Discoveries: Please Tell Me This Old Newspaper Article Is a Joke

This 1786 newspaper article, titled “Directions for Landlords,” is a joke – isn’t it?

Oddly, it sounds like the way landlords have treated me over the years.

New-York Journal (New York, New York), 3 August 1786, page 2

“First. Never let a house, without demanding a year’s rent for it before the tenant enters it.”

I’ve heard of first month, last month and a month security deposit – but an entire year’s rent up front?

“Second. Oblige the tenant to pay all the taxes upon the house you let him.”

Hmm – seems like I’ve heard of that happening.

“Fourth. Avoid repairing your house. Your tenant will do it for you rather than risk the loss of his life – health or property by its falling over his head. But if he neglects or refuses to repair it, be sure you lay the blame of the damage your house sustains by natural decay, wholly upon him.”

Thirty years ago, I had a landlord do this – maybe this is serious counsel to landlords after all.

“Sixth. Rather than reduce your rent, suffer your tenant to move out of your house. It is better that a house should stand empty for a whole year than you should indulge a troublesome tenant…”

I see that constantly. Maybe it’s the terrible economy, but I’ve seen restaurants, businesses, and homes sit empty for years – and the word is that the landlords kept raising their rent, so the renters relocated.

These talking points seem like 1786 humor – and at the same time eerily familiar to the way landlords operate today.

So, I ask again: is this a joke?

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