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What Should You Do if Your Landlord is a Narcissist?

cartoon on narcissism
book on narcixxism

I’ve heard and read a lot about narcissism, but in spite of having worked in the studios, and knowing many actors, directors and creative folk, I’ve never met anyone who I personally would label narcissistic. Sure, they might be vain, egotistical,  or self-centered, or all of the above — but hey, that’s Hollywood!

Until now.

I’ve been a little AWOL this year because I was fighting to keep my home of 19 years.

I lost. We all lost. We even went to court and we lost. A new owner bought our building in Los Angeles and we don’t have rent control. The state and city laws say if you don’t have rent control, a landlord can raise your rent as high as he wants, and evict you for no reason. Our eviction notices have a blank space where you write the reason for the eviction. It’s no one’s fault but the landlord’s.

Even before our building sold I reacted both emotionally and physically. (I touched a little on my extreme anxiety and depression a few months ago.) I was so fearful that I got sick when I saw the buyers dancing in the courtyard the day the sale went through, and again each time they sent surveyors and workmen on site, even before escrow closed. Other tenants shut down, were in denial, or moved out within days. It was chaos.

man in officeWhen the sale was complete, we discovered the name of the new owner. And that the media had already tagged him as the worst landlord in Los Angeles. He was a good businessman; he owned at least 44 other apartment buildings and had flipped a lot more. Apparently, he just didn’t like the renters who lived inside the buildings he bought.

The first week, the new owners promised us “upgrades” while doing the opposite: removing parking, storage space, laundry, quiet, etc. Within 2 months we were served with eviction notices.

Providing homes for new renters, by kicking out long term faithful tenants, most of whom are decidedly older, seems like a bad move on all accounts. I asked myself, what type of person can do this to people? Who chooses this as a life path? This is not just an economic career choice; landlords wield great power, and have a life or death humane responsibility — to provide safe shelter to their tenants. Kicking them to the curb is quite the opposite.

Perhaps it takes a power imbalance to really point out narcissistic traits, like with a boss, or…a landlord. Does the person in power abuse her position? There is no relationship as unequal as a landlord and her current tenants. The tenants are innocent and have no idea what is happening to them or why. They don’t know how to fix it, to be able to stay in their home. The landlord holds their future in his hands. He can choose to hurt, or to help.

There are many definitions of narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Psych Central, and a person must meet 5 of the definitions listed there to actually be diagnosed with that disorder. There are a few traits listed I have seen in him, but 2 qualities jump out right away to describe any landlords who evict without reason:

  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

In The List, Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, says that lack of empathy is the most telling trait.

“The true marker for a narcissistic personality is someone who is missing the component of their personality that has the ability to imagine the impact of their own behavior on other people,” she said.

man gets crown with promotionThat was what was most puzzling to the tenants in my building;  most people have immediate sympathy for anyone losing their home — after all, survival includes food, water,  and shelter —   but this man seemed to be content causing pain and loss to so many people.

Psych Central has an article about just one question that helps identify narcissists. Our (now) ex-landlord would fail this question, however. He would never see himself as a narcissist because he is a man of faith. His business office has a religious symbol over his door. His family is involved with charities.(They just don’t include any of his tenants, I guess.)

I can’t say I’m happy to find a person who fits so closely the definition of a narcissist. I still find it shocking that people can act like this. I can say I’m very happy this ex-landlord is out of my life now, however.

After a year of struggling to keep our housing, my advice to others in this situation: avoid any interactions with a “bad actor” landlord (that’s what real estate calls owners or landlords like this!) except as a group, or with experienced activists. They are often charming, or think they are — ours was– but the only way they win is to separate calves from the herd. Stay together.

Be polite. Be respectful. And work like hell behind the scenes to report anything he or she is doing that might be wrong. Find out if there are any laws to protect you, or even your building.

Narcissistic people aren’t like you and me. For that reason, you might not ever be able to figure them out. But you might be able to leapfrog over them.

Do you know anyone like this? How did you handle them, or did you just cut them off?

Check out my first book (chocolate) and my second book (love, sweet love). And Like my Facebook page to get notified of new cartoons. All rights reserved, and content including cartoon is ©Donna Barstow 2019. Thanks!

What Should You Do if Your Landlord is a Narcissist?

Donna Barstow

Cartoonist for LA Times, Parade, WSJ, Glamour, PsychCentral, Barron's, Weight Watchers, and textbooks & Chicken Soup books. Author and editor of 2 cartoon books and a Barnes & Noble calendar.

I both write and draw all my cartoons. You are warmly invited to share the link to this cartoon. The full-size cartoons are all copyrighted, so please email me at pen.drawing AT g mail (squish it) for rates for use in textbooks, prints, presentations, publications, or websites. Email me AT pen.drawing @ gmail. com. (Squish the address.)

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APA Reference
, . (2019). What Should You Do if Your Landlord is a Narcissist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jul 2019
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