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. 

Download a PDF of the full article.



from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.