Problem Solvers

Why do people fall behind on rent?  Does it matter?  When a tenant falls behind on rent, it is common knowledge that their days are numbered at their apartment, duplex, mobile home or rental.  The law has long standing precedents for the orderly removal of the non-paying tenant.  Some people are evicted straight into homelessness, shelters, couch-surfing, tent-cities, the YMCA and the street.  How should a landlord feel about the tenant’s future?  It is well understood that the landlord is not obligated to be a charity, but should landlords be advised to feel contempt for their non-paying tenants?  Should the landlord regard the non-paying tenant as a thieving criminal?  Before answering these questions, consider the counseling that Landlord Solutions provides to prospective landlord clients [with emphasis added]


1) If the tenant needs extra time, the court will give it to them!  ALWAYS START EVCTIONS IMMEDIATELY!

2) You don’t make a profit with evictions; you only cut your losses.

3) You’ve already supplied the “NEEDY” tenant with free housing. You’ve already done your charity work. Give someone else a chance.

4) If the tenant doesn’t have a friend or relative to help him/her out, doesn’t that say a lot about the tenant’s character?

5) If anyone asks you how you could put someone out on the street, as him or her to pay the rent for him or her and you won’t have to evict them.

6) The tenant has illegally kept possession of your house and is stealing from you. He has stolen your home, stolen your utilities, stolen your hard-earned investment and stolen your services. The tenant is a thief. Do you see stores letting your tenant go and steal from them?

7) Letting a tenant stay in your house, who is not paying rent, is like giving your tenant your charge card or a blank check and telling him/her “Feel free to spend it, because I really don’t care. I like loaning money out interest free, even if I’m not sure I’ll get paid back”.

8) How would you feel if you worked all week and your employer said, “I don’t have a paycheck for you”. That’s essentially what is happening when your tenant doesn’t pay you rent. Do you want to work for nothing?

9) If you want to give your apartment away or provide free rent, you should be the one who decides who gets it, not your tenant. There are a lot more deserving people.

10) Your tenant is taking money that stops you from providing for your family’s needs. And the sad thing is that some tenants live better lifestyles than their landlords! It’s easy when the landlords let them live rent-free! Picture yourself trying to tell your child that you could not give him/her the item he/she wanted because you had to pay a stranger’s rent so the stranger could buy a gift for his/her child!

Number 4) and 6) are tied for the most awful with number 10) coming in for a distant show.  Please note that it, in Washington, it is not “illegal” to fail to pay the rent, but unlawful.  The distinction being, that failure to pay rent does not equal criminality.  Remember the landlord is free to get a judgment against the tenant and to garnish future wages.  If you have any assets the landlord will have a right to go after them.  Landlord Solutions takes the position that a theft has occurred, but don’t kid yourself.  Landlord Solutions will go for a fat judgment that accounts for every single day’s rent that the tenant is on the premises, plus fat legal fees and costs, so the idea that a theft has occurred is overboard.

Furthermore, the landlord is not innocent.  A lease or a contract was entered, and one side couldn’t keep the bargain.  This happens all of the time in business.  It is called the cost of doing business.  Tenants are often subjected to credit checks.  Tenants often must give references and rental history.  Tenants often must pay a damage deposit and first and last month’s rent.  The idea that the landlord is an innocent victim who has been the victim of a thief is way too exagerated.  The landlord has chosen to enter a business that involves profiting from rent.  Why should the landlord be encouraged to feel supremely offended the moment the rent comes up short?  It has alway been happening and it will never stop happening.  If a landlord feels this offended by a non-paying tenant, they should sell their apartments and open up a flower shop.

It is sickening that Landlord Solutions feels compelled to encourage its legal clients, the landlords, to think of tenants as criminal thieves.  Landlord Solutions gives multiple examples of how the tenant is stealing and then they finally come out and call the tenant a thief.  It is clear that Landlord Solutions wants to dehumanize tenants.  Their language is so strong as to suggest that they would happily let the non-paying tenant be jailed.  Tenants are thieves, after all.  If Landlord Solutiosn can’t handle the fact that its business model is based on evicting people who have actually lost their jobs, who have become lonely and isolated without friends and family, who have had the onset of mental illness, medical emergencies and other of life’s maladies, then Landlord Solutions should not be in the business of evicting people.  They are too callous.  Landlord Solutions will not admit, in their 10 reasons above, that there is any understandable reason for not paying rent.

Getting people evicted is necessary, but when Landlord Solutions decides to take the approach that any non-paying tenant is a thieving criminal and then they suggest that this is how landlords should feel, they have shown the darkness of their hearts.  A landlord who hires them for legal services should know the character of the company they have retained, because Landlord Solutions is going to leave the tenant brutalized and feeling like a criminal in the landlord’s name.  Why fill an already difficult moment in a tenant’s life with un-needed humiliation, loathing and anger?


Customers v. Citizens


Would you rather be treated like a customer or a citizen?  If you’ve flown in from Beijing to buy Boeing Dreamliners, then you’ll probably pick being treated like a customer, since your experience probably involves as much expensive champagne as you can stomach, and more.  If you’re driving away from Jack-in-the-Box without the french fries you ordered, you might want to hedge.

Our minds are collectively awash with customer service guarantees, customer service promises, phrases such as, “the customer is king,” “the customer is always right,” and “satisfaction guranteed.”  In other words, it is normal to assume that a customer is in a better position than a citizen.

Citizens have to fill out forms, wait in lines, talk to burned out bureaucrats.  Customers get ‘perks,’ refunds, smiles, rewards and service.  While this may comport with general experience, it is worth questioning if it is always better to be a customer.

Think of civil rights.  A black “customer” walks into a segregated soda fountain, in Birmingham, in 1952.  Is this person going to have a pleasing customer experience?  If not, why don’t they complain to the customer service department?  Think of the airlines.  How satisfying will it be to complain that you think the back of the plane should get to board first?  You’re a customer, go ahead and tell the airline to let first class passengers board last.

Now, when a government agency refers to you as a customer, they are anticipating that you are going to feel like you have been upgraded.  You are no longer the stuffy citizen-type, you are now a zazzy customer.  If you have a complaint, your needs will be attended to with care, concern and promptness.  That sounds nice, but it is complete crap.  In fact, it is downright creepy.  Equality applies to citizens, at least we felt that way the first time we read the Bill of Rights.  Customer service is based on maintaining your loyalty, because you might go somewhere else.  You don’t get to go to another government.

So, when you ride the bus or conduct business at the court, and you are referred to as a customer, it is infuriating to think that fairness has been chucked in favor of the principles of customer service.  It is not unreasonable to think that getting rid of the concept of citizenship and replacing it with the concept of customer-ship, is a process of remaking government into a corporate model.  A corporate model so pernicious that the people implementing it believe they are sprucing things up and making life better for citizens by renaming them customers.

It is time to make a very clear statement about definitions.  When government agencies start calling citizens cusomers they are ignoring their responsibility to try their hardest to serve citizens with principles of due process, equal access, fair dealing and justice.  What they are really saying is, “what’s in your wallet?”