The Last Stand of Free Enterprise.

July 8, 2013

The reverse of the Montana quarter of the 50 S...

Over the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve noticed an increase in the frequency of encounters with a misconception, that I find concerning.

In spite of decades of government suppression of free enterprise, there is no such thing as a Landlord License in the State of Montana, but a surprising number of people seem to think otherwise.

It is easy to jump to that conclusion. I know there are other industries in Montana that don’t have licensure requirements, but it’s rare enough, that I can’t think of one right now.

The thing that bothers me the most, is the tone that usually accompanies this assertion.

I guess I’m a little old fashioned, but when I am compelled to assert my rights, what few remain, as provided by the Montana Landlord Tenant act, I prefer to talk to people like a person.

If I were legally obligated to establish some sort of corporation to continue running my business, it wouldn‘t be practical for me to do that.

In Montana, it is unlawful for a corporation to take legal action against an individual, except through an attorney. That fact alone guarantees an increased cost of doing business, which I would be motivated to minimize as much as possible.

I would take extra precautions, such as background checks, to reduce the likelihood of legal action, but I would also take steps to improve my chances of success, should I end up taking legal action anyway. Instead of calling my tenants on the phone, or knocking on their door when I have a problem, all of my communications to tenants would be in writing.

Long story short, I would have to de-personalize my business, to ensure its survival.

Unfortunately, I don’t think many people really consider, the benefits of doing business with a private individual. It’s all about control, and re-direction of responsibility, and it’s a bait and switch.

Too many people these days are all too eager to avoid personal responsibility, but they don’t realize that they’re also losing opportunities.

Because I am fully capable of, and legally allowed to represent myself in court, I don’t have any reason to screen tenants.

I interview perspective tenants in person. As long as a perspective tenant can tell me that they can, and how they can afford to pay the rent, I’ll give anybody a chance.

That means there are 30 units in the Helena area, that won’t turn an individual away for bad credit. If my business were a licensed corporation, that wouldn’t be the case. I wouldn’t accept the risk.

I am personally liable for my business, which is risky enough, but it’s a manageable risk. I spend a great deal of time, making sure I’m well informed of the regulations, and in compliance therewith. I also thoroughly document everything, which has proven very useful.

In the 7 plus years I’ve been in business for myself, I have yet to lose a court case, but I fear a day is coming, where compliance with my obligations, and the ability to prove as much, wont be enough.

Once upon a time, joining the ranks of corporate America was something to aspire to. From my perspective, that is not the case today.

The early days of unregulated industrialism, set the pendulum of public opinion in motion. Today it’s swung so far past the middle, that the negative stigma associated with the word corporation, is being pushed on all forms of business.

I’ve done the research, I know what I would have to do, and how it would fundamentally change the way I do business, if I were to incorporate.

As legislation continues to drive up my obligations, and therefore my level of personal risk, I can’t help but view this option as a punishment.

The price of owning a piece of the American dream, isn’t just hard work and personal sacrifice anymore. The desire to be independent and have a means of living that belongs entirely to ones self, is now portrayed as deviant behavior.

Those with such ambitions are penalized with excessive taxes, relentless scrutiny, and the persistent feeling of indignity, derived from unwarranted public skepticism, that has all but eliminated the very notion of pride of accomplishment.

Considering the cost, the miniscule reduction in personal liability offered by forming a corporation, does not come across as an incentive to me, but it is very much starting to look like an ultimatum.

I will hold on to my freedom as long as I can, but free enterprise has lost so much ground, a holding effort alone has almost no chance of success. What we really need is to consolidate our efforts and push back, and I’m not talking about big corporations hiring lobbyists.

I’m reaching out to the men and women out there, who like myself, don’t have money to throw at the problem. Men and women who have already taken the first steps to build something of their own, and don’t want to lose it, and those who have ambitions to do so, but can’t see a way to cut through the red tape to even get started.

I’m asking you to pick up a pen and write to your state and federal law makers. Tell them what is standing in your way, or threatening to take away what you already have, and tell them to put the future of business back in our hands.

Glenn W. Uncles Jr.

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