Saturday, September 17, 2016

In which I am resolved never ever ever to get into the landlord business

OK. Where was I?

Last week, the former tenant (FT) wrote Keith that she had not gotten her deposit back and if he didn't send it, she was going to small claims court.

I told Keith I would help him answer. I asked him to bring the receipt for the certified letter and a copy of the money order he had sent.

He had a receipt for the money order but had not made a photocopy.

He had not sent the letter certified mail.

Let me repeat that because I know your stomach is sinking at this news.

He. Did. Not. Use. Certified. Mail.

He came over clutching a handful of papers.

He is really good about keeping all documentation. But he didn't do it right! I told him and told him to send the letter certified mail so he would have proof!

"But you get all WAHWAHWAH! and I get all confused when you talk!" he said. "I didn't know what certified mail meant."

Oh dear. I do get all WAHWAHWAH! I am very emphatic when I speak and I tell people what to do, especially when I am losing my patience.

But - no proof.

He did, however, have a receipt for mailing a letter on May 20 to the zip code specified in her forwarding address.

We had three pieces of data:

  1. A receipt from the post office that a letter had been mailed on May 20 to her zip code
  2. A receipt from the bank for a money order for $500, the amount she is getting back from her $1,250 deposit
  3. A copy of the information she had given him with her forwarding address

We emailed,

Dear Ms FT,

On May 20, I sent a letter and a money order from BMO Harris Bank (receipt dated May 20 attached) to you at  

FT/Former tenant's friend who lives at this address
City, State, Zip

This is the forwarding address you left with me (copy of note with address attached).

I have also attached a receipt from the post office for the postage for the letter to you. Note that it is dated May 20, as well.

Have you had a chance to check with [your friend] to see if any mail has arrived for you? Would you please ask her if the letter has arrived and let me know? I am very concerned that something may have happened to the portion of the deposit that is due to you. 



We wanted to be snarky and nasty but snarky and nasty might not play well in small claims court. If we would have to go to court, my strategy was going to be keeping Keith calm while FT blew another gasket like she did when she called 911 because we were doing her checkout walkthrough. 

She emailed back,

I will ask, but hope you send a description with the details of how you end up with $500 from $1250 based on contract and checklist of walk thru of condition of departure the only 2 complains you should really charge me is for the Burners not clean $20.00 and the additional general cleaning which are $30.00, Don't forget the deposit given to you was $2000, $750 for rent, $750 deposit and $500 pet.(see pictures) 

Umm. FT. That $750 for rent? That does not get returned.

I don't know what pictures she is talking about. 

The next day, Keith went to the bank to see if the money order had been cashed. It had not. The guy at the bank told Keith not to worry - that he had done everything right and there was nothing for him to do right now. 

I really hoped it had, as it appears that state law restricts a tenant's right to sue about the deposit if she cashes a check for a portion of it.

I know, I know. I know there are bad landlords.

But man there are also bad tenants. Now I understand why no landlord ever raised my rent. I was a really good tenant! And, except for Michelle McMichael in Austin, who was a horrible, horrible landlady who would stop in my duplex just to get a drink of water on her way home from aerobics, I have always had great landlords. 

(Well, the landlord in Miami who did not respond very quickly to my panicked phone calls to him that the roof was leaking and the  plaster ceiling was going to fall in soon - AND IT DID - was not the best, either, but he was just lazy, not a jerk. DO NOT RENT FROM MICHELLE MCMICHAEL IN AUSTIN.)

Keith is a super nice guy. He is a good landlord. He does not deserve to be berated by mean people.

(And I told him not to rent to someone who had been evicted and had filed for bankruptcy! I told him!)

She wrote back on Friday,

Nothing has been received, and based on your pictures that only proves you took $500 out of a bank account and bought a money order for same amount, and you send it to somewhere at [my zip code]. It does NOT SPECIFY it was for and only Former Tenant was able to cash..  I don't know how you going to but you need to track the letter and find out if it got cashed. If by June 10th, 2016 I will proceed with law proceeding. 

