Ojala: The commitments of a compassionate Summit County landlord (column)

Eric Ojala
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the One Man’s Junk Facebook page.

I have a confession. I am a landlord. (Please continue reading before you hate; then by all means feel free to troll.) Four days ago I posted one of my places for rent at 2 p.m. The next day I had 10 back-to-back showings. What was troubling to me was that every person was awesome. Not a shady person in the bunch. I desperately wanted to write people off so that I could feel less guilty when I had speak the dreaded words “sorry, the place is taken.” But I couldn’t. They are all amazing people. My heart sank as I heard story after story of not being able to find housing…any housing. One wonderful person even cried as she told me her struggle. That night I lost sleep over the decision (I know…poor landlord). But I know that I will not lose as much sleep as the 9 people that I have to say no to. You see I have a place to call home for me, my wife, and 3 children. I don’t have to worry about my mortgage increasing, my home being sold, or my landlord turning the place into a VRBO rental. But these other 9 wonderful people do. So today my heart is broken for them. The problem for me is that I don’t know what to do. As my junior high principal used to say, “If you’re not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.” I want to be part of the solution. So here is my tiny little that way I can help.

1. I commit to not allowing profit to be my only concern.

2. I commit to not demanding that good people come up with an obscene amount of cash immediately for first, last, and deposit but allow people to give this over time.

3. I commit to not turning my units into short term rental units.

4. I commit to not letting credit checks or even “black-marks” on background checks be a deal breaker (one of my current tenants has a felony, and he is a great renter).

5. I commit to looking possible renters in the eye and hearing their story.

To all the landlords out there, I ask you to commit to the same. Do we really want to be the next Aspen, Vail, or Telluride? Do we want a community where our teachers, firemen, and resort workers have to live an hour or more away? Is it really even a community at that point?

So no. 1: Owners, I’m not asking you to not make money on your rental. I have to make money or I don’t get to live here. My wife and I started Elements Church where I am a pastor and if you are reading this and living in Summit County I can almost guarantee that you make more than I do. My family depends on the income from our rentals to make a life for ourselves. But that doesn’t mean I can’t set a price that is reasonable and fair.

No. 2: Owners, can we really ask for local families and workers to come up with $5,000-$10,000 for first, last, and deposit immediately? Can’t we give them some kind of a break and spread it out over some time?

No. 3: Owners, please please please stop doing short-term rentals and allow our local workers and families to have a place to call home. This alone would change the housing situation in Summit County. I understand that you make more money in the short-term, but this is creating a situation where most people will no longer be able to live here. I believe if you could hear their story you would have a change of heart.

No. 4 & no. 5: Owners, will you look a renter in the eye and not just see them as a credit score or a driving record? Hear their story and every once in a while give someone a second chance.

To all of you renters… I’m sorry. My heart hurts for you and with you. I won’t say I know what you are going through because I don’t and I won’t insult you by saying I do. I am a product of God’s mercy and good timing. My wife and I saved our pennies and bought cheap places during the lowest point of the economic recession when everything was on sale. I begged and borrowed from everyone I knew to come up with down payments so that we could make a future for ourselves. I came from a middle class family and I am still that. I could easily be in your position. You’re not looking for a luxury condo with the finest granite counter tops and stainless appliances…you are simply looking for a place to call home. I wish I could do more. But I am doing all I know. So what say you Summit County? How can we solve this problem or at least make some progress towards keeping Summit County a real community with real people?

Eric Ojala is a pastor at Elements Church in Dillon. For more information, visit

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