So I've been silent a lot. Not for a particularly good reason. But every time I've started to type something into this box I started to write about something that, because things were very much up in the air, I didn't feel would be wise to discuss here.
But that's changed now.
About a year ago my father, my uncle and I were working on making the downstairs rental unit viable for new occupants. It's a bitch finding renters during the winter in this area.
So for the first time in the 20+ years my family has owned the house, we enlisted the help of an agent; Danielle Felice (THIS WOMAN IS A CROOK), who owns and operates New England Properties. She pointed us in the direction of a family of six, the mother receiving welfare, the father (henceforth known as Frankie-Boy, who boasted a distant blood relation to outlaw Jessie James) on disability. He shook my father's hand and said, "No matter what, you'll always get your rent." He also offered to put some finishing touches on the place himself to speed things along.
Right from the beginning things were dodgy. For one, we'd told the agent that we didn't allow smoking on the property, which she failed to pass along to FB and his wife (we'll get to her later. No sobriquet I can concieve quite properly tags her), while telling us that she'd be drafting a lease that included such language. This is sort of fucking vital to us as two of the five of us have been hospitalized due to second hand smoke. In the end, she gave the lease to them first to sign before we got it, and my father signed it before reading it to find that the no-smoking clause was absent.
Moreover, Frankie-Boy told us after signing that in order to get the money for the first and last month's rent they needed to get the check from the bank that was foreclosing on their previous landlord and couldn't do anything with the property without first getting them out. Which is why, he said they needed to move in before paying. He also wanted to be paid for the installation of the carpet in the master bedroom, which he'd already agreed to do with no mention of payment prior to signing the lease (his willingness to do such things having been a factor in our choosing him as opposed to someone else willing to pay more for the apartment). And despite his claiming to have previously worked installing carpets, he did a amazingly shitty job.
For those of you playing along at home, that's 5 red flags thus far. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20.
Somehow, we managed to collect the first and last month's rent from them, as well as the rent for a few months afterwards. But then in June they stopped paying. If there was a problem with the apartment, we found out not from them, but from the Board of Health. As we rolled back into the driveway from Florida, where we'd gone to attend my grandfather's funeral, my mother in the front seat having a bad time of it to put it extremely lightly, we heard through the open window, "IT TAKES HER A FUCKING WEEK TO BURY HER FATHER?"
Then came a claim that while we were (conveniently) gone, FB's wife supposedly fell down the front steps. Odd that my brother, who unbeknownst to them was home at the time, heard nothing of this. They said that it was because of the steps, which were in no state of disrepair that would lead to such an accident. Though granted, they had seen better days.
The last time I saw my uncle Bob was when he came to help us rebuild the steps. He died not too long afterwards. While this was going on, Frankie-Boy took my other uncle aside.
From the moment they'd moved in, they'd gone from being the agreeable, appreciative people that were trying to land an apartment to a gathering of hellspawn to whom the concept of peace was alien, yet who were intolerant of the merest sign of life from upstairs. Not one day went by without shouting from below. Not a heavy footstep or a dropped book from my family went unanswered by more screaming and thumping on the ceiling.
Let alone if we were watching a movie with the sound above a whisper. Or if I had the audacity to plug my electric guitar into its fifteen watt goddamn amp on 3. (previous to them moving in I'd had someone listen downstairs as I put it to ten with full overdrive and the speaker facing the floor and it wasn't an oppressive or disruptive sound level at all) Or if someone tripped and fell on the floor.
Those fuckers called the cops on us while we were watching the World Series. And we were keeping our voices down. (Not lying, I swear)
It was this ongoing dispute that led to him taking my uncle aside and telling him that we shouldn't be messing with him. That he's been in and out of jail, with ink to prove it, that he didn't mind going back, and that he had gang connections and wouldn't be afraid to exercise them.
Naturally, we needed them kicked the fuck out of our house. But if you're a landlord in Massachusetts, life's a motherfucker. Even the asshole who shouts threats at the drop of a hat, and his psychotic wife who as means of intimidation makes it no secret that she'd been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial when she stabbed her ex have more rights than you do. They can break shit in the apartment and then complain to the board of health that it's broken, and in so doing claim to not be liable for rent. And by starting the eviction process you pretty much guarantee that they'll be allowed to stay put for three months without paying.
And they weren't about to speed things up.
As the process got more advanced, they started looking for reasons to shout at us, presumably to make us look bad. In fact we found out that they'd been badmouthing us to the neighbors, and apparently some of them bought it, because they introduced an affidavit in court from one of them, saying that they were good people and mentioning seeing Frankie-Boy take out the trash.
The thing is, she likely heard him first.
