I own an investment property which my older brother persuaded me to buy. I didn’t really know much about real estate and even less about property management. Through the years, the property brought many challenges most of which were created by the low caliber tenants.
One of my tenants is a single mother of three and recipient of any and all types of government assistance. Each month her rent is late and if that weren’t enough, each payment also comes with colorful story about whatever life’s drama has prevented timely payment. Sure as night, this monthly ritual became so predictable that it was almost comical.
Her name is Dana and her stories amused me and at times even endeared her to me. But enough was enough and after Thanksgiving I decided to try and evict her for non-payment of rent – a tough decision to make with the holidays just around the corner and the spirit of giving at the forefront of my mind. But business is business and I have given her so many chances through the years that I was starting to feel like I should declare her as a dependent on my own taxes.
So I filed an eviction with the courts and hired a notorious shark of a lawyer. But as usual, a story unfolded. Dana’s aunt texted me and told me that Dana was in the hospital having surgery on her spine. I was sympathetic for about 30 seconds until I remembered her last surgery just one year earlier. I was concerned and compassionate only to find out later that she had her stomach stapled. I wasn’t going to fall for it this time.
December came and went and no word from Dana. This was good news for me, as another month of unpaid rent only strengthened my case. But then something happened which struck me as odd. The upstairs tenants began to complain about the noise from the downstairs apartment. They said that Dana and her husband were constantly fighting and this was becoming disruptive. Husband? What husband? Dana wasn’t married.
Well, after some clever detective work, I was able confirm that Dana was indeed married – a detail which she neglected to tell me. But married or not, I now have an unauthorized tenent living in the apartment. I immediately informed my attorney and he sent Dana a letter stating that this unauthorized tenant must move out immediately!
Last Friday, we went to court. After I met with my lawyer, I sought out to find Dana so that we could negotiate an agreement. I scoured the waiting room which was filled with dozens of people from primarily two ilks – the deadbeat tenant and the slumlord. Then a whiny voice from behind me called my name, enunciating every letter and even ones that aren’t necessarily there “HEY TYAYMI.”
The sound was all too familiar and it was usually followed by half a dozen stories of why the rent was going to be late. “Hi Dana.” My eyes rolled as a force of habit which was my indication that I was bracing myself for her story and ultimately, the shaft.
But no story this time, just a hug ; a ritual that was reserved for the end of our conversations in which she would pay me some money and I would exonerate her from the rest – partly due to compassion and partly due to “I can’t deal with your bullshit anymore.”
We sat down and agreed the terms. Dana paid me most of the money she owed and agreed to move out by the end of the month. But then she started to weep. “Ok, here it is comes,” I thought. But this time it was different. Dana apologized for all that she had put me through. She then thanked for sending the letter which prompted her husband to move out. She showed me picture from her spine surgery in which a metal plate was inserted into her neck – a result of an injury caused by the hand of her husband. Nobody deserves that.
The day that Dana received the letter from my lawyer, she told her husband to move out. And when he did she filed a restraining order against him. And while at the courthouse that day, settling our landlord/tenant case, Dana filed for divorce. She was tearful, but not defeated. She assured me that she would endure and I know in my heart that she will.
Managing this building has undoubtedly been a challenge for me. But this property has also erased the lines that separate unlikely relationships and has introduces me to people I would ordinarily never meet. Each apartment has been its own vignette of unique life stories with its own set of lessons to learn. From a business perspective this investment has yet to yield a monetary profit but it is becoming increasing clear that this property is invaluable.