When I overlook her meanness and the typos, I think, That woman would make an excellent lawyer.

But it's not Keith's responsibility to track the letter. It's her responsibility to check her mail.

Still, neither of us slept well Friday night. 

I was messaging with a friend whose parents own seven rental properties. She said her dad, who is 93 years old and in hospice for cancer, still has - to this day - nightmares about tenants from years ago.

I will never be a landlord. Never.

Friday, September 16, 2016

In which a labor organization shows that it does not really support Labor

Primo: This labor organization is having candidate meetings next Wednesday.

Me: So?

Primo: This is where they decide if they are going to endorse you.

Me: Oh.

Primo: So it's important that I go.

Me: Why does an endorsement matter so much?

Primo: By endorse, I mean, "Tell their members to vote for certain candidates."

Me: Ah. Yes. Then you need to go.

Primo: They have two sessions. One from 9:00 to 11:00 and the other from 3:00 to 5:00.

Me: That's it?

Primo: Yep.

Me: So --- if you actually have a job - especially a labor or union kind of job - the kind where you get paid by the hour for journeyman work or something like that --

Primo: Uh huh.

Me: You either can't go or it costs you money to go.

Primo: Exactly.

Me: So they really don't care if working people run for office, do they?

Primo: Doesn't look like it.

In which we remember yet another pain in the neck about running for public office and why Politics Is For Rich People Who Have People

Primo has spent hours completing the financial disclosure forms.

I agree with the idea - we should be able to see how candidates and politicians are getting their money - but when it is Us The Candidate completing the forms, I get a little pissy because even though I have an MBA from a top 20 program and I got the highest scores in the class in finance and I worked at the IRS for three months as a temp job, I find these forms incomprehensible and a royal pain in the neck.

As in, you cannot just say that you have $X in your company's 401K program. You have to detail the amount in each fund.

Between us, Primo and I have three company 401Ks and we each have our Roth IRA. Within each program, we have our money split in about six funds. (The first thing I learned in finance was Diversify, Diversify, Diversify.)

If we were rich, we would have People to do this stuff for us. People who would pull each statement and figure out the amount by fund and add up any duplicate funds across programs to see if the amounts meet the reporting threshold.

We would have People to spend hours and hours doing this.

But we are not rich. We do not have People.

This, my friends, is another reason why ordinary folks do not run for office.

Fear for our country.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In which I convince Primo that talking about his nephew and about his sister and their educational challenges would actually help him

Primo's big issue for this campaign - the thing that motivated him to run - is public education. There is stuff going on here and I suspect everywhere in the US about schools.

I grew up on military bases, attending, for the most part, the Department of Defense schools, which are among the best schools in the - hmm - I can't say US, because many of the schools are outside of the US - the best schools for American students in the world. Test scores for DoD schools are always pretty high. Education just isn't an issue on military bases and for military dependents.

Primo also went to good schools, but not because he went to DoD schools. He went to good schools because his parents knew how to use the system to their advantage.

I have no problem with their doing that. They bought a house in a neighborhood in a better school district and when that wasn't enough, sued the district to get Primo in special classes. (Primo graduated from high school when he was 15.)

Again - I have no problem with parents advocating for their children.

I do have a problem with people who don't think that parents who can't afford to buy a house in a good district or don't know how to sue shouldn't have options.

Just because you are stuck living in a crummy school district, you shouldn't have no choices.

Although Primo and I agree that children have the right to a good education, we disagree on some of the mechanics of all this. Primo thinks we should improve the public schools, which of course we should, but I maintain that in the meantime, the true function of public education is that every child be educated, period.

But I don't want to get into all that.

So his big issue is education and who gets to go to good schools and who doesn't.

Primo wants to talk about the Big Ideas and the Theories and the To-Be state.

We were talking about Ted'sSon, who is mentally disabled and has required special education that has come about because Ted and his wife sued the district.

"The district was not equipped to handle Ted'sSon," Primo says. "That's not right."

"Nope," I said. "Why don't you mention that when you are talking to people?"