Hereabouts any house with six families or less is allowed ten barrels and one large item to be hauled away. The garbage men are lenient with the limit so long as you don't abuse it. And normally, that's no problem. But those fuckers were swine, and when I carried out ten barrels and what was I believe a shelf that had been broken in one of their daily tiffs, there was still plenty of stuff left over. I found out afterwards that later on he'd dragged the rest out there, cursing my name and calling me a lazy bastard for the neighbors to hear.
Of course, they never heard that the trash didn't get picked up and we got fined, and on top of that we needed to pay to get it hauled off or face a worse fine. In the end it wound up costing two hundred dollars.
There is NO FUCKING WAY that he didn't know that that would happen.
I meantioned that the no smoking thing didn't get communicated. We did, however make it clear that it wasn't cool to send smoke into our apartment, whether by smoking in the house, or out by our windows. They didn't exactly take that to heart, or, for instance, pay it any fucking mind at all. I confronted FB about it one night after seeing my little brother wheezing his lungs out.
"Well where do you want me to smoke?"
And I can understand a certain disdain for smoking bans. Not to say that I agree, but I understand it. But for someone to favor their own convenience over a childs ability to breathe...
The image in my mind of my fist connecting with his jaw again and again was a temptation like the devil's watercooler in the fucking desert.
"That's really none of my concern."
As I walked past him he spouted a sort of incoherent, obscenity-laden rant off at me.
Later, as my father pulled into the driveway, he got an earful from Frankie-Boy about how I'd yelled and swore at him. This was a common practice of his. Whenever there was a confrontation between him and me or him and my mother, he would go to my father like he was the goddamn principal, the truth never more--and usually far less-- than a guideline for what was said. One time he even said, "Your wife had better respect me or Laurie won't stand for it. She'll stab her."
I'm not fucking joking.
To my surprise, my father came up shouting at me. When he was done, he said under his breath that they needed to hear him yell at me.
Needless to say, FB and his wife never had to give up any ground on their carcinogens after that. Which meant that parts of our house soon smelled like a dive bar. The front hallway especially, which we eventually stopped using anyway because no matter how carefully the door was shut and how lightly we tread up and down the stairs. After a while of this aversion, I made the colossal error of going down the front way to head off my father and give him his wallet before he headed to work. Frankie-Boy burst out into the hall, shouting his head off about how his son was sleeping in the adjacent room (which was their living room-- there's a reason that bedrooms aren't placed near the stairs)
Things didn't calm down at all when I pointed out that he was making many times more noise yelling at me than I had walking down the stairs.
"Frank, what the hell is the matter with you? 'Patrick, could you please be quiet. My son's asleep.' That's how a man talks."
"You need to show me some respect"
"Bullshit. Whenever there's a goddamned sign of life upstairs you go on the fucking warpath shouting threats at my family. If you want respect, show me that you're more than a fraction of a man."
"I never threatened them. You want me to threaten them?"
"You said that your wife would stab my mother if she didn't watch it. You threatened to come up and knock heads together when I tripped on a wire. What the hell do you call that?"
"You need to watch what you say around me. I could have filled your backyard with bikers all this summer"
I interjected, and he put his hands up as if to deny that this was another threat.
"I'm just saying that things need to change around here or else one of us is going to get hurt."
"Speak for yourself, asshole. It won't be me."
I walked back up the stairs.
I have as of today not heard a single word from that shithead since. He didn't even go to my father. It's kind of funny, actually. Of all the times he went to my father telling him that I raised my voice at him or swore at him, the only time it was even remotely true, he didn't say a word.
During all this time, they were continually justifying their staying sans-payment with calls to the health inspector. One month for a mess in the basement. Another for a screen missing in a bedroom (which they removed themselves). You get the picture. They didn't even notify us that something needed a repair. They just went straight to the board. Until the inspector himself got tired of being used.
Now, these people had clearly done this before. They know how to tweak the system so that they can stay in a given place for as long as possible. Going into court, they fully expected to prevail.
We happened to have a cousin who just happens to be a damned powerful attorney. He mopped the floor with them, and they were out within three weeks. They moved across the street and three houses down.
Not ideal, but they were gone. And like I said, the asshole hasn't said a word to me.
but here's where it gets interesting. It was taken as a given that we wouldn't be able to recover the money the court said they owed us. If companies with bona fide bill collectors aren't able to collect all their debts, our chances were pretty slim. But then we get a notice in the mail that the bogus claim FB's wife made last summer was paid. So here was proof that they had the money, and unspent. Better news: Our cousin happened to know the insurance adjuster who handled the claim, and was able to confirm that it had yet to be disbursed.
Their lawyer, on the other hand, claimed otherwise. He was bullshitting, and got caught in it.
A constable was dispatched to their new place of residence. Their kids answered the door and said that their parents were out grocery shopping.
I can only imagine the scene at the local Stop and Shop as the constable, who had never seen them before and was instructed to locate "a man and a woman, each five feet tall and almost as wide," ambushed them and told them to pay up.
as the saying goes, to be a fly on the wall...