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OPINION

An eviction moratorium is the wrong approach

The Examiner

The pandemic has caused hardship to people far and wide.

Business owners, workers and parents are among those who have been adversely affected.

Ken Garten

Our government and charitable organizations have systems in place to soften the blow to many during these unprecedented times with food pantries, unemployment compensation, stimulus checks and forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans to businesses.

What a country we live in, as I like to say.

But there is one government policy with which I disagree. It has been promulgated on both the national and local level: the moratorium on evictions.

Local courts and the federal government policies that have been put in place have allowed non-paying tenants of rental housing to quit paying rent to landlords for months on end, without consequence.

And while I understand the desire and importance of ensuring that people have shelter in difficult times, to put in place policies that require landlords to simply accept that their tenants don’t have to pay, many for months on end, is not the fair or proper way to address the issue, in my opinion.

Landlords have rights too. They rely on the rental income from their investment in their properties to pay their bills, keep the mortgages paid on their properties, and feed their own families.

And when the government takes away their means to enforce their right to collect rent their tenants agreed to pay when they moved into the landlord’s premises, the practical effect is to reach into the pockets of residential property owners to finance their non-paying tenants.

I understand the need of government to take steps to assist the public during these difficult times, and housing is an important issue. But these particular policies are wrong-headed, in my opinion.

Such policies are akin to allowing hungry people to walk out of the grocery store without paying for a cart load of food and skip out on their restaurant tabs, without consequence.

And while government assistance to those in need is not bad policy per se during these unprecedented times, to effect such policies on the backs of landlords and property owners is not the way to go about it.

When it comes to feeding the hungry, we have food stamp and welfare programs, and food pantries that are supported by government and charitable organizations.

And when it comes to providing basic health-care services to the poor and needy, we have government-funded programs such as Medicaid and public health facilities that serve those who can’t pay.

But we would never think of compelling privately owned businesses, such as grocers and restaurants, to give their food products away without payment. It just does not, and should not, work that way.

But, when it comes to housing, the approach has been to say tenants can stay, but don’t have to pay, and landlords just have to give their product away.

If the government really wants to deal with housing during the pandemic in a fair way, it should take steps to provide housing support for those in need through government housing and rent-support programs, and not expect those whose livelihood is derived from owning and providing residential rental premises to shoulder the burden.

But that’s effectively what happens when the government addresses the issue by imposing a moratorium on the enforcement of tenants’ legal obligations to the property owners whose property they inhabit.

Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com.