"Because it's too personal!" he said. "I can't talk about that kind of thing!"

"Of course you can," I answered.

"Nobody wants to hear that kind of thing," he said.

"Yes, they do!" I said. "What nobody wants to hear about is dry policy. Nobody wants to hear about abstract theory. They don't care about your Big Ideas. They want to know that you care about their kids and what happens to them. They want to know why you would even care about education - we don't have kids, so you can't talk about that. People need to know that you understand their struggles and want to help them. They don't care that you care about this stuff in the abstract."

He thought for a minute. Shook his head.

"Trust me. I am in marketing. This is what I do all day at work - try to figure out how to get people to accept change and new ideas. If you can't connect personally to someone, you are not going to get anything done."

He frowned slightly.

I continued. "Without thinking of any of the other things about them, think about how it felt when you met Bill Clinton and then met Obama right after him. Bill looked you in the eye and paid attention to you. He made you feel like you mattered, even though we all know that's just his thing."

"Obama was looking over your shoulder for someone more important."

"People want to feel like they matter. And if you share something personal about yourself that relates to the struggles they face, that is way more important that explaining a policy to them."

He nodded. He smiled. He got it. He got it.

"You're good at this!" he said.

"I know," I said.

Monday, September 12, 2016

In which Primo gets signatures and I do nothing over Memorial Day weekend and it is grand

We did run into an acquaintance of Primo's who is currently a legislator. I had a conversation with him that left me really surprised.

As in, legislators all think they are smart. Really smart.

I know.


I think the rest of the civilized world looks at politicians and thinks, "You would not last two seconds in the private sector" and is sure that after each election a politician wins, he throws himself to the ground to thank God because if he were not in elected office, he would starve to death because WHO WOULD EVER HIRE HIM? but apparently, legislators think quite highly of themselves.

The conversation went something like this, although this is a highly-distilled version:

Me: I am a big fan of the citizen-legislator.

Primo's acquaintance - let's call him Bob - Bob went straight from college to law school and then from law school to running for and winning public office: Well....

Me: Otherwise, you get people who have never worked in the private sector and who think taxing soda at a different rate than other items in the grocery store is a great idea.

Bob: What do you mean?

Me: Because anyone who has ever been involved with a computer system would say, "But if we tax different foods at different rates, then the systems have to be completely re-written, which is very expensive and time consuming."

Bob: I suppose I can see what you mean.

Me: Plus when you have someone who has worked in the private sector, you have someone who has an understanding of the fact that just because your expenses go up, you can't necessarily raise your prices.

Bob: Hmmmm. But what about James Madison? And some of the other founding fathers? They were pure politicians. They made a career of politics.

Me: Well, you may have a point there.

[But I was really thinking, "Really? REALLY? You are comparing yourself to James Madison? I. Don't. Think. So. And then I looked Madison up when I came home and discovered that sure, he might have started in politics very young, but he ran a huge plantation, which requires some decent private-sector skills. And Madison really was smart. That is not a quality I discern in most politicians these days.]

Bob: But yeah - one of the problems is that all the people at the capitol think they are experts on everything.

Me: What?

Bob: Yeah - they think they really know what they are talking about.


Bob: So it can be hard to convince them of anything.

Me: I. See.

[And that's when I had the realization that they all think they are smart. They compare themselves to James Madison. They think they are experts. Lord. Have. Mercy.]

Bob: How's Primo's campaign going?

Me: I try to stay out of it.

Bob: What?

Me: It's his thing, not mine.

Bob: But... but...

Me: I did doors with him on the first campaign. I recruited and managed his volunteers. I put together yard signs. I wrote thank you notes. I entered data into the party database. I am done.

Bob: But why?

Me: It's not my thing.

Bob: On our first date, I took my girlfriend to do doors.

Me: And?

Bob: She's still my girlfriend.

Me: Yeah. Primo was not a politician when I married him.

Bob: But you don't want to campaign with him?

Me: No.

[What I should have said was, "Do you go to work with your girlfriend? Why not?"]