Saturday, March 21, 2015

#nonfiction - The Perfect Tenants #lesbians #muslims #fairhousinglaw #discrimination

Today, I was fortunate to find the perfect tenants for a friend of mine. This was the first time I had been asked by my friend to rent an apartment for him. I had been a regular customer of his for over a year. He owns a convenience store and a pizza shop. Every day I make sure to buy my pack of cigarettes from him. When I walk in, he has them ready for me. Sometimes he helps me remember to get a pack of cigarettes for my girlfriend too. At least once a week, I order a pizza from his shop. My girlfriend likes it "well done"---you know, so that the pizza doesn't slide all over the fucking place while you are trying to eat it.

They made very slippery pizza at first. It pissed Gabi off something fierce. I convinced her that with time they would get it right. And it happened, little by little, the pizza got to be just how she liked it. I had to admit this just the other day. The last two pizzas we ate were damned near perfect, the way we like it. The way she likes it, which is what I've grown to like too.

Sometimes I buy milk there too and cream and soda, occasionally coffee. That's pretty much the extent of it. I think maybe once or twice we bought some scratch tickets. Won five bucks one of those times, so only in the hole five bucks on the tickets. The milk, you got to be careful with, because they sometimes sell stuff past the expiration date. That really pissed me off the first time I found that out the hard way. God awful drinking spoiled milk. Hard to forgive the bastard who sells spoiled milk. Damned hard.

But, you know, forgiveness is Divine. And so, I've gone on to buy more stuff from my friend's shop. Of course, I check the dates on the perishable stuff now though.

About two weeks ago, my friend told me about an apartment in his house that he needed to rent out by April 1st. He owns the house with his brother, it's a two family. He lives upstairs, his brother just moved out of the downstairs place. He bought another house. Hence the vacancy.

So my friend puts me in touch with his brother. Asks me to meet with him and give my opinion on the value of the apartment and lean into the process and help him secure a tenant. My friend doesn't know it like this, but I've closed $250,000,000 in real estate transactions, mostly rentals, since 2005. I'm pretty much THE eagle in the area. He just picks up my vibe, maybe. He also likes my customer loyalty. He also started to like me in general because we've slowly started to talk about things and be real with one another over the past year. He did something nice for Gabi back during the first huge ass blizzard we got this winter---he lent her his shovel so she could get out of the driveway.

I meet with his brother a couple days later, when our schedules lined up. At the house. He shows me the first floor unit, which he has mostly moved out of. It's a homey abode, modest. The kitchen had it's heyday about 10-12 years ago, but it has a built-in microwave, a dishwasher, a disposal unit. Nice tile floors, it's actually a big eat-in-kitchen. The bedrooms are both very large. The hardwood floors are in exceptional condition. The living room too is a decent size and it has an alcove off the side where someone could make a nice office if they wanted to. Lots of extra closet space to boot. It's only street parking, but on this street that's not a big issue. There's no laundry, but there are hook-ups and my friend said as long as the tenant was willing to pay half of the water bill, then they could bring in their own machines. Rather steep sounding terms, but no problem. Nothing a little tweaking on the base rent can't make right.

So. For this amount of square footage being offered in this area, at peak condition, the place would be worth $2200. But the kitchen and bathroom were dated, so loses points. Gains points for the fresh paint. Loses points for the window in the bedroom that is not sealed properly, so bad that when I got there to previewed it was taped up with plastic. So, after all the adjustments, I said the place was worth $1700-1800, but we'd try $1800 and give it a good push for April 1st.

And I went right to work with marketing. The first few days didn't bear much fruit, mostly appointments that all canceled in the last minute. At the start of last week, I did something very big for my company. I hired Gabi to be our office manager. This was the best hiring decision I've ever made. She is so talented and organized, that with my experience and mission statement in hand, she was able to, in only one way, significantly transform and revitalize my company operations. It was truly amazing. One of the things she did was boost our marketing. I had been spread too thin trying to do it all by myself. This new setup just rocked in every way.

So I started to get a lot of calls for my friend's apartment. By Thursday, I had a fully loaded showing day for Friday that I was excited about. I had three sets of clients who were all qualified and were all motivated to rent the apartment for April 1st. I told my friend and he was excited to. The showings were scheduled to happen at 12:15, 1:30 and 4:30.

I had gotten it in my head that the 12:15 showing was a 12:30 showing and I didn't figure out I made a mistake until 12:10. So by the time I got to the apartment, the clients were already in the apartment, and both brothers were there and had showed them the place. When I walked in, I walked in with a smile on my face to greet my clients, and was met with a blank rather scared look on my friend's face. This look, I couldn't make sense of at first.

The clients are two women, about 36 years old each. One is a librarian making about $56,000 a year. The other is a mental health counselor and only makes about $10,500 per year, but both of them receive an adoption subsidy for the two children they adopted of about $16,000 per year, which means they more than financially qualify for the apartment.

The standard qualifying formula for an apartment is that your combined income must meet or exceed the value of three times the term rent. Term rent is the length of the lease times the monthly rent. You take that number and multiply times three and if the income is higher, then you qualify. They qualified.

