Senin, 10 Oktober 2011

Tenancy Culture Studies: Let's Lynch the Landlord

The Institute of Tenancy Culture Studies welcomes guest lecturer, Wazdog (aka 'The Illawarra Wheeler'). Wazdog has plied his trade as a Tenants' Advocate with the Illawarra and South Coast TAAS for more than half a decade. Also a renowned commentator of all things musical in his hometown, Wazdog occasionally branches out and mixes business with pleasure...

Today, Wazdog kicks off the conversation with a look at The Dead Kennedy's iconic anti-hit 'Let's Lynch the Landlord'.

Throughout history, music has been used to express the concerns of the common wo/man. From the subversive work songs of the African American slaves in the nineteenth century to the heavy metal/rap fusion of Rage Against the Machine, musicians have attempted to connect with their audience with lyrical themes they can relate to. No better example of this exists than perhaps the great traditional folk song 'Worried Man Blues' popularised by The Carter Family in the 1930's and later the dust-bowl balladeer Woody Guthrie. A simple chord progression is supported by the simple but effective lyric "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song."

Not surprising then that popular music is littered with landlord and tenant references. The struggle of the working man against the greed of land-owners has been the inspiration behind many a song. But few are as abrasive and confrontational as Dead Kennedy's 'Let's Lynch the Landlord'.

Fronted by the outspoken prankster Jello Biafra, the band courted controversy in the early-80's with their cover-art offending future Presidential candidate Al Gore's wife Tipper, prompting the establishment of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) - the group responsible for all those 'Parental Advisory' stickers slapped on albums deemed unsuitable for minors.

Taken from their 1980 debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, 'Let's Lynch the Landlord' expresses a sentiment that many tenants in NSW feel, though thankfully few act upon.

Throughout the song Jello details problems with his tenancy. It's the usual smorgasbord of tenancy complaints: lack of running water, inadequate heating, a leaking roof, an oven that smells like a death-camp, disturbance from neighbours (ironic coming from a man who's made a career out of disturbing the peace), vermin, unauthorised access, and - the pièce de résistance - an excessive rent increase.

To remedy the problem, Jello urges his flatmates (along with his audience) to attack the landlord, mob style.

Now, I'm not too familiar with tenancy law in San Francisco circa 1980, but in NSW circa 2011 such a response to a poorly maintained property could see you lose your tenancy and quite likely attract criminal charges.

Though street justice is oft times tempting in a landlord/tenant relationship, the reality is that Jello would do better to seek a remedy through appropriate dispute resolution processes. In NSW this is the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) - the arbitrator for tenant/landlord disputes in NSW.

All the matters raised in Jello's ode to his landlord may be dealt with in the CTTT, usually without the spilling of blood.

Taking matters into his own hands however, will only see Jello's problems worsen, as the landlord (if s/he survives the lynching) could apply straight to the Tribunal, seeking an order for termination due to injury to the landlord by the tenant.

And if the landlord was successful then poor old Jello would need to find himself a new pad for him and his punk buddies to hang out in. Of course, if convicted of assaulting the landlord, Jello may even find that his new pad comes courtesy of Her Majesty and that the phrase "unauthorised access" takes on a whole new meaning.