Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Question 1 works against renters too

In MA, we're voting three questions:

State Personal Income Tax
Decriminalization of Marijuana
Banning Greyhound Dog Racing

Not surprising, I have strong opinions on all three. Who would of thunk it? Obviously, as the parent of teenagers, I'm all for the decriminalization of small amounts of pot, 1 ounce or less. Offenders under 18 would have to fork over their pot, pay a $100 penalty, and attend a drug awareness program. Offenders over 18 would not be subject to the drug awareness program. Currently, pot is treated as a felony and if a minor is arrested for possession and convicted s/he would be unable to get any college loans according to the incredibly stupid and invasive Patriot Act. Yes, it's true. Students would also be denied public housing, public financial assistance including unemployment insurance, the right to operate a motor vehicle and the opportunity to serve as a foster or adoptive parent. Tell me how stupid THAT is.

I'm also for the banning of dog racing, a cruel sport that currently confines dogs for 20 hours or more in crates. In addition, more than 800 MA racing greyhounds have been injured since 2002, including hip injuries, broken legs, paralysis and even death from cardiac arrest. Greyhounds in the state have also died from drug abuse and have tested positive for cocaine.

The first question would reduce the state personal income tax rate to 2.6% for all categories of taxable income for the year 2009 and would eliminate in total income tax beginning in 2010. In this economy to take away personal income tax would simply move the tax base to property tax in order to pay for the services provided by the state. In the past week the state has already been subjected to severe and deep cuts across the state budget. We have had continual cuts for the past 9 years, starting with Mitt Romney (may he rot in hell) and now forced to continue by Deval Patrick due to this delightful economy. Our state is hurting, we have no money for simple items like street repair, state aid to city and towns, and would reduce funding for vital local services like police, fire, and school department employees.

So you're wondering, if the personal income tax was removed and the property taxes were raised, how would that affect renters? They don't own property so they would appear to be exempt from any tax raise.

But you would be wrong. Because in MA, it is not only legal, but customary for landlords to pass on any tax increases to their tenants. Yet another example of the rich getting richer while the poor, the people unable to afford their own homes, pay the piper. In MA, rents are very high as it is. Most of the apartments in this state are in 2 and 3 family homes, and are not subject to any tenant rules regarding rental increases. Most of the multi-family homes have been owned for years and years by the same families, where the owner lives in the upstairs unit, and rent out the first floor apartments. With the way rents have increases, tenants not only pay the entire mortgage and living costs for the landlords, they also pay the taxes. Tenants pay upwards of $20,000 a year to live in a 1200 sq ft apartment while landlords live above them for free. Landlords in 2 and 3 family homes don't have to keep up their properties, and are ensured of them always having tenants because we have such a low occupancy availability with all those students in the city.

So renters bear the brunt of this removal of state personal income tax, and this is why I am completely opposed to Question 1 and will vote No.

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Blogger Jo said...

Okay, I keep quiet most of the time about the political questions but let me just ask...

Is it okay for my husband and I, childless t pay property tax of over $6K a year to live here and then of course we both pay income tax and because I have myself registered as a business i pay extra tax on anything i draw for my sell out of the account AND i have to pay the state tax annually just to keep myself registered as Amuse Bouche inc, even though i have no employees, AND they want to raise my property tax again for the school system, which obviously as a childless couple we don't utilize. Husband basically works 7:30 - 7:30 and I have been lately putting in ' all the hours that god sends' as husband says' You know I understand you being angry, but the relentless chipping away on the little income I do make gets tiring....ya know?

24/10/08 6:54 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Many greyhounds don't make the track, either, and are euthanized because they don't run fast enough. Our local track didn't stay open long; folks here don't take to animal cruelty.

24/10/08 8:30 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Jo, you and your husband get all the services that your taxes pay for. You get police and fire departments, you get state and city agencies, you get street plowing and garbage removal, road repair (as bad as it is) and infrastructure repair. There are many services that I don't use, there are plenty of services that lots of people don't use that I do. You pay for ALL of the services, some of which you can barely stomach like the RMV or the turnpike authority. It's just how a federalist system works. I don't like having to pay for the services I don't use or want (hello Iraq war) but we don't get to pick and choose where our taxes go.

There are plenty of people who bitch and moan about disability SS, mistakenly thinking it's welfare. There are people who think food stamps are evil. There are people that believe that any safety net or social services are wrong. There are people who are against any socialized medicine. And there are people that are against military interventions in foreign countries.

None of us gets to pick and choose what and where our taxes go, but what we should note is how LOW our taxes are as compared to other democratic first world countries.

24/10/08 11:00 PM  
Blogger Nyt said...

First of all, I'm as far from you politically as I am geographically, but I stop by daily just because I find it entertaining. And I agree with you, greyhound racing should be halted, and I think the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana is fine, but the landlord/renter thing?? Miles apart.
Our family business is rental property. Most of it is low-income. While the states are different, I'm pretty confident that the mechanics are the same. Some things for you to consider...
-Sec8 housing requires an inspection before occupancy and the property can be inspected any time during occupancy. Don't pass inspection? Don't get paid.
-The estimated cost to evict a tenant? Around $2000.00. The average time to get it done? Around 9 months.
-Here we do not raise rents arbitrarily, rents are generally adjusted when new leases are signed.
-I used to include gas/heat as part of the rent, until I received an $800.00 single month bill on a 1100 sf unit. The rent at that time was $750.
-Water was included at one time as well. Then there was the 50K monthly bill for 94 units. And no, there was no infrastructure problem (like a broken main)it was actual usage. (BTW, it cost thousands to find out that none of the mains or lines were involved)

I guess my point is that rental property is a business like any other. And if you have multiple units, you are taxed as a business, and then you are taxed personally. And just like any other business, that cost, and others will eventually be passed on the the consumer/renter.

