Carl Schier


Most low income families rent their living accommodations; for them the lease arrangement is a precarious one at best. It is generally a periodic tenancy from week to week or month to month with the agreement rarely reduced to writing. If the allocation of rights and duties between the parties is spelled out by them at all, it is quite one-sided and normally delineates only what the tenant may and may not do. When there is no written agreement or when the writing is silent as to the obligations of the parties, the common law of landlord and tenant controls, leaving the landlord in a position of near absolute control over his tenant. The premises conveyed under a lease are of uniformly low quality. Buildings are old and facilities supplying heat, light, and water are badly in need of repair or replacement. Rents, however, are uniformly high, a circumstance which results from heavy demand in a market of extremely short supply. Given that the low income family must lease its housing accommodations in the private market where the quality is poor and the supply is limited, the question is whether law reform can be expected to work a substantial change.