Apr 16, 2024 - News

Utah landlord rep tells tenants to ask for charity, sell TVs and take out loans to cover rent

Illustration of a zombie's hand emerging from a grave, clutching keys.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Tenants' jaws are on the floor after the director of a Utah landlords' group suggested they "work more hours," take out loans, sell their belongings and ask for charity to cover rising rent.

Why it matters: Housing costs have exploded in Salt Lake since the pandemic began, forcing families to leave the city, adults to move in with their parents and renters to risk poverty even for modest apartments.

Driving the news: In a Tuesday story about rising rents, the Salt Lake Tribune posted a list of "Landlord advice for renters" by Paul Smith, executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Utah.

  • Before asking a landlord for help, tenants should first sell their TVs and four-wheelers, work more hours or take out a loan, Smith advised.
  • They also should ask for money from family, churches and nonprofits before trying to negotiate rent, he said.
  • Renters, Smith said, should grow their income 5% to 7% each year to keep up with inflation, including rising rent.

Reality check: Incomes haven't kept up with rising housing costs in Salt Lake City — a market-wide disparity that individual renters cannot necessarily fix on their own.

  • The vast majority of TVs listed on local classified ads are priced at less than $200, a fraction of the average monthly rent for a studio apartment.
  • Financial experts generally discourage personal loans to pay rent because interest accumulates quickly, and borrowers will have to cover loan repayments and rent in the following months.

What they're saying: "Ah yes, I remember when I was renting a place for $450 a month (literally an old maintenance closet) and I couldn't afford it. I just sold my four-wheeler that I had laying around and all my money problems were solved," Dylan McDonnell, a disability advocate in Salt Lake City, posted on X.

Fun fact: As housing costs spiked during the pandemic, Utah used federal rent assistance to pay legal bills for landlords seeking evictions, the Utah Investigative Journalism Project found.

  • After federal guidance was revised to prevent that, at least one renter said her landlord refused her assistance checks unless she paid a legal fee following an eviction case.
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