The Public Interest

Poor tenants, poor landlords, poor policy

Irving H. Welfeld

Summer 1988

A “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” routine, in which Eddie Murphy (playing a convicted murderer) recites a poem entitled “Kill My Landlord,” tells us a great deal about the public image of American landlords. The owner of rental property operates in a hostile environment. Although his search for profits is no different from that of other providers of goods and services, the landlord is traditionally cast in a uniquely villainous light; he is the fat cat who takes unfair advantage of the little mice who rent from him. The metaphor is unfair, however; many landlords have as good a claim to victim status as their tenants. 

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