Proposed by Cam Kenney [D] and co-sponsored by 11 other Democratic Representatives, House Bill 469 aims to prohibit landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants on the basis that they are a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (low income housing/Section 8). There is a multitude of reasons why this bill is ridiculous, ranging from impracticality to subversion of the free market.
This bill prohibits landlords from denying rentals to prospective tenants on the basis that they participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, but landlords can still deny rentals to these potential tenants for any other valid pretextual reason: poor credit history, pattern of paying bills late, pets, posing a danger to other tenants, etc. If a landlord really does not want to rent to a particular individual, they can find a reason to deny their application. All this would do is add a lot of annoying red tape to the process. Speaking of red tape…
Unfair to Landlords
Despite the popular belief held by various parasites, landlords are people too, and they provide a valuable service to people: the ability to rent property. This bill makes life easy for the prospective tenant, while introducing several potential nightmares for landlords:
There is a considerable amount of red tape associated with renting to section 8 voucher holders. There are several extra forms and other pieces of paperwork that must be completed very specifically, and even a minor mistake can result in delayed payments from HUD, or even nonpayment. During this time, the landlord is still on the hook for their expenses. For those who are unaware, landlords also have bills to pay; from the electric bill to the mortgage on the property and everything in between. Furthermore, the initial application can take as long as 5 months to complete, and during that whole period, no rent is being collected. Imagine telling your mortgage lender “sorry, I don’t have my payment now, but I promise I’ll have everything for you in 5 months!” Modern anti-landlord laws have enabled tenants to tell landlords to wait, but landlords cannot tell their banks and electric companies to wait.
In order to qualify for renting to section 8 voucher holders, landlords must set their rental price such that it conforms to the Fair Market Rent (FMR) set by the HUD (an agency of the federal government located in DC and run by the current administration). This value is often significantly lower than the true market rent prices, so landlords would have to forgo extra rent and deal with extra strings attached. Landlords with property in desirable areas with healthy rental markets have absolutely no incentive to go through this, yet this bill would force them to. To help put this into perspective, the FMR for a 1 bed room apartment in Manchester, NH in 2022 was $1,105. This number is extremely low compared to open market rental prices in Manchester, and this FMR is considered high—more expensive than 95% of other FMR areas.
Security Deposits, Inspections, and Tenant Damages
HUD will not pay security deposits for section 8 vouchers, and while it is legal to ask the tenant for a deposit, they often cannot pay them. HUD also will not pay for any damages that occur, even if directly caused by the tenant. Thus, landlords have to pay out of pocket to fix any damages caused by tenants (and they’ll even have to deal with inspections as a result. Speaking of inspections, there are several regular inspections required by HUD. A tenant can cause damage to the property and force the landlord to deal with re-inspections and pay for repairs out of pocket (as previously established). How is this remotely fair to landlords? If a private market tenant causes significant damage, they can be evicted swiftly even though they pay full rent AND likely paid a security deposit; but a section 8 voucher holder can afford to be quite reckless and destructive.
The HUD has very strict rules about evicting section 8 voucher tenants; failure to pay, vandalism, and/or aggressive, disruptive behavior are often not even enough to evict. Even if a landlord successfully evicts a recalcitrant tenant, that tenant can turn around and contest the eviction with the help of a taxpayer-funded/subsidized attorney while the landlord has to foot their own legal bills, make themselves available during legal proceedings, etc. It is clear that this strongly favors tenants while kneecapping landlords.
Discrimination (aka Freedom of Association) Should Not Be Prohibited In The Private Sector
The word “discrimination” has a negative connotation associated with it, but most people probably don’t realize that they discriminate all of the time, several times a day. When I am deciding on a restaurant to go out to with my friends, I discriminate against restaurants with mostly vegan options because I have a preference for meat. When I meet someone for the first time, I will choose to discriminate against them if they are rude, snobby, etc. If you think about it for all of 5 minutes, you will find several examples of discrimination in your daily life, as The Liberty Block explained in a 2017 article.
But what about discrimination on the basis of things like income, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc? A lot of people would say that this kind of discrimination is unfounded, and perhaps they’re right—let’s break this down a little bit in a pseudo-proof style format:
Proposition: discrimination should not be prohibited in the private sector
> All logical propositions must be either true or false; one that is neither true nor false is a paradox
Consider the following relevant proposition: “discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. can have merit”
Either this proposition is true, or it is false. Let us examine both cases:
> Case 1: the immediately above proposition is TRUE.
If there are indeed merits to discriminating against people on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then it follows that this discrimination is advantageous to the discriminator.
For example, a landlord may see fit to discriminate against libertarians because—in this specific case where discrimination has merit—libertarians are more prone to causing property damage than other groups of people. If the landlord is prohibited from discriminating against libertarians, then they will suffer greater property damages renting to libertarians that could have been avoided otherwise.
> Case 2: the immediately above proposition is FALSE.
If there are never any merits to discriminating against people on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then it follows that this discrimination is injurious to the discriminator.
For example, a landlord may see fit to discriminate against libertarians because—in this specific case where discrimination has no merit—they have an unfounded prejudice against them of some kind. The landlord’s discrimination will cause libertarians to rent from other landlords that do not discriminate against them, thus enriching the non-discriminatory landlords and costing the discriminatory landlord rent that they would have received if not for their discrimination. Furthermore, their discrimination will become known in the community and non-discriminatory people will likely choose not to associate with them. As a result, they will either “see the light” and reform their opinions and feelings on discrimination, or their economic and social standing will be decimated and they will suffer significantly.
Thus, discrimination should not be prohibited in the private sector because it produces positive results regardless of whether it is meritorious or not—in the case of the former, it advantages discriminators and rightly so; in the case of the latter, it injures discriminators and rightly so.
Bringing this back to the case of landlords and section 8 voucher holders, the former should absolutely not be prohibited from discriminating against the latter. Either renting to section 8 voucher holders does come with extra risks, annoyance, etc. and thus it would be highly unfair to use government to force landlords to rent to them, or section 8 voucher holders are just as responsible and profitable to landlords as anyone else, and thus requiring landlords to rent to them would shield them from the consequences of their unfounded prejudices and prevent the market from learning of the landlord’s bigotry.
Please email your Representatives and ask them to vote against this anti-liberty bill.
Data from sparkrental.com
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.