Interest strong in association for Springfield area landlords
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | February 12,2013
SPRINGFIELD – Response has been strong from Springfield landlords who are interested in forming an association to better tackle mutual problems.
Landlord Wendi Germain said that she had a response of more than 20 area landlords who were interested in working on joint issues. Germain, on behalf of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, helped organize a meeting last fall for landlords, with the goal of helping rid Springfield of drug dealers.
Germain, the executive director of the Springfield Restorative Justice Center, said she is relative new to being a landlord, having purchased an apartment building about three years ago.
“A lot of people have done it a lot and I want to pick their brains,” said Germain.
Germain said that as an association the landlords would have a better influence on legislation currently pending in Montpelier. The proposed legislation that caught Germain’s eye would allow landlords to attach a person’s pay — something like placing a lien on their wages — to get unpaid rent.
“If we had a larger voice, we would have a larger impact,” said Germain.
Another Springfield landlord, Bob Perusse of Westminster, said that he’s owned rental housing in Springfield for about 10 years. Perusse said he wanted to help other landlords avoid some of the obvious pitfalls in the business.
Perusse said he recently helped a Bellows Falls woman who was having a difficult time evicting a problem tenant. Perusse said he understands the eviction process and knows how to navigate it, and said he wanted to lend his expertise to other landlords who don’t know all the ins and outs of the process.
“With a little common sense, it’s easy to work,” said Perusse, who said he’s never done a credit check on his tenants, since the bulk of the people who rent his apartments have bad credit.
He said he does pay attention to past references and past tenancies, and not just the immediate one, but earlier ones.
Perusse said he hasn’t had any problems at his Springfield apartment house with people using or selling drugs — a problem which was original impetus for the landlords’ meeting.
“Drug problems are in all the towns,” said Perusse.
David Yesman, a Springfield landlord, and member of the Springfield Select Board, said he felt landlords would be helped by an association.
“I don’t think we, as landlords, have any say right now,” said Yesman, articulating a common complaint that Vermont law overwhelmingly favors tenants. “The state has a big book for renters, but there’s not a big book for landlords on how to protect them from troublesome renters.”
Yesman said people forget that landlords need to make money to cover their operating costs, something that is often lost, he said, in any landlord-tenant discussion. Yesman said he regularly keeps an apartment unrented rather than rent it to a less-than-ideal tenant.
Yesman agreed that some apartments in Springfield “are pretty tough,” but he said he wouldn’t rent out an apartment he wouldn’t feel comfortable living in.
Perusse said he wanted to share his knowledge. “I saw a lot of need for people to get together and to solve some of the issues landlords have to face,” he said.