A MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDING MEMBER
By: Bob De Cosmo
When I began my real estate career in 1982, property management was both fun and profitable, but investing in rental property was even better. Since 1986 when “Crack Cocaine” became popular in our urban centers, and the “Tax-reform Act of 1986” kicked-in, the rental housing industry has deteriorated ever since. In the 1980’s we went through a “Boom and Bust Cycle” and by the early 1990’s, rental property ownership and management hit bottom in Connecticut. Street Gangs fueled by the drug trades overtook many neighborhoods with a gangster mentality not seen since Prohibition and Al Cappone.
In 1993, my life changed as I felt the business end of a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun that a drug dealer put to my head as I was arguing with a tenant that was still in my building after he had been evicted, execution served and still had not been moved 4 days later by the marshal. They were dealing drugs and also accepting stolen goods creating a huge nuisance for my other tenants and the neighborhood. After fleeing for my life and making it safely back to my house, I was met by several police officers at my door and was arrested because my tenant said, “I threatened him.”They had the shotgun but I was only asked by the police “If I was present at my apartment,” I responded, “Yes” and was handcuffed and dragged out of my house in front of my wife and children and brought to jail. Thankfully all the charges were dropped as the good tenants in the building came forward to my defense and told the Prosecutor what had really happened. After this nightmare, I decided to talk about my experience with other landlords. Soon a picture developed as they told me of their difficulties with tenants. A group of us Andre Fournier, Charlie Baril, Fanny Marone, Sharon Hallock, Clara Fransisco-Stevens and Rosa Lake decided to do something about the this situation and with the help of the Greater Waterbury Board of Realtors, the Property Owners Association of Greater Waterbury was formed and I was elected its 1st president in 1995.
Back in the 1990’s we were dealing with a 3-month eviction process, tenants with entitlement mentalities made a practice of living rent free, police refused to arrest tenants who destroyed apartments and liberal politicians sought stricter regulation over housing; all of these factors took their toll on landlords but also helped create new landlord associations in other cities. Soon many landlords began to join forces and and the concept for a unified statewide property owners association was born. In a meeting in the fall of 1995 attended by the presidents of landlord groups. Representatives from Waterbury, New Britain, Hartford and Tolland County agreed to join forces and the CT Property Owners Association became reality. Preferring to be politically correct, the group chose the name Connecticut Property Owners Association over CT Landlords Association because landlords were viewed with disdain by most elected officials and have been successfully branded as, “Money grubbing Slumlords taking advantage of poor renters,” a stigma that unfortunately still lives on today. Soon afterwards there where 14 landlord groups representing nearly 2,000 members that were “Mad as Hell” and successfully worked together to change the Eviction Laws in Connecticut both in 1997 and again in 1999. We also created a law making it a crime to destroy a landlords property,Tenant Damage To a Property went on the books in Connecticut. From 1996 until 2002, there was much success and a great track record proves how much can be accomplished when people work together. VIEW CTPOA LEGISLATIVE RECORD
The Road Back
However, since the “Boom-bust cycle” hit again between 2003 and 2009, landlords lost interest in attending meetings and working together. Over time, most local landlord associations have fallen apart as did the statewide association. With the collapse of the housing market in 2006, landlords have been beaten up badly and must form a strong statewide trade association once again. Individual landlords have found themselves the target of some politicians with socialist and communist leanings. Laws seeking increased fines for blight, the lowering of the action level to trigger lead paint abatement orders, both property taxes and housing court entry fees increasing and the cost of moving evicted tenant possessions on to the owners has many landlords now losing money from rental property management. The CT Property Owners Alliance has begun an aggressive campaign to recruit landlords and vendors to build a strong Statewide Landlords Association again. We are forming local groups in a number of CT cities and growing membership through networking, providing educational seminars, offering discounted vendor services and actively lobbying through a “Grass roots” effort. Utilizing technology and Internet tools not available when the first groups began, we are trying to get all CT landlord groups under one umbrella by delivering services and support to help these groups grow locally. I am optimistic that it will be a quick road for us to gain sufficient strength and make the needed changes in policy as we grow our voice for property owners and achieve more legislative victories. The goal is to help bring Connecticut’s landlord-tenant statutes back towards the middle of the road, put “Fairness” into CT’s Fair Housing Laws, restore common sense in the policy making process and prosperity in our industry through better funding opportunities and member resources. Please help us, help you…join the CT Property Owners Alliance and by working together, we will make a positive change for our industry.