I own a rental home and my last tenant had to leave the house, breaking the lease, after just 4 months. I knew this family would be a challeneg when I signed the lease. They had their own business cleaning out houses that had been foreclosed and then maintaining them for the bank until they could be sold. They told me they earned $80,000 in 2010.
The background check revealed that they were selling their current home on a short sale and had stopped paying the mortgage in anticipation of the coming closing. The sale price was under the mortgage by about $30,000.
They have two young daughters, 6 and 9. She had previously worked for a restuaranteer that I knew well and he gave her a glowing recommendation. The husband was rather scruffy but earnest.
They asked to pay the last month's rent over several months, but posted all the first month's rent and deposit. They never made another payment in full or on time again. They failed to switch the utilities from me to them for 3 months and had to reimburse me for my costs paying their bills. I waived late fees and penalties every month and even allowed them to pay weekly what they could to catch up.
Their business was falling off considerably and that didn't make sense to me. She kept telling me that the company with whom they contracted was being overly picky and was withholding their money and new assignments.
Finally, she called me to say that she was thinking about leaving her husband. Then the the truth came out. He was hocking their kid's electronic toys, the flat screen television, and other things to rasie drug money.
After she locked him out of the house without his keys and called the police on him for kicking in both doors, we had to ask her to move out. She had no occupation anymore and was out of money. She agreed to move out by the end to the current month if we refunded the prepaid lasy month's rent and didn't pursue damages for the breach.
She moved in with her mother 10 miles from the kid's school. She has no money for gas to even get them to school. She calls us weekly about the damage deposit to see when she can get it back. But, between the damage to the doors, changing the locks (because of the husband), cleaning the carpet from the move out on a rainy day, and numerous broken blinds, and other damages, she won't get much. And it takes time to complete the repairs, so she has to wait.
My wife said I made a mistake renting to them in the first place, although she was in agreement with every concession, extension and other relief. We talked about how we give so much money to charity and that it was the right thing to do to practice charity in every aspect of our life. But we just couldn't carry her any further.
I saw a statistic that women are 50% more likely than men to live below the poverty line following a divorce. Of course, it is hardest for the kids. They loved their rooms, having, for the first time, a room of their own each. Our rental house was much nicer than their old house, which they surely were saddened to leave, too.
I saw the beat-up van loaded to the roof with their toys and clothes, stacked loose in every conceivable space. The husband tried to keep face by telling me that they would be fine and that they are good people in a hard spot. He wasn't aware that she had told me about his drug habit and his thievery. I never confronted him about the doors.
So she and the kids are now among the poor no one wants to help. She is a solid person who works hard for her family. She operated her own business until her husband partner's failings eroded the quality of their work and, finally, lost the buiness altogether. Now, she is essentially homeless, adrift with two children.
Yes, it is a great thing that she has a mother who can help her. But what is mom's financial situation? How long can mom feed three more? And what job will my rentor get that will allow her to live independently with two children and no spouse to help?
Maybe they did do this to themselves and I am a bleeding-heart liberal. But I became an unwilling part of her safety net along with her mother and, possibly, others. At his point, shouldn't a country as wealthy as ours provide something more for her? Shouldn't her kids get healthcare coverage and wellness care, food stamps and subsidized meals at school? If conservatives get all they want, they will soon lose what programs they have. They can forget about new programs.
I'd say that putting a face on poverty would help people see and respond. But these are days when people cheer for a governor with the most executions, for a health system that lets people without means die, and for a tax system that ensures that 5% of the people own 50% of the nation's personal wealth.
This is not the society I want. I am glad I am a professional with a great salary and savings that should allow me to retire well at 65. I worked hard for these things. But I know my world can be derailed by this economy, a debilitating disease, a tragic accident, a criminal invasion... We are all at risk of calamity. Why don't we want a safety net for this just in case? I'm willing to pay more for this, but am even more willing to give up the world's most imperialistc and expensive military complex first. I'm less scared of terrorists than unemployment, being uninsured or watching my children suffer for may personal failings.
We are heading down the wrong path.