Nickels and Dimes Are Ripping Tenants and Consumers


            New Orleans       Everywhere we turn, we’re being short-sheeted.  Pick up the newspaper, and you know what I’m talking about.  Oh, not because of the news inside the paper, but how flimsy it is, not for a nickel or quarter, but a dollar or more, despite the fact it’s both smaller, and there is less of it.  Retail and service establishments of all shapes and sizes, not just restaurants and bars, are trying to shift costs to consumers who pay by credit card with entreaties for tips for who knows what and going who knows where, not necessarily to the worker by a long shot.

Banks have to be just about the worst.  The costs of maintaining low level accounts can eat up the balances themselves or, worse, take you negative, triggering a fat overdraft charge, even though the supposed overdraft was the bank ripping you a new one.  Utilities have now created minimum charges, regardless of usage, whether for water or electric, taking away any incentive to use less, if you were trying, because they want their pound of flesh.

Rent, oh mercy!  One recent article recently highlighted how rents are now increasing faster in the suburbs than the cities.  There’s no way to ride.  Perhaps worse, another started documenting the trials and tribulations of too many tenants with add-on, sneak fees, little disclosed, though claimed by landlords to have been buried in the many paged leases.  Good business for landlords, and a rip for tenants.  Reportedly, the big, slick ones have increased their income per lease by “40% between 2018 and 2021.”  Invitation Homes, the former private equity cash cow and a bit of reason for suburban rent increases given their post-2007 meltdown acquisitions of foreclosures, charges a fee for replacing the filter on their air conditioner.

Some jurisdictions, both federal and local, are stepping.  The feds are demanding full disclosure.  Maine has capped application fees, for example.  Hold on a minute, isn’t there something perverse about a landlord who wants and needs tenants charging a fee for a tenant to make an application, so that the landlord can make money?  The Journal quotes a renter in Jacksonville, Florida from the giant AMH, formerly American Homes 4 Rent, who is stung for a monthly “renter’s insurance fee” and “the ‘convenience fee’ charged on top of the utilities.”  Someone will have to explain to me sometime how having utilities in your apartment can now be called a “convenience” rather than a necessity.

I know Trump and the gang gutted out the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, but it’s been a couple of years with a new sheriff.  These outlaws need to be corralled.