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As foreclosures bear down, landlords still find way to profit

As the cretins swallowing centipedes and pig eyeballs on gross-out reality TV shows are apt to point out, don't try the following at home.

We're talking about a new type of landlord who's thriving, in his own sorry way, in the Tampa Bay area housing slump.

These guys cease making payments on their investment property. Maybe they can no longer afford the mortgage. Maybe they're sick of pumping bucks into a depreciating asset.

In any case, when the banks initiate foreclosure, these guys invoke every delaying tactic. And why not? They're collecting rent from their tenants, without compensating the bank, and don't want to derail the gravy train.

Even the landlords of yore had to kick a share of feudal rents up the ladder to the duke, king or archbishop. These guys get to hoard it all in their private chest.

Consider the Tampa Bay area landlord with five rental properties in foreclosure, each of which generates $1,200 a month in income. What incentive does the guy have for handing in the keys and calling it a day?

The bank's pursuing foreclosure, but in today's clogged courts it could take a year before the house is repossessed — longer if the landlord has hired a clever lawyer.

Our landlord takes in a combined $6,000 a month in rent. That's $72,000 a year. And he doesn't pitch a dime to the bank. Why bother? He's too far in the hole to make good on his debts to the lender anyway.

The foreclosure suits will likely end with ruination of the landlord's credit. But the process hasn't exactly been a financial catastrophe for our man. He's collected $72,000, discounted for tenant vacancies, with no expenses of his own save an occasional drain to unstop.

Not a bad little bumper to ease your passage through the lean years ahead.

If he bought the investment homes with 100 percent financing, all the better — he's got even less money in the game.

Is anything illegal in this deal? Probably not. But nobody ever said illegal operators brought down our banking system. The real scandal is what passes for legal.

James Thorner can be reached at jthorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.

As foreclosures bear down, landlords still find way to profit 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 9:38pm]

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