Opinion: Missouri and Illinois landlords want federal protection from surprise regulations

PORLAND, Ore. – Home ownership is a dream many Americans pursue with great desire, vigor and of course, a tight budget above all. Some have even taken the next step by buying additional properties – or several – which means the potential costs involved in maintenance are multiplied too.

Any landlord will have learned that unforeseen costs are just part of the business of owning property, however, sometimes this is a lesson learned a little too late…  

A survey of 3,240 landlords by DeckandBalconyInspections.com revealed that most landlords in believe a federal law should be introduced to protect them from surprise property regulations that could cost thousands in maintenance fees – 73 percent in Missouri and 66 percent in Illinois. At first glance, it might seem preposterous for landlords to demand federal protection from unforeseen costs, but digging deeper into the issue, they do have two solid arguments at their disposal.

As of January 1, 2022, the ‘No Surprises Act’ came into effect. This federal law protects people covered under group and individual health plans from receiving surprise medical bills for things like emergency services, even if these services were out-of-network and received without prior authorization.

But, as aforementioned, expensive medical bills are not the only costs with which people may be unexpectedly hit: for example, in 2015, California authorities introduced a new ‘balcony inspection law’ (following a tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley). This law, which came into effect in 2019, states that certain structures with wood balconies, decks, stairs and walkways will require a deep dive inspection for safety purposes and owners have until January 1, 2025, to complete all initial inspections.

While these laws are, of course, necessary for safety and security reasons, landlords and homeowners also risk the potential of running into thousands of dollars in property maintenance fees. Those who own properties near the ocean or in more wet winter weather conditions have a higher chance of being hit with these costs, given the increased chance of property damage due to these factors.

Moreover, with climate change having a strong influence in extreme weather (such as natural disasters and unpredictable storms), it is likely that landlords in the Prairie State will be burdened with increased costs to make their properties more resistant to climate change-related factors – something they argue that they are not responsible for. Therefore, it makes sense why over 1 in 3 (32%) aspiring landlords who were surveyed admit the prospect of climate change-related property costs dissuades them from doing so.

Interactive map showing support for a federal law to protect landlords

Owning a property comes with vast responsibility and when there are tenants involved, there can be hidden costs involved such as repair to damages, leakages, electrical faults and other unpredictable frustrations. Nearly 1 in 3 (30 percent) landlords said they’ve personally been hit by substantial surprise costs for a property that they own.

The survey also found that 78 percent of current landlords said if they got hit with a surprise bill of over $20k, they couldn’t afford to cover the costs without going into debt. In fact, 43% of landlords said they think the government should cover all costs should climate change-related regulations about property maintenance be introduced into law.

Lastly, nearly 1 in 10 people admit they don’t feel safe when visiting friends or family who have a balcony. Many states, such as California, aim to expand on the level of safety when it comes to external, elevated structural elements such as decks and balconies. Through inspections performed every six years, this law aims to decrease the number of dangerous incidents that could occur when properties are not efficiently maintained.

The risks of climate change are, unfortunately, both unavoidable and unpredictable,’ says Dan Cronk, Owner & CEO of DeckandBalconyInspections.com. ‘When it comes to maintaining properties, it’s important to keep up-to-date in terms of inspections, so as to reduce the chances of running into any unexpected fees along the way.’