Most of my adult life, I have been a renter or a guest. As a child, I was not expected to contribute financially to my mother's rent or mortgage payments. However, after high school graduation, as an independent adult, I was expect to afford my own housing. That expectation is not unfair, but for over 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced many leases or contracts or rental agreements that have been unfair and according to American history, illegal.
I feel that for all my years in the American public school system, and even as a college graduate, there was a certain piece of important American history that was not brought to my attention. My ignorance about legislation that occurred before I was born, has made me a victim to greedy landlords who were quick to take my money, and slow to fulfill their duties as landlord. Also, not knowing the legislation that I now know, made me a victim to landlords who violated laws with discrimination at me and others like me causing unnecessary homelessness.
As I endured immoral and illegal tactics for greedy ambitions, I survived homelessness, and showed gratitude to those kind hearts who allowed me to be a guest in their homes. This continuous moving and homeless identity has gone on for over twenty years simply because I was ignorant about the legislation put into effect before I was even born. I am glad I now understand the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Act, so that I am mentally equipped to negotiate terms with future landlords.
While I was homeless and depressed about the hardships of that situation, I often rebuked the system or process of "renting" or "leasing" because I could not comprehend how a renter could obtain a home without getting swindled or rejected. I still struggle in my mind trying to see the benefits of renting or a mortgage, as the numbers I often see do not make mathematical sense to me.
Yet now I begin with a question to myself and others, especially landlords: What is Fair Housing?
Asking me to pay you $40 for an application fee where you can turn around and reject the aim of my becoming a tenant, is unfair and discriminatory.
Asking me to earn three times the rent is also a discriminatory requirement. A landlord has the power to evict based on not recieving the rent amount agreed upon. Therefore, the renter's income should not be a concern of the landlord, and it's an invasion of the renter's privacy. Asking that question violates two of the renter's rights.... making that request illegal.
I see that renters have the choice between renting an apartment/condo or house/duplex. Each situation comes with various packages or deals. Some apartments come with water and electricity included, while houses tend to require the renter to accomplish utilities on their own. Renting a room from a homeowner or motel owner has different benefits also. As I seek a new home for myself and consider legalities and fairness, I have to think about how my income and personality are most compatible with the choice I make of the options. As a renter, it is not my intention to default on the rental agreement. Why would I want to make myself homeless? Why would I have gone through the trouble of paying a deposit and the rent if I wanted to be homeless?
I understand that people have a tendency to live beyond their means. However, if a renter is seeking Fair Housing, I believe that they intend to be a Fair Renter. A landlord is already in a position of wealth and if only motivated by greed and not the intention to serve his/her renters, not only is he guilty of immorality, but he is probably also guilty of breaking the law.
The renter is not always the moral one and on the side of the landlord I have also witnessed renters who were not fair or good tenants. Vandalism and breaking contracted rules are ways that tenants become a burden of injustice to landlords. However, the power is still in the landlord's hands with the Eviction process. A tenant can not change his landlord, but a landlord can change his tenant. So the duty of fairness is more the responsibility of the landlord. Negotiation and knowledge of the law is the only power that the tenant has regarding their contract or lease.
There are also some grey areas that I still feel ignorant about. For example, when the "stand your ground" legal cases were in the headlines, I simply could not understand how any law could assist a victim in a dangerous living environment. Even if a guest or tenant has established "residency" that does not protect them from threats or violence against them. Who is responsible for their safety? A gun? A cop? I don't think a paying tenant wants to feel that only a gun or a cop is their safety procedure in a place they call "home".