Most landlords I know, are actually just trying to break even in the first 10 years of owning their investment property. Those of us who have the benefit of a long-time family business are really just trying to keep our income somewhat stable. But all of us are in business to earn money. It's that simple.

Now, before you go on about how we don't accommodate those in need, let me tell you that we have forgiven rent over the years, taken payment in trade, and held collateral while people got themselves together. Currently, out of 200 units in the group, we have at least 65 that are in some type of arrears, with at least 40 of those on some type of "alternative" plans. There are another 20 or so units whose rents are basically frozen (our choice) because their fixed income hasn't allowed for increase. So we do try. But we can't defer our payments to anyone just because we've tried to help.

25/10/08 7:03 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

I agree that these services are available to all, and I also don't think SS and food stamps are evil, in fact, I was once on food stamps myself in the 80's, so I can absolutely understand the need for their support and continuation.
I also love the idea of countries like Sweden where everyone is taken care of, but what I would rather see is things run on a national level rather than state by state.
I also understand your anger at 'the landlord' because it changes your situation, but it doesn't mean all landlords are out to get rich. It is a business, and in order to survive a business must at least break even or make money or it can no longer be a business. If the tax rates raise and the landlord has to pay more money out of pocket, why would he? Why would he take a hit out of his wallet? Eventually too many hits and the landlord would decide to sell the property if he can't make his money back or break even. I know it doesn't make it any easier for you, but what would you have the landlord do, keep the house, never raise the rates, keep absorbing the costs and eventually lose money?
I'm not trying to make you angry, just understand what you really think the landlord should do.
A business is a business.

25/10/08 7:59 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

I certainly understand that being a landlord is a business. I was a landlord myself years ago. But the difference between how I cared for my tenants and how most landlords in 2 and 3 family houses, who are NOT subject to the tenant laws of non-owner occupied housing in this state, take care of their tenants is night and day. For example, most landlords of small properties here live in another dwelling and rent out their units at tip top dollar. They DO NOT take care of their units unless they are forced to by the health dept and housing inspectors. That means they have bedbugs, rats, mice, carpenter ants, and termite issues and WILL NOT deal with them. Never mind outdated electrical and plumbing problems, 'of the period' appliances, etc. No updating unless forced. Apartments aren't clean, they aren't up to code, they have leaking roofs and bad chimneys and the landlords do NOTHING but collect their checks. It isn't just my experience, it's EVERY renter in this state. If a landlord owns a 3-family house, charges $2K/unit/month, he's making $6K/month. NO WAY his expenses are that, especially since he probably bought that home in 1950-60 for under $100K.

So yes, I DO expect landlords to keep up their property. It's an even exchange. You wouldn't buy filthy used clothing from the Gap, you expect market rate decent clothing. Tenants expect the same thing but they aren't given that opportunity in small housing unity.

I'm NOT talking about Section 8, or subsidized housing (although if I were, it's not inspected here in MA like nyt claims because our housing dept is as crooked as it can get), I'm talking about market rate apartments making landlords rich on the backs of tenants that aren't getting the quality that they pay for.

25/10/08 12:34 PM  
Blogger Nyt said...

Just a couple of things and then I'll go away....

We have several units that were built in the 1920's. While they are considered "up to code" in plumbing and electrical, there is no way that they will support the plethora of appliances that most tenants expect to run. They will also have a tough time supporting today's plumbing needs. I know it sounds ridiculous, but we use our plumbing a heck of a lot more now than we did in the 20's when these places were designed. Buildings settle and age, and if I sent someone out for every crack and jiggle, I'd be bankrupt in a year. Most major work is done on a five year schedule, and if 2 "majors" happen in a year, it means the we don't make dime one on that unit.

As to the whole "vermin" thing? This one makes me crazy. Over the years it's happened. Once a unit is rented the landlord no longer has access without the tenant's presence or permission. I've entered units where a tenant has had a complaint only to find my feet stuck to the floor because of filth. I've answered complaints where garbage was piled next to the back door and stoves were coated with grease. All it takes is one unit in that condition for a multi-family dwelling to become infested. The wisest thing my exterminator ever told me was that vermin will only go where they can get a meal.
One of my favorite stories is the vermin complaint I answered at a multi-family unit. After addressing the problem, I noticed on my way out that there was garbage bags sitting outside the cans. I opened the cans and discovered that they were all full. So I was pro-active and responsible. I ordered a larger dumpster (at my cost) for the unit and had it dropped the following morning. Within hours of the drop I fielded calls from every tenant in the building. You see my larger dumpster ate up a parking space, and weren't they "entitled" to so many spaces? When I explained that the overflowing garbage was drawing vermin, each and every one of them told me that it must be the other guy and that they shouldn't be penalized for the "other" guy.... The larger dumpster stayed...

25/10/08 3:26 PM  

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