Skip to content

Date/Time: Tue, April 2nd, 2024 at 2:00 pm

Location: Zoom (Meeting ID: 953 1697 6090)

Title: The Financial Motives and Legal Responsibilities of Landlords: Using Urban Informatics to Model Landlords’ Management Strategies”


Housing often represents both the place where we spend most of our time and the largest financial expense across our lifetimes. For homeowners, that expense can become a financial asset to carry themselves through the later years of life, but for renters, that expense carries no benefits once the moving trucks have left or the eviction notice has been posted. For renters, the situation of housing takes on a more precarious and unbalanced nature. Renters do not own their homes, and that lack of ownership means their access to safe, affordable housing depends on the landlords who provide that housing and on the policies that protect and shape the nature of the landlord-tenant relationship. To understand how to create policies that can assist in providing more safe, affordable housing to both renters and homeowners, this dissertation examines the financial motives and legal responsibilities of landlords and how these are evolving in the current housing crisis.  

This dissertation expands our understanding of the equity of rental housing quality and availability by developing a model of landlord decision-making and exploring both what factors influence strategies of property management and the how these outcomes affect tenants. Study 1 provides solutions to two of the significant obstacles in creating accurate portraits of who the landlords are in a space and what properties they own, namely the methodological challenge of linking text entities and the specific challenge of piercing the corporate veil by tracing LLCs to their owners, facilitating a better understanding of landlords’ characteristics. This is accomplished by leveraging novel computational tools to uncover ownership obscurity. Study 2 builds on this work and advances the field by moving beyond discrete characteristics of landlords to discovering how the underlying dimension of a landlord’s capacity for profit-maximization affects their strategies of social and physical property management. This study reveals the inequities of differing capacities for profit-maximization and how these affect the conditions tenants experience in rental housing. Study 3 expands from landlord characteristics to looking at how local economic and demographic contexts affects landlord decision-making by examining a case in which landlords push beyond the legal boundaries set on their actions and demonstrate the utility of the decision-making model in evaluating policy effectiveness. Overall, this dissertation expands our understanding of how both the increasing financialization of housing and the shifting legal responsibilities of landlords have influenced the way landlords operate and in turn, influenced the conditions tenants face in the current rental market. 

Committee Members:

Daniel T. O’Brien, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director of the PhD in Public Policy Program at Northeastern (Chair)

Thomas Vicino, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern

Alicia Modestino, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics at Northeastern 

Eric Seymour, Assistant Professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University

Forrest Hangen