Law doesn’t tilt toward tenants
This responds to Kelly Socia’s letter complaining of Vermont’s laws that favor abusive tenants and the role of Vermont Legal Aid in encouraging such abuse. Nonsense.
While I am a former Vermont Legal Aid attorney and currently serve on the board of trustees, the views expressed are my own.
Landlords in Vermont do quite well who have taken the time to acquaint themselves with the law and regulations governing residential rentals, the legal parameters for leasing out residential housing and the judicial processes for regulation and termination of tenancies. On those occasions when they find themselves at odds with tenants whose conduct, performance or nonperformance falls short of legal obligations, the well-informed and prepared landlord has available many tools for protecting his or her property and economic interest.
Landlords who haven’t educated themselves in this manner and who have not implemented practices accordingly are usually the ones to be heard complaining loudest about a fictional tilt of the system in favor of tenants. These landlords have only themselves to blame if, upon endeavoring to engage in the business of leasing residential housing, they find themselves saddled indefinitely with the presence of an irresponsible tenant.
Vermont Legal Aid has played a significant and distinguished role through the years in advocating for tenants in particular cases and in the larger public policy and legislative debate governing the balance of rights and obligations between landlords and tenants. To be sure, the health, safety and economic security of low- and moderate-income families and children has been advanced through the efforts of Vermont Legal Aid. This has been accomplished without diminishing the economic opportunity for the capable, well-informed and well-intentioned landlords of Vermont to profit from their labors and investments.
Unfortunately, though, funding for Vermont Legal Aid and for legal services organizations nationwide has diminished over the years, resulting in increasingly limited availability of legal representation for those unable to afford an attorney, yet having meritorious claims going to the heart of securing or safeguarding very basic and fundamental needs and rights. The contention that Legal Aid attorneys are standing by to jump at the beck and call of abusive tenants would be laughable but for the reality that so many deserving Vermonters in desperate need of legal assistance to protect themselves and their children will be turned away and left to fend for themselves, and effectively denied access to justice.
Perpetuating the myth that landlords in Vermont are legally disadvantaged and irresponsible tenants have ready access to Vermont Legal Aid representation does nothing to advance the real and challenging task before us of making sure that the least privileged among us have safe, healthy and secure housing, while at the same time ensuring that responsible landlords see a fair return on their efforts
GREGORY V. MAURIELLO