Editor’s note: Landlords left in the lurch

The dream of property ownership has, for many, turned into a nightmare

Aug.August 09, 2021 07:00 AM

Stuart Elliott

They might not have the most beloved public image, and are often caricatured as greedy and heartless.

But landlords feel pain, too. And they have bills to pay.

As our cover story this month explores, mom-and-pop property owners — who far outnumber their bigger and deeper-pocketed counterparts — have been incredibly squeezed alongside their tenants as a result of the coronavirus.

Many have been forced to drain their savings, max out their credit and put themselves in financial peril to hold on to their buildings, as Suzannah Cavanaugh, Trevor Bach and Emily Landes write in a series of stories.

Rent relief programs were supposed to help, but little of the money has been distributed. And the CDC’s new eviction moratorium stretching through Oct. 3 is another blow to landlords still left to pay their mortgages after many tenants haven’t paid their rent. Even when evictions do come back, there’s unlikely to be short-term relief for landlords, given the backlog in housing court.

From coast to coast, the dream of property ownership has, for many, become a nightmare.

Even pols seem to be weighing in with support. “A majority of landlords in this community are small landlords that pay their own mortgages, and they put everything on the line,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “This notion that every landlord is greedy or a corporate landlord is nonsense.”

The landlord-tenant tensions have spilled out in other ways as well. Several stories in this issue detail extreme situations that landlords have seen — there seem to be more of them these days. Our headlines tell the tale: “’I am going to kill you.’ Tenant from hell wreaks havoc,” and “Flooded, arrested, assaulted: a landlord’s horror story.”

In other (not so) feel-good news, we continue to explore the far-ranging fallout from the Surfside condo collapse in South Florida in a series of stories. We examine the tug-of-war over the site’s future and how the tragedy will probably lead to pricing shifts and more bulk buyouts throughout the region’s condo market.

We also take a deep dive into the players involved in the initial construction of the building. TRD first broke the news that the architect behind the collapsed condo building was suspended for negligence after earlier structures he designed toppled during a storm. And we take a look back at the story of the Champlain Towers developer, Nathan Reiber, who fled legal troubles in Canada before winding up in South Florida and building the ill-fated project.

Elsewhere, we examine how disruption in supply chain lines has sent the cost of materials up and put developers in a bind. And we explore several embattled figures: developer Josh Schuster, who had a reputation as a rising star before recent allegations and broken relationships; how Tom Barrack’s firm insulated itself from its founder; and the real estate fallout from the investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment.

Finally, in more news that might make you feel as though this pandemic will repeat in an endless loop, there’s also the Delta variant — and its impact on the real estate market, including disruption of return-to-the-office plans this fall — to consider.

We have some lighter beach reading as well, taking a look at the luxury toys of real estate titans. It’s a fun piece on the superyachts, racehorses, art and sports teams the industry’s wealthiest splurge on. And on page 30, check out excerpts from our new Master Class video series. We’re sitting down with the biggest names in the business to understand how they climbed the corporate ladder — or built their own way to the top.

Enjoy these last days of summer, and enjoy the issue.


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