Area landlords may form association
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | December 08,2012
SPRINGFIELD — After seeing they had more in common than not, area landlords are considering forming an association, Jennifer Petersson, executive director of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce said.
Petersson, who was one of the organizers of last week’s well-attended session, “Landlords and Leases,” said she had been contacted after the meeting by some landlords who said an association would help them cope with bad tenants and other issues.
“A couple of people spoke to me at the event and they are definitely interested in it,” Petersson said Tuesday. “We don’t know what role we will play.”
During last week’s session, which was sparked by the town’s push to crack down on suspected drug dealers in town, landlords were given a crash course in how to evict people charged with crimes and how to better screen prospective tenants.
Petersson declined to give the names of landlords who were interested in forming a group, saying it was premature.
Petersson said she would be talking to the board of directors of the chamber to determine what role she could take in helping the landlords organize.
“They found it useful to be around other landlords, they don’t usually come in contact, but they liked being able to share ideas together,” Petersson said. “One of the ideas the chamber tries to reinforce is for individual people working and acting collectively to further their business interests.”
Too often, landlords view each other as competitors for good tenants, she said.
Springfield attorney Ethan McNaughton, a member of the chamber board of directors, had presented the well-attended seminar, which attracted about 50 area landlords, Petersson said. In addition to the landlords, a good turnout of town, police and fire officials from Springfield, Bellows Falls and Rockingham attended the session, along with groups that work in housing.
McNaughton urged the landlords to do their homework on any prospective tenant, including doing a criminal record check and checking references closely. Another good idea, he said, is to visit the prospective tenant’s current location. And he urged the landlords to talk to each other about troubled tenants.
While it may cost a little bit more, record checks will pay for itself in the long run, he said. And those tenants who object to a record check are usually people you don’t want in your apartment anyway, McNaughton said.
McNaughton also pushed hard for landlords to have signed leases with their tenants, where landlords can set the conditions they want on tenants’ behavior. He said the other important step is to keep good communication with your tenant, and to do regular inspections of the property — with proper notice.
Many people said that Vermont law is heavily weighted in favor of the tenant, and that landlords have an extraordinary hard time evicting bad tenants.
One elderly Springfield landlord, who refused to give his name, said he had never had a tenant sign a lease and he had a minimum of problems.
People lived in his apartments, he said, on a month-to-month basis, and if they didn’t pay, they were gone. The man said he had never had to evict anyone.