Well, sort of. My husband filed a formal eviction against some tenants who snuck in two dogs and a cat, refused to pay their portion of the rent not paid by their government sponsor, and told us they were untouchable and could never be kicked off the program no matter what they did. That program was Housing Development Corporation. When my husband contacted them, he was told it is true. They will pay any landlord willing to take these tenants after they leave us. And if no one will take them, they’ll use our tax dollars to put them up in a hotel indefinitely.
So Steve named HDC as a party to the lawsuit.
It was time to prove a point. This blog was started out of outrage to Wilkes-Barre’s One Strike ordinance. Now that One Strike has been struck down as unconstitutional, I’m looking for another point to prove.
My point is this: Government agencies should do more to protect landlords from the actions of their clients. If they do not – if they continue to shrug their shoulders when one of their recipients destroys the property and livelihood of a hard-working middle class landlord – they will quickly find themselves with lots of people to house and no houses to put them in. This is, after all, the age of the internet, social media, and viral video. And ambitious bloggers willing to pull a stunt like, oh, suing the government to get national publicity!
Case Study #1 – Housing Development Corporation. When we were using a property manager, she rented one of our units to a woman with children being helped by this agency, which uses Housing and Urban Development money for rent assistance and other programs to help homeless families, or families in danger of becoming homeless. A noble cause, and one I support, even as I become more and more conservative. There has to be a social safety net, otherwise we get the crime, death and filth of Victorian England as described in a Charles Dickens novel.
That said, this should not be done at the expense of hard-working middle class small business owners. That is what most landlords are.
Somewhere along the way, the children’s father moved in. We don’t just let people move into our buildings willy-nilly, but HDC didn’t seem to mind so we had him fill out our application and we did our standard criminal background check. No harm, no foul.
But then they snuck in the dog. Or should I say the first dog!
We found out about it when a downstairs tenant, who has been with us for years, complained about the incessant barking and told us he’s calling the SPCA for suspected animal abuse. I looked up their lease – nope, no declared pets!
We had some bad news for these tenants. According to their lease, any undeclared pet is assumed to have been living there from Day One of the lease. Therefore, the tenant would owe us the $50 added dog rent per month retroactive to the start of the lease. Since they had been there 11 months, they now owed us $550. Plus they have to get renters’ insurance and proof of flea treatment. Those are our rules for allowing dogs in our buildings!
This didn’t exactly go over well with them. They refused to pay their portion of September’s rent that HDC doesn’t cover. They defiantly told Steve to go ahead and take them to court, they can never get kicked off the program. We gave notice to HDC they would have to be gone by the end of the month.
Although they denied Steve access to the apartment, he was able to get in when we had a leaky shower on the third floor. The conditions in the unit were deplorable – dog crap on the floors, dirty dishes and rotting food everywhere, unflushed toilets. There was also a second dog and a cat! That’s when Steve called the city rental inspector. Maybe we could get the unit shut down on a health code violation, and they’d have to leave immediately.
That’s when we learned these people know how to clean up a place quickly! It looked like a different apartment by the time the code office got there. But not before Steve got some snapshots:
HDC did the right thing. To their credit, they worked out a deal with us. They would pay the rent owed for September and all of October in exchange for us letting the tenants remain in the apartment until October 5th. They gave my husband $1,240 today. They also said they would be willing to talk to us about a settlement – we sued for over $4,000. Back rent, late fees, and pet fees for each of the three pets dating back to the start of their lease which is the fine we impose for sneaking in pets without permission. Sure I’ll be willing to settle, provided they leave the apartment in decent shape – no garbage, no rotting food, clean appliances, clean toilets, free of discarded furniture, debris and of any feces, urine or fleas from the illegal pets. We know these people know how to clean!
I hope this works out. All I want is my apartment back so I can rent it to some decent, hard-working people who take adult responsibility seriously. I certainly don’t hate HDC as much as I used to, since they are making an effort to make me whole.
Case Study #2 – Advocacy Alliance. This agency operates out of Luzerne County, and their mission is to help people with mental disabilities obtain independent housing. The alliance manages the clients’ money, and all rent is paid in full on the first of the month. Again, a noble mission. The problem is, the agency doesn’t monitor their clients closely enough to make sure they are capable of living on their own.
I blogged about this before: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/never-a-dull-moment
Go back and read the article, it’s quite entertaining and a good example of Ginger snapping! But in case you don’t have time, here is the situation in a nutshell: The tenant, a 20-something man with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old boy, used his idle hours to make friends with some random dude on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square. Random Dude followed him home and moved in. My tenant even gave his new best friend a key to my investment property! Then he moved a few more people in. No one was the wiser until Random Dude decided my tenant was cramping his style in his new crib and started threatening him with a knife. That’s when he called his caseworker.
And his caseworker called me to tell me I had a problem!
Well, we dealt with the problem. And we allowed the tenant to stay. But he didn’t want to anymore, he was scared. So Advocacy Alliance wanted to move him out and substitute another client in the apartment. Not 5 days after that exchange took place, one of the new tenants was threatening to kill his roommate because he went off his meds. That tenant was removed.
Advocacy Alliance did the right thing. Since the sublet didn’t work out, we decided to keep the original tenant’s security deposit. He also owed us money for new locks and some damages to the apartment. We sent out the settlement statement, never expecting to hear from him again. To our surprise, we received a check in the full amount from Advocacy Alliance! If I had a single family home, or a double block I could rent exclusively to their clients, I probably would. I just wouldn’t want to mix them with other tenants who were not clients of Advocacy Alliance, for safety reasons.
Case Study #3: Section 8. “Liz” is a woman with some serious emotional maturity issues. A single mother, she moved into one of my units in 2012. Section 8 paid most of her rent, she was responsible for a portion of it, depending on her income at the time. The problem was Liz kept losing jobs. The way she snapped at me, I could see why. Twice I had to turn management of her unit over to someone else, or I would have f*&@ing killed her.
Liz paid her portion of the rent when she felt like it. Her young daughter ended up pregnant at 15, and brought a baby home to that apartment. They finally gave notice to move at the end of August, leaving us with over $600 in back rent due and a thoroughly destroyed apartment. Her Section 8 caseworker claims he doesn’t know where she went. She moved out of state. She’s off the program here. My guess is she’s probably hitching a ride with her daughter, who is now eligible for assistance as a teen mom.
I think Section 8 should be responsible, at least partially, for our losses here.
We are now in the process of renovating the unit. Once it is complete we will tally up the bill and present it to her former caseworker, along with 8 x 10 glossy pictures of the damage. Maybe Section 8 will do the right thing, but I doubt it.
I’m not sure how we’ll sue them – the magistrate would not serve HDC when we named them because they didn’t sign the lease. We do, however, have a lease agreement with Section 8, so that may be different.
It’ll make for a few interesting blogs, in any case!