“Mister Geremy, I’m sorry, I won’t have this months’ rent, or next month’s, or the next month’s because my car didn’t have gas this morning.” This was the phone call that I received from my newest tenant who had been living in my apartment for a month and a half. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand how those two things are related,” I responded. “Because my husband came home drunk last night and my kids get their report cards tomorrow morning.” Apparently this lady is a world champ at non sequiturs! “I’m sorry, I still don’t understand. I’m on my way over to the house right now, and you can explain it to me in-person.”
I arrived at the house 20 minutes later and I rang the doorbell to the apartment. She walked over to the window to see who was at the door and after making eye contact, she quickly dropped to the floor and peeked at me as if she was invisible. I continued to stare at her for about 30 more seconds and then I said, “I can still see you. Can you open the door?” That’s when she got up, took off the lights, and walked back to the window to see if I was still there. I was.
I opened the front door of the house that I own and knocked on the apartment door that I own, which can be opened by a key that I owned and had in my pocket. Unfortunately the law prohibited me from opening my door of my house to get my rent from my tenant, so I had to stand there and continue to politely ask her to open the door. She never let me in, so I left—annoyed.
Instead of going home, I went to the courthouse to immediately initiate the eviction proceedings. The papers were filed in 10 minutes, but unfortunately this was the quickest part of the 6 month process to get a tenant fully evicted in New Jersey. Three months later, I had my court date where I faced a judge to plead my case for why I deserved the rent that I was obligated to.
If a tenant doesn’t show up to a landlord/tenant court case, the landlord automatically wins, so I was hoping for that outcome in my case. When they called my name, I followed their directions and shouted out, “landlord present!” Then I waited for my tenant to say “tenant present…” coupled with her usual irrelevant statement, like “my grandmother had a dog.” But luckily for me, she never showed up and I won!
I happily moonwalked over to cashier and paid for the eviction, but things didn’t go as expected. When she handed me the receipt, I said, “should I go over to the apartment and wait for you to lock them out, or…” She said, “in six weeks, a court officer will call you to make an appointment to do the lockout two weeks after.” I did the math in my head—six weeks equals a month and a half. A month and a half means one and a half more months of rent that I don’t receive. No bueno!
While I waited for judgment day to arrive, the tenant took things into her own hands…more specifically, a hammer— she took a hammer into her own hands and she used that hammer to destroy everything in the apartment. The walls that I paid a painter a lot of money to paint were all destroyed. The new carpets that I installed a few months earlier were ruined by wax and permanent markers. The appliances that were practically new were now busted and nearly unusable. She even smashed the carbon monoxide detector…what did the carbon monoxide detector do to deserve that?!?
After she wreaked havoc on the poor apartment, she called the township inspector and said that the apartment was in unhabitable condition. He inspected the apartment and gave me a list of violations that would put DMX’s rap sheet to shame. When I explained the situation, he said, “there’s nothing that I can do. You have a week to fix the violations.”
I had one week to renovate an entire apartment that I couldn’t legally gain access to. That’s when I decided to try one more unorthodox method. I went to the apartment and I knocked on the door once. When she asked, “who is it?” I said “hola” in a high-pitched voice. She finally opened the door and I said, “why are you doing this?” She said “I had your rent but then the cotton candy machine.” I was so confused that I got an instant headache trying to comprehend the nonsensical statement. I said, “I need to conduct a safety inspection of the apartment and you either need to pay the 5 months’ rent or move out within a week.” She said “no thank you” and shut the door. I didn’t even give her “no thank you” as an option!
I was able to delay the township inspection by another two weeks and I accelerated the lockout by two week. All of a sudden on the day of the lockout, a judge called my cell phone (this is never a good sign) and requested that I come down to the courthouse within 20 minutes for an emergency hearing. When I got to the courthouse (and waited 5 hours in the middle of the workday), the judge gave the tenant another 2 weeks to come up with the $6,500 that she owed me. After the court case, she said to me, “can you accept $300 instead of the $6,500? I have a sister who owns a rice cooker.” Wait, what?!? How does that even make sense? No. Two weeks later, the tenant didn’t have the money so the judge officially ordered for her to move out within 24 hours. I gave her an extra 72 hours to ensure that she had enough time to properly pack and move, even though at this point she owed me over $7,000.
When I finally got to see the apartment, it looked like a real-life train wreck. The walls were battered and bruised, electrical components didn’t work, and worst of all, the place smelled like dead everythings. This was the current state of my apartment and if I had any hopes of ever renting it out again, I had to get it back into livable condition quickly. This is when the third chapter of “the trilogy of stress” began…