Winooski landlords, tenants butt heads over just-cause eviction charter change

By Catherine Bass | Community News Service

Winooski landlords were up in arms at the Jan. 26 public hearing on the proposed just-cause eviction charter change because the measure would prevent them from getting rid of tenants based only on the fact that their lease is up.

The proposed charter change deals with “just-cause eviction,” which would require landlords to give Winooski residential tenants a reason for eviction.

As acceptable reasons to evict someone, the proposal would include breach of rental agreement, violating state statutes about obligations in rental agreements, not paying rent and failure to accept written, reasonable, good-faith renewal terms.

Voters will decide on Town Meeting Day whether to send the charter change to the Vermont Legislature.

Brian Sweeney, a Winooski landlord, told attendees that “the formal process of eviction … honestly is daunting, confusing, expensive.”

“I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard horror stories from friends and relatives who’ve had to evict people before — and a lot of times what’s easier is to wait,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said renters sometimes prefer to wait too, rather than to go through the formal process. But renters at the meeting disagreed.

“It may be easier not to renew, but I don’t think that convenience is more important than basic protections for renters being displaced,” said Meghan Tedder, a longtime renter in Chittenden County, who described experiencing first-hand unreasonable rent spikes the new ordinance would protect against.

“Someone came in, bought my building and over doubled my rent,” Tedder said. “There was no way my income and my budget were going to be able to just take that on. And he could do that because there weren’t any protections.”

Another Winooski renter mentioned their landlord wanting to raise rent by 70% — a claim that drew disbelief from two landlords who attended the meeting virtually and did not provide their full names.

“Maybe [the renters who spoke] could share the landlord information to talk about it or report it because 70% seems extreme,” one of the landlords, who identified themselves as Tenzin, said.

But Mayor Kristine Lott said in the hearing that there is no way to report rent spikes or prevent them from happening for Winooski residential tenants.

Even if there were ways to report rent spikes, some renters in attendance said they’d feel apprehensive about sharing information.

“It is so much harder as a renter to talk about your experience and feel like you won’t be retaliated against,” said Andi Blanchet, another Winooski residential tenant. “[Speaking out] is riskier.”

Multiple renters at the meeting also mentioned that no-cause evictions disrupt the community dynamic and alienate people from participating in local government because of their uncertain resident status.

Still at least 5% of Winooski voters have voted to push the ordinance forward — the legally required percentage to bring the matter to this point — said Lott, the mayor. That’s 271 people, she said.

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Fibonacci Blue

7 thoughts on “Winooski landlords, tenants butt heads over just-cause eviction charter change

  1. Diversity isn’t our strength, it’s going to be our downfall. Landlords should change their cheap housing into condos and the city can get tents for the squatters. Landlords have to have money coming in or there’s no reason to have rentals.

    • Spot on, you say, “Diversity isn’t our strength, it’s going to be our downfall.”

      Yup., “diversity” will cater to the lowest common denominator.s..and most resources go there. I saw it in our high school…the bright & hard working kids were basically punished. There used to be much harder Math, Science etc…classes…and some AP classes for college credit…now gone. Way back when, many advance classes were gutted to comply with the ‘No Child Left Behind Act” – and it’s “WOKE & WORSE” now…That idea is noble in thought…but after spending trillions on that Act….and billions $ in VT…our teachers are unable to get proficiency scores much above 40%. That is what you get catering the lowest common denominator…and ignore the hard workers who want to achieve. Why are they punished? You can bet that the rest of the world doesn’t do that…They seek to advance their best & brightest…not to retard them , as I saw in our VT school (equity of outcome. lower?)….BTV, Colchester and So. BTV might be different.

      • Yes Jeff the dumbing down effect will pour out of the education system to all facets of life to accommodate the invaders. This will help with agnda 21 and making USA a 3rd world nation. Sad state of affairs and glad I’m in my twilight years and at this point don’t give a crap.

  2. As a landlord for 38 years across 3 counties I can tell you that the tenants who are the most damaging are those that receive subsidy’s. I am sure that is not the case with all of them, but it’s been my experience. People who work full time seem to have a different compass. We have more organizations offering rental assistance now than ever before. The cost of renting in Vermont seems to be far out of reach for many so the state and other organizations such as Vermont State, BHA, VEARAP, CVEOE and more are all offering rental subsidy’s to people who are even gainfully employed and can even afford their rent. Go figure. Something is happening here people. The state is taxiing us to death, the schools are taxing us to death and with all the other increases people cannot afford the rent the landlords need to charge to cover the cost of being a landlord. Its ugly but we all need to speak up and ask questions.

  3. Winooski renters may be sorry if this charter change comes to pass. A lot of rental property is likely to go off the market if landlords sell to buyers who want the property for their own residence.

  4. Why would anyone ever want to be a rental landlord in VT. Renters own you, so do the laws. All Libs complain of too high VT rents, but never admit it’s their policies that cause it. Sky high commercial property taxes (higher than residential ones). $$$ Property tax is built into your rent. Many apts include heat & electricity. Heat costs are $$$$…and renters always seem to keep thermostat really hot. Then the HIGH cost of climate change – “green electricity”? A lot of landlords with parking may face forced/ mandated storm water drain update $$$ expenses (a new Lib/Dem law). Then garbage, snowplow… Tenants are hard on apts, they know they can’t get kicked out, they know they don’t have to pay. Property Insurance/Liability costs very high for any rental, as well as all maintenance costs going ever higher. To be a landlord in VT is insane. Free stuff is a one way street. Loser (you) pays.

  5. We need to give landlords all of the same tools we give to tenants who call themselves squatters.

    I know a widowed retired black woman raising her grandchild who has been trying to get a squatter out of her house since last April and it was just finally achieved.

    Of course the squatter used every benefit the state provides to remain in this poor woman’s house while she footed the bill for water at a cost of about $1,000 lights that were about $1,000 and the cost of a lawyer to finally evict this criminal from her property..

    This is disgraceful well this woman had to go without to provide for herself to be forced to provide for someone who decided to take up a residence in her house..

    Anyone that believes landlords are raking in ton of cash at the cost of tenants are out of their minds.

    Maintaining a house is expensive and then going through and completely repairing a house after a squatter has ravaged it is unbelievable.

    Why would any civil society want to encourage this type of behavior…

    This is a sad day in America when we advocate for people who commit these kinds of crimes against people trying to survive the cost of inflation and taxes as well as keeping up a house.

    An assault took place at that property during an inspection by the landlord who was forced to follow a 48-hour notice to even be able to enter her property that ironically the squatter was trying to trespass her from..

    The Rutland city police department has failed to honor their oath to protect the public and bring a prosecution in the case of this assault.

    I support our police but I cannot support police who violate their oath to the constitution and refuse to prosecute based on the laws of our state.

    The residents in the state of Vermont are being beat up from both sides of the aisle:

    A government that should be passing laws to protect the people and a police department that should be enforcing the laws that protect these people.

    People better wake up soon…

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