Financial expert Dave Ramsey says Christians who own property as landlords should not feel guilty about raising rental prices – provided they aren't overcharging, and they work with tenants in difficult situations.
"This idea that you have to equate Christian and kindness with not having good marketplace experience is not true," Ramsey said last week while answering a question on his program, The Ramsey Show.
A clip from the show went viral on social media, igniting a debate that trended on Twitter.
"I own rental property – single-family homes ... and if I raise my rent to be market rate, that does not make me a bad Christian. I did not displace the person out of that house if they can no longer afford it – the marketplace did, the economy did," Ramsey said. "The ratio of the income that they earned to their housing expense displaced them. I didn't cause any of that. And so you are not displacing them. You're taking too much credit for what's going on. If they need to move to a cheaper house – because they can't afford [to pay rent] – they're going to move to a lesser house. Because if they move, they're going to pay market rent."
Ramsey was answering a question from a listener, "Dan in Washington, D.C.," who is a landlord and owns multiple rental properties. The listener said he feels bad for raising rent prices but believes it's necessary due to "increased overhead costs."
"I did not get into real estate to subsidize people's living expenses," the listener said. "But I also didn't get into real estate to displace families either."
Ramsey said there are exceptions to his position.
"A long time ago, a lady had cancer. Am I going to evict someone in the middle of chemo? No, I'm not. I'm going to work with them. I'm going to be kind," he said. "I'm going to have clear conversations. I want to know what's really going on. I don't want to be duped by the situation. But on the other hand, I also want to treat other people like I'd want to be treated. That's a biblical mandate.
"... [But] this idea that you have to equate Christian and kindness with not having good marketplace experience is not true. That's... not a factual way of viewing this."
Ramsey's comments divided Twitter users.
"Dave has slapped a Jesus Fish on his businesses, thus opening himself up to have a competing priority beyond market economics. Which means that there are times where the 'Christian' thing to do would not make business sense," one person tweeted.
The problem is: Dave has slapped a Jesus Fish on his businesses, thus opening himself up to have a competing priority beyond market economics. Which means that there are times where the “Christian” thing to do would not make business sense.— Phillip Larsen (@plarsen7) January 9, 2022
Anthony Bradley, a professor at The King's College, defended Ramsey.
"The self-righteous quote tweets about 'I rent properties, I'd never do that (i.e., I'm better than him)' are really ridiculous," Bradley said. "A rental property business is not a church & randomly quoting Bible passages at a business is a misuse of Scripture. A property business [is] not a charity. … If Dave's so wrong, then sell your rental property to your renters on Monday for $1 & make them homeowners. Give it away!"
The self-righteous quote tweets about "I rent properties, I'd never do that (i.e., I'm better than him)" are really ridiculous. A rental property business is not a church & randomly quoting Bible passages at a business is a misuse of Scripture. A property business not a charity. https://t.co/qVVuyXOL7G— Anthony B. Bradley, PhD (@drantbradley) January 8, 2022
Ramsey said Christians should not "overcharge" or "rip people off."
"Sometimes people get in their head that anybody that sells anything can't be a Christian," Ramsey said. "You know, 'I can't believe you don't just give all your stuff away, Ramsey.' Well, all these people that work here [at Ramsey Solutions], 1,100 of them, they want payroll, they require that I don't give my stuff away, because they'd like for their payroll checks to clear. ... That's why we sell a book instead of giving away a book. … It's not an un-Christian act to have interaction in the marketplace."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Anna Webber/Stringer
Video courtesy: ©The Ramsey Show
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.