The bills are due. The children need food. The plumber needs money for fixing the toilet in grandma’s old house, which students rented after she died last summer.
It is May 10, so maybe the rent check is finally in the mailbox. It needs to be there or things will get worse. It’s not there. May 15; still no check.
Phone call to tenants: “Hello, Bob, I have not received the rent payment yet. Did you send it? I can come to pick it up.”
Tenant Bob: “Oh, we aren’t paying rent. The Denver City Council says we don’t need to. You know, the coronavirus. We have a hardship waiver. Thanks, anyway.”
Landlord: “But, I need the rent. That property comes with expenses. We had to fix the plumbing and sprinkler system with the help of Perth Plumber. And that broken window. I owe for that. I pay the utilities.”
Tenant: “Sorry, but they tell us the rent’s not due.”
One of the tenants lives on federal student aid. Another has unemployment. The third gets a direct deposit from Uncle Sam, even after keeping his job at a pot store. None of it will go to the landlord, whose cigar shop was ordered closed as a noncritical business.
Members of the mostly far-left, socialist Denver City Council could not care less about the people who provide housing for renters in Colorado. Tenants outnumber landlords, so the math is easy. Send love to the many at a cost to the few. Tenants will always outvote landlords when elections roll around.
The council voted unanimously Monday to pressure Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado’s congressional delegation into liberating renters and mortgage payers throughout the country from lease and loan obligations. Anything goes, even free housing, in a state of pandemic.
Gov. Jared Polis is a kind-hearted, liberal Democrat who wants a soft landing for everyone suffering from this virus and its economic fallout. He has taken extraordinary measures to help people. He by no means wants anyone evicted from a home. Yet, this is where we will see a major distinction between “liberal” and leftist.
Polis plans to take a pass when he receives the council’s resolution. He understands that cutting off a landlord’s income is much the same as telling employers they no longer have to pay employees for doing their jobs. He understands some landlords are rich; others are poor. Most are kind; a few are callous. All have expenses associated with the properties they own and/or control.
More importantly, Polis respects the law. The government has zero authority to suspend rents and mortgages. Doing so amounts to suspending private property rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. There is no germ exception. It is the taking of one person’s property without due process or just compensation. Without property rights, we cannot have a fair, productive and benevolent economy.
“These are private contracts between individuals and institutions and suspending the sanctity of contract is not within the emergency powers of any governor or president,” said Conor Cahill, a spokesman for the governor’s office, in an email to Colorado Politics.
Governments can suspend evictions by declining to assist landlords and banks in ejecting delinquent renters and borrowers. Evictions can become a sheriff’s lowest priority until long after the virus runs its course. Fair enough. Forceful ejection is a crude and cruel instrument during a time of crisis, much like a resolution suspending housing payments.
Throughout this ordeal, landlords and lenders should do whatever possible to help tenants and borrowers remain in their properties. Stability favors both sides of a transaction, and good tenants and borrowers are worth holding on to. Each side of a housing transaction should work cooperatively through economic hardship, and that is the behavior we have witnessed as the norm throughout this contagion.
Our economy is the culmination of billions of independent transactions between buyers and sellers, borrowers and lenders, producers and consumers. For that reason, no single mistake or bad decision can bring down a market.
By contrast, ruling the housing sector with a single, centralized, authoritarian mandate is a recipe for disaster. If government can instantly undo commitments made to landlords and lenders, we can expect a long-term housing crisis unlike any we’ve seen before. Far fewer will risk capital on borrowers and tenants if authorities can suspend their payments each time a crisis arises. It becomes too risky to lend or lease.
Gov. Polis and the congressional delegation should ignore Denver’s resolution as irrational, far-left pandering that would only hurt people who need a competitive housing market. Do the kind thing by letting tenants, borrowers, landlords, and lenders work this out among themselves.
The Gazette Editorial Board
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