As most people know, I have not exactly had the easiest of lives. However, I have been blessed in many ways. My faith dictates that I try to help people in whatever way I can. I believe that is what we have been put on earth to do – to lift each other up when we can. I tend to look for the good in people and miss warning signs. I’ve gotten screwed over, more than once for that. I don’t know that I’d want to live any other way, though.
I inherited my parents’ house next door to mine when my father passed. Housing is a huge issue up here, so I decided that was part of how I would help people. The first people in there were friends. I didn’t know what to do with the house full of stuff, so it was easier to rent it as furnished. I only charged them what it would have cost had it been sitting empty at the time. That was $450 for a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house. By the time I got fed up and evicted them, they owed me over $4k. That’s almost a year’s worth of rent. In addition, there were holes in the walls that the ma, a carpenter, had promised to fix and never did. They also left a garage filled with junk that we hung onto for 2 years before finally throwing it away. This was despite continual reminders to come get the stuff.
The next tenants are what I call “graduates”. They paid their rent and although there were a few months they missed, overall it worked out well. They moved out last year when they were able to buy a home of their own. Yay! I had to replace the carpets when they left, and a few other minor repairs, but overall it was a positive experience.
When they moved out, she had another tenant to recommend to me. It was just Abby and her son. The son got a girlfriend, so Abby had her other son move in with her. For the first few months things were fine. Rent got paid. Everything was good.
Then the son that was living with her had a breakdown or something. I’m not sure what exactly triggered it, but he beat up his mother and was threatening to burn the house down. Abby had called us for help and my spouse went down there and told her son to get out. Eventually an order of protection was granted. At the time we were told she was in dire straits for the rent without him there. We understood and said we’d work with her and she wouldn’t end up homeless.
That was October. That was the last month I received a full month’s rent of $1200 for this 3BR/2BA house that I could probably easily get $1800 or more for on the open market right now. After a month we told her she needed to find a roommate that we couldn’t only take that amount for rent on a regular basis. She said she was working on it and in January, Stuart moved in.
There was always an excuse about the rent from then on out. I could sympathize as she has a brain injury and epilepsy. I know how it is with brain injuries. Things tend to get away from you and you don’t always remember things. I tried to help her out, even with little or no rent coming in. I didn’t understand why it was such a problem even after her roommate moved in. She pointed the finger completely at him, of course. I had no reason not to believe her.
When we came back from our spring camping trip, we were flat broke thanks to some of the repairs and delays we encountered. I didn’t have any cash at all to even buy food the last 2 weeks of April while we waited for our money to come in. I asked Abby about the April rent. At that point she said she’d had expenses and Stuart hadn’t given her anything. I was exasperated because I didn’t understand why this was such a problem. So, no rent for April. I’d gotten all of $300 in March and less than the full amounts for January & February. I had to scrape together money to deposit into the house account just so the monthly insurance payment would go through. Abby said she was getting tax money back for 2 years, plus she hadn’t gotten a stimulus, so that was going to be around $4k that she would give me. I said fine, and we’ll put a period and start fresh from there.
May came. Abby gave me $600 and said Stuart had to use the ATM and then she would get me the rest. I said okay. She then said that the taxes were going to be $3k back. I still said okay. I just wanted enough to get the house above water again. The heat had also stopped working, but I had no money to pay someone to look at it, and if it was something big, there was no way I could afford it without rent coming in.
After about a week, my spouse was talking to Stuart and he said the electric was about to be shut off there. I got angry and asked “well, what are we supposed to fo about that?”
This was when the house of cards and lies ultimately collapsed.
I messaged Abby that we couldn’t keep doing this. She came up in tears and couldn’t even look at us. I told her that as her landlord, this situation wasn’t working and that as her friend, this situation wasn’t working. I thought she was having a breakdown, so we sent her to the hospital. My spouse took her and waited until they said for him to go.
Meanwhile, I went down to talk to Stuart. I wanted to tell him Abby was in the hospital with a possible breakdown and we were thinking about selling the house, as is, for whatever cash we could get. I couldn’t risk losing the house to the tax payments or something else and we couldn’t afford to keep paying the taxes and insurance, not to mention having no extra funds for repairs. Stuart was stunned to hear that I hadn’t gotten a full month’s rent since October. He was giving Abby the money every month and she told him she gave it to me. He even brought out a slip of paper she’d written and dated the month before that said he was completely current in the rent. From January to May, he had paid her his half. And yet, that didn’t make it to me.
We started comparing notes and found out we were both being lied to. Abby had told Stuart that I was a trust fund baby and I didn’t need the money and I’d said that she would never be homeless. I am most definitely not a “trust fund baby.” We’ve worked hard all of our lives to be where we are today, and I feel compelled to help people.
But there’s giving people a hand, and then there’s being taken advantage of.
Stuart told me he had to take over the electric bill when he moved minor they were going to shut it off. It had been in her son’s name. I knew who he was dating and started talking with her mother. The son did not know anything about that. In fact, up until February, her son had also been giving her $600 a month!
Now, I don’t really think she did this maliciously, or maybe I am giving someone too much the benefit of the doubt. This is a woman who hasn’t had it easy by any means, and I do understand how you can have the best of intentions and life can just get away from you. She texted me from the hospital, not realizing what I’d found out. I told her I’d spoken to Stuart and I’d learned he’d been giving her money and she hadn’t given it to me. She said that wasn’t true. I asked why she had given him a paper that said he had paid his rent in full. She stumbled over herself trying to say she had given that to him before he hadn’t paid the May rent. That still didn’t explain all the other months. I then told her that her son hadn’t known about his name on the electric bill, but he did now. She replied that he did know.
I didn’t want to fight with her, as I knew she was in a bad place mentally. I had told her that day at my house before she went to the hospital that I thought she needed to be in assisted living where someone would manage her life for her. One of her excuses for not having the rent was having to lay out for her seizure and other medication. She’s on disability, shouldn’t medicare cover it? And even if she had to lay it out, shouldn’t she get reimbursed? Again, I think her mental state just couldn’t manage her life and she needs someone to do that with her finances, medication, doctor appointments, paperwork, etc.
I told her I was entering into a lease with Stuart and it would be up to him what was going to happen because he was going to be responsible for getting money to me. I had made an appointment with one of those “cash for houses” people to see what they would give me on the spot, but decided to give him a chance as a tenant and canceled it. Abby never contacted Stuart directly about what was going on with her living arrangements. She had a friend message me and I filled her in on what I knew, but it’s clear she believes that Abby is not the problem but Stuart is.
We were still friends on Facebook so I was watching what she was saying, sure I was being made out as a villain in her version of this. Everything was pretty cryptic. I saw a lot of posts that talked about not being perfect, but nothing addressing the fact that she basically stole money from me & my family as well as Stuart. Just a lot of “Yeah, I fucked up but nobody’s perfect.”
I would really like to know what she thinks we “did to her” except try to help her and lend a hand. I posted a message on my own account that was a backhand reference to this, and she unfriended me.
Stuart and I talked yesterday about how neither of us expect to see a dime from her. If she got her taxes – if any of that was true – she is mentally justifying not either of us paying what she owes. I’ve been through that before with people. I went through it with the first “friends” I rented to and I went through it with others who promised to pay me back for things and never did. It’s not the money, really. We’ll recover from that. It’s the betrayal of trust that gets to me, as well as the idea that it’s okay to defraud someone and move on with your life.
I’ll continue to try and be a good person and do right by people. I can’t let people who take advantage of that break me. I have to be true to the person I feel called to be. Their actions are a reflection of them.
Categories: Personal Stories