So I'm stepping in and trying to find out where in the process they are and how much selling I have to do. But really, most of the selling happened in the marketing. The price was right, the date was right, the pictures all looked good, the information was accurate. They had a cat and this was a cat friendly apartment. It was, for all intents and purposes, the ideal apartment for them and their two kids.

Plus, my friend who lives upstairs has two kids about the same age. So that makes for an even better potential for the children, having an opportunity to have neighbors the same age.

So I'm asking them within earshot of the brothers if they would take the space for April 1st. They respond April 1st or April 15th. The younger brother immediately pipes up about there being other showings that day and that they would have to see what the other clients thought of the space. I immediately think he's worried about losing half a month's rent if they only offered for April 15th, so I smile at the younger brother and wave him off. Both brothers leave.

When we were alone, I asked the client's why they needed to wait. They explained that their current landlord were taking back the apartment they live in because his parents are ill and elderly and he needs them to be close to him so he can look after them. And they wanted to move soon to help them out but didn't think they could move fast enough. I said, well, to be fair to these landlords at the subject property, it would be best to put in for April 1st and ask your outgoing landlords for a moving credit to help subsidize the moving expenses. This way all parties win.

They agreed and applied right on the spot for full asking rent. I got their pay stubs and deposit check. I even gave them a break on the finder's fee because they were such good sports.

I called my friend immediately afterward to give him the good news. He said, well I don't know if I can rent to them. I said why not? He said I don't think my wife will like them. I said why? He said because they are lesbians. He said because he didn't want his children to know about them.

I said, Jesus man, if that was going to be your reason you should have just kept it to yourself said flat out no without giving a reason and left me to wonder about it. But that said, the reason you have given me is completely illegal. He asked me why, I said because that's discrimination based on sexual orientation and that's a protected class. He said, well I don't want children. I said that's illegal too, age discrimination is also illegal. He said it's against my religion. I said well, I'm not sure one way or the other that it is, but that doesn't really matter here because the Law is the Law, it's called Fair Housing Law. I said, I suppose you could make your case to someone but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts would certainly throw it out. And I'm pretty sure the Supreme Court wouldn't even hear the argument. I also said, but I'm not an attorney, you'd have to check with them.

Then started saying over and over again. I have to pray, I have to pray. He also said, maybe the other showings will be better. I said, better than what? These are perfect tenants. I told him I still needed to check their landlord references and credit reports, but if there's nothing wrong there then these really have to be your tenants since they were first to apply and its fair housing law that matters now.

I have to pray, I have to pray.

I was thinking, yeah---get down on your hands and knees and ask God to send you yet another miracle, yet another answer to your prayers because the first one he sent you wasn't good enough.

Well, this is what happened. The 1:30 pm didn't show up. They rented something earlier and didn't call to tell me until much later. The 4:30 did show up, looked the place over and left to think about it but two hours later to say he didn't want the place.

In the meanwhile, I ran the credit checks and found that both tenants had excellent flawless credit histories. They also received a flawless landlord reference stating that they were excellent tenants, caused no disturbances, paid the rent on time or early every month and that he was sorry he had to ask them to leave.

The younger brother showed up during the 4:30 showing. Afterwards, he explained to me that they like to see many many tenants before making a decision. I joked with him referencing a joke I told during the first listing appointment. During the first meeting, I asked him if he believed in the Magi. He said, No. I said, well, you have to now. He said Why. I said because I am one of the three magi. So I joked again with him about the magi, when he was saying he wanted to see more and more tenants. I said, you like to waste magic don't you? How many times do you think you get to ask me to grant you your wish. I got you the perfect tenants on the very first showing. One wish, one granting.

So I had other appointments to get to. Afterwards, I went back to to my office, packaged up the applications into an envelope and dropped them off at the convenience store so that my friend would have them in the morning. On the way, I called the clients to tell them the landlord has some thinking to do and we'll just need to be patient while he reviews the documents, but that they  have received my whole-hearted endorsement.

I just hope my friend lives up to our friendship and stops being a dumb fuck hypocrite.

This town is full of dumb fuck hypocrites. One time a landlord put his hand to the side of his face and out of the corner of his mouth said, "No blacks." I just walked away from that guy immediately.

Another time, we got all the way to lease signing, leases were signed, checks were delivered and cashed and only then did the landlord realize the tenants were Chinese and tried to keep the keys from them. I had to step in and say Look, you have two choices, either you give me the keys right now to give to them or sooner than later a sheriff will be by to demand the same thing. She coughed up the keys. I don't do business with her anymore.

And neither will I be doing business with my friend either, if he doesn't take this deal.

I really don't care what religion you have. The Law is the Law. It's what the Commonwealth says. And its what the United States of America says. And that's it. You want to go on making a buck in this town selling spoiled milk and slowly learning how to make pizza after extremely patient patronage, be my guest. But DO NOT fuck with fair housing.

Or----can someone please suggest a penalty for my friend? More prayers? 8 month's vacancy? Extremely crippling open and shut lawsuit?

Oh boy. This story had to be written.

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