Saturday, December 19, 2020

Landlord Removes Tenant's Door Because Of Late Rent

As the pandemic continues to rage we will see more stories like this. How many of us could lose our job or other source of income or savings and be just fine for a significant amount of time?

A Missouri woman who lost her job amid the coronavirus pandemic said this week that her landlord temporarily removed her front door after she fell two months behind on rent payments. Hannah McGee told Fox’s St. Louis affiliate station, KTVI, that she has struggled to keep up with living expenses after losing her restaurant job. 

McGee, who has lived in the same apartment in Fenton, Mo., for three years and whose mother has rented the apartment next door for over a decade, said she now owes her landlord $1,000. “He’s always been a good landlord. I guess it just took one slip up,” McGee told the outlet. “I’ve lived here without a problem, no incidents whatsoever, I’ve been on time every month, but since COVID happened, I lost my job.” 

McGee said she began using her closet doors where her front door used to be, with her 4-year-old daughter forced to stay at her grandmother’s apartment in order to stay warm. “At night it gets definitely really cold, it’s kind of unbearable without it [the door],” McGee added.

Normally I would be sympathetic with anyone who is trying to recover money to which they have a legal claim. When you owe money to someone else, they don't care if you don't have it because of outstanding debts that are owed to you. They want their money now. It is what it is. But you have to do it legally. Unless you're Jared Kushner, but that's a different story. Removing someone's door to "encourage" them to leave or pay you the rent money that they owe is not legal. And when you break the law, even if you thought you had a good reason, you open yourself up to all sorts of unpleasant publicity and worse financial or legal consequences.

Being a landlord means that you assume some risk that the tenants will damage the property, not consistently pay rent on time and in full, or even refuse to vacate the property at the end of the lease. There are many legal methods, depending on your state or locality, to deal with these issues. A landlord must follow the law in addressing them.

The problem of course is that when a landlord is renting to people who don't necessarily have the wealth, income, or savvy to know their rights and enforce them by hiring attorneys, it is likely more cost effective to bully them.

A friend of McGee launched a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to support her and her daughter. By Wednesday afternoon, the page had received more than $9,470 in donations, far surpassing its original $2,500 goal.In an update Tuesday, the fundraiser organizer, Tommy Marler, posted that the landlord “reluctantly gave back the door,” sharing a picture of the door displaying a “Merry Christmas” wreath.

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