Many states have strange landlord-tenant laws. For example, in Maine it is a crime to bite your landlord. This law just criminalizes biting your landlord, not kicking, stabbing, or punching him. (I wonder what incident led to the passage of this law.) In every state in the U.S., a landlord can evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. A landlord can also sue a former tenant for unpaid rent after the tenant has moved out. However, in my home state of Maryland and a few other states, landlords and real estate investors can also have former tenants arrested and sent to prison for non-payment of rent. (Sounds medieval, doesn’t it?)

As Robert Reich recently wrote: “Jared Kushner’s real estate company uses arrest warrants to collect debts owed by low-income tenants. In recent years, the firm has sought 105 warrants for former tenants in Maryland, more than any other landlord in the state, according to the Baltimore Sun. The debts average less than $5,000, but Kushner tacks on thousands of dollars in legal fees. In some cases, people aren’t even aware they owe Kushner money because his company purchased the debt from a previous owner. When a tenant fails to pay, the company seeks an arrest warrant in a process known as ‘body attachment.’ This predatory practice can result in jail time. Kushner owns 9,000 properties in Maryland, which turn a $30 million annual profit. Since 2015, the company also received $6.1 million in rental subsidies from the federal government.”

Baltimore Sun Article on Kushner.  Donald Trump also uses this same practice in his business, having people arrested and sent to jail for non-payment of rent.

The penalties for non-payment of rent have been much harsher at various times in history. For example, in ancient Rome, a landlord could have a tenant sold into slavery to recover unpaid rent. Incredibly, there are some places in Asia where this practice is still going on. In medieval England, if a serf’s house burned down, he was still obligated to pay his landlord the same amount of rent, and if he refused to pay the rent or ran away, he could be hanged. Now just in case you were wondering….In California, you cannot be arrested, sent to jail, hanged, or sold into slavery for non-payment of rent. However, you can go to jail in California for biting your landlord. That’s assault.


Landlord Drones?

The last time I saw Aaron Levie, he was speaking at a developer’s conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco. While he was giving his talk, a drone was flying around him on the stage.

It seems like everybody these days has drones. Private investigators are using drones to spy on adulterous spouses, parents accused of abusing children, and people suspected of filing fraudulent disability claims. People have gone to prison based on evidence obtained by drones. “Drones are a game changer” said one private investigator.

I saw a drone at a landlord conference last year. A drone was flying around the room. The drone salesman told me that: ‘every landlord should have a drone.’ I can think of several legitimate uses that a landlord might have for a drone. For example, a landlord might want to examine the condition of the roof of his building after a severe storm without climbing up a 30 foot ladder. However, I wondered if some of the landlords who were buying drones really wanted them just so they could spy on their tenants. As I was watching this drone fly around the landlord conference, I thought of all the tenants I have had in the past who were doing suspicious things that I wanted to know more about. A drone would have been handy at times; however, I am not going to get one. I suspect that my tenants would regard it as an invasion of their privacy if I had drones flying around their apartments just to make sure they weren’t doing anything naughty.