Every fifth-grader should know that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution is known as The Bill of Rights, and it spells out protections that every citizen has against tyranny from our own government.
Recently, the Atlanta City Council adopted a "Tenant's Bill of Rights," calling for rent control, restrictions on evictions based on nonpayment of rent, and a "dismantling" of private ownership that (they claim) works to harm tenants.
Almost all the items in the document are specifically prohibited under existing state law and/or the U.S. Constitution. So I propose a real "Tenant's Bill of Rights," under existing laws and current regulations:
I believe every rental tenant deserves the right to:
- A clean, decent, safe place to live, with heat, electricity and adequate plumbing; That’s already law in Georgia - sorry, no air conditioning.
- Decide whether the property meets their individual needs, and if not, look elsewhere; In America, we are free to live wherever we choose that we can afford, just as a landlord is free to set a rental amount.
- Inspect the premises inside and out, then decide if he wishes to apply for the rental; If the property is not in a good location, or smells bad, or costs too much, the renter is free to look elsewhere. We are free to choose.
- Negotiate with the Landlord the terms of a lease agreement, including rental amount and term; If we think the asking rent is too high, we can offer less and see if the Landlord will accept the offer. He may or may not.
- Know that the Landlord is required to make repairs with reasonable promptness upon notice; Georgia law makes it abundantly clear: The landlord must keep the premises in repair.
- Enjoy privacy during the occupancy without unnecessary entry by Landlord; Georgia law also grants the tenant the right of quiet enjoyment.
- Enjoy freedom from all forms of discrimination prohibited under law; In the US, it is illegal to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.
- Exercise freedom to discriminate as allowed by law and personal needs;
- The tenant is free to live anywhere he chooses, but is free to reject any property that fails to meet his needs or his desires.
- Receive a prompt refund of security deposit at conclusion of the lease agreement; then receive a full accounting of any deductions made from security deposit.
Georgia law requires almost all Landlords to inspect the property within three business days of a tenant-move out. The landlord must deliver to the tenant a complete itemized list of damage in the unit and estimated costs of the same. The tenant can then dispute that list in court if he so desires.
The Atlanta City Council, in its adoption of the proposed tenant manifesto wishes to dismantle private ownership of property, at least within the city limits of Atlanta. In my opinion, their adopted ordinance is unconstitutional and un-American.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The United States of America is based on one idea, our most precious inheritance. That concept is called freedom. Our laws exist to protect that freedom, and one of the primary purposes of government is to enforce contracts between citizens and adjudicate disagreements. Capitalism is not perfect, but it has lifted more people out of poverty than all the other economic systems of the world combined. As Milton Friedman said, we are free to choose.
Atlanta native John Adams has been a real estate broker and investor in residential real estate for the past four decades, and has seen the market go up and down and back up. He hosts "The Real Estate Coffee Break" every Saturday at 11 a.m. at www.RealEstateCoffeeBreak.com. John believes that, for most Americans, the best investment they will ever make is their own home.