rarely collects, and pays money to tear down what could have been a perfectly good house.

The taxpayers end up indirectly funding this whole game.

And the landlord walks away from dozens of properties, foisting his problems off on everyone else while harvesting enough cash to pay for his lifestyle and keep the scheme going every year.

What Can You Do?

So if you live under one of these scam-artist landlords, what can you do about it? Depends on where you live — in many states (Michigan included), there are laws which allow you to deduct the cost of relevant repairs from your rent, or escrow your rent until repairs are made. Proceed carefully, following the letter of the law in detail, to avoid a retaliatory eviction on your record. By cutting off his easy profit, you cut off the entire point of his scheme.

2 thoughts on “Predatory Landlords: A Blight on Real Estate

  1. I live at xxxx (address removed to protect poster) Stoepel. I’m going through the same thing with this property. Property investment co. has literally went off the mama M.I.A. Office has moved several times, water on illegally. On disability. No working furnace. No money saved. called the city house not registered as rental property. Two family flat. Can you help me?

    1. We can’t do anything without being contacted by the property owner. You may consider documenting your repair issues in a registered letter to the property manager and then escrowing your rent. You MUST escrow your rent or face eviction for nonpayment. You could also use your rent to make repairs, but you must document this properly to avoid eviction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Signup for regular real estate updates and tips for the Metro-Detroit area