Evictions and Exceptions

For the last 4 years I have owned a 4-plex rental property with a business partner. In the 4 years that we have owned it we have:

  • dealt with 2 evictions
  • been to small claims court 3 times
  • had 6 checks bounce
  • had our “address lost” 7 times (the address rent was supposed to be mailed to)
  • had the police called 10+ times (usually drug related)
  • had two people abandon the property leaving all of their possessions behind (including used condoms)
  • had people take the bus to our personal house to pay rent….2 months late
  • have heard more stories and broken promises of money we could expect at the “next paycheck” than I have heard in my entire life.

If I can draw 3 conclusions of my first 4 years of being a landlord i would say:

  1. Everyone  presents each incident is an exception
  2. There are so many “exceptions” that they cease to be exceptional. 
  3. If you allow these “exceptions” to govern your business you will be bankrupt.
It is with this context that we arrive to this week.I get a phone call from our property manager alerting me that our tenants from Unit #2 are late for the 3rd consecutive month. The previous 2 months we have posted pay-or-vacate notices. This month they do not have their rent and will deliver it 3 weeks late when they “get their paycheck.” This story is textbook eviction case. You simply cannot afford not to.  Making “exceptions” for people’s flimsy excuses usually results in more exceptions and less money. I have come to a point where I would consider it foolish not to evict someone at this point. 
The morning we were going to move forward with the eviction I came across this verse in Colossians. 
“And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven.”
Remembering that we were servents that have been set free is an almost ungraspable perspective.
Later that morning, I came down from my”high-rise office building” and found myself on the door of Unit #2. The decisions that had made so much sense in the meetings and “on paper” did not seem to make as much sense now.  Over the course of 30 minutes he told me their story. It involved drugs, it involved single parenthood, it involved prison and it involved his 3 year old son running around in his underwear eating a pack of starburst (at 9am). When it was over……. I made a bad business decision. I made an exception
Today, I decided that I like the tension that exists between doing what’s right on paper and what’s right on someone’s front door.  Today, I enjoyed making a bad business decision. Today, I enjoyed remembering that someone made an exception for me….and because of that……Today, I enjoyed letting someone else be the exception.
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6 thoughts

  1. wow, what a great ‘teachable’ moment.
    I sat on a jury in February dealing w/this exact same issue, and I definitely had some of the same realizations when thinking about the tenants…but this landlord guy decided to make a good business decision.

  2. Awesome story. I’m sure that although the karmatic repercussions of that ‘bad business decision’ will not show up right away, it will come around – whether you know it or not.

    It is a very difficult state to be in when you know the “right thing” to do, and the “real thing” to do. I applaud your ability to differentiate.

  3. It’s a tough call. You may have been loving him better by enforcing the rules so that he could learn from his consequences and make better decisions in the future and his son could then have a better future. But loving them well by giving them the chance to be accountable for their actions doesn’t mean they’ll make the right decision. So like I said it’s a tough call between helping and enabling…I feel that tension, yo.

  4. I don’t know where to start…

    First of all, surprisingly Ben, you have managed to not exaggerate but in fact UNDERestimated most of the facts.

  5. I hope you at least told him that he could have gotten like 5 top ramens for the price of one pack of starburst. geesh.

    teachers deal with a “similar” issue when it comes to “late work” policies. All throughout college the professors told us “never allow late work. it will kill you.” However, every time I asked any of them for an extension they allowed it. Good teachers are nice people. Just like you:)

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