Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eviction Threat 2: Gaslight Boogaloo

Yesterday, I told the story of how appalled I was earlier this week, to come home from running errands and find an eviction threat on my door: apparently, February 19 was “the deadline to come to the leasing office and speak with the manager about the [illegal drug] violation that you received on Thursday Feb 15th 2018. You have failed to do so and this will and can result in the termination of your lease. To avoid this make sure to come by the office by 12 noon Feb 20th 2018.”

Except of course I never received any “violation,” so how did one get connected to my home? Since that note had my apartment number hand-written on the back, but no names or other identifying information on it, my original guess was that the memo was intended for another apartment, but someone accidentally misplaced the digits: I live in unit XYZ, but this was supposed to go to the people in XZY.

Fortunately, Jeff (the actual lease-holder) works the night shift as opposed to a regular nine-to-five gig, so he was able to talk to the management about the matter without having to take time off work. He told me that when he went to the management office there was a “marshal” there, who said something about a woman with a package outside our apartment door. He also asked Jeff what color his wife was, and when Jeff said white with red hair the marshal agreed I wasn't the problem.

Which is good, except – for 99 percent of the apartments here, the answer would've been “black.” Or, more precisely, “those varying shades of brown and beige and tan and related hues somewhat misleadingly labeled 'black' according to contemporary American racial whatever.” So even though the problem seemed resolved this time I was still worried, not just for “principled” reasons but a very pragmatic one: sure, being the only white woman in an otherwise-black apartment complex saved me from mis-identification this time – but it could all-too-easily backfire in the other direction. Petite white women aren't that hard to find, even in “majority minority” Atlanta suburbs like South Dekalb County. So how did my apartment get written up for an eviction-worthy violation without me even knowing about it?

“None of your business,” is what they told me when I asked today. That's an exact quote — said maybe two or three minutes before they threatened to evict me. Again.

Let me backtrack a little. When I wrote last night's blog post, I asked Jeff where he'd put the initial threat letter, because I wanted to quote from a more extensive piece of it. When he said the management took it back after determining we were not the ones they worried about, I frowned and said, “If I were them I wouldn't want to leave a paper trail either.”

I'd thought I was kidding, but in sneero veritas* – next day when I asked them about it, they denied ever threatening us with eviction and asked to see that letter as proof. At which point I realized with a horrified sinking feeling that these people were not acting in good faith, not honest, and not to be trusted.

When I went to the office I saw the presumed “marshal” Jeff mentioned yesterday: a large, intimidating-looking man wearing a bulletproof vest labeled “warrant service.” When I was talking to one of the office workers, asking how I could avoid getting further violations in future, the marshal/WS guy walked over and told me, in a very unfriendly voice, that he gives out the violations so if I have any complaints I should talk to him and not everybody else.

“All right,” I said. “Sorry about that. How did that violation get recorded against my apartment?” He told me not to worry about it, since my husband had taken care of it yesterday. Which I already knew, but not know how the violation happened in the first place, which also means I don't know how to avoid future recurrences. That, IIRC, is when he said it was none of my business. I looked at him in some surprise and said something like “I must disagree; it is very much my business, how I got threatened with eviction for a violation I never even knew about.”

I think that's when he first denied making an eviction threat, and demanded to see the paper. Which is when I realized with a sinking feeling that these people were not coming at this in good faith, at all.

Then a woman who I guess is the new Chief Office Manager or whatever accused me of being sarcastic. I apologized if my tone was rude, but said I am genuinely worried – how could I have proven it wasn't me? Of course we all know it's impossible to prove a negative, but ….

You know how a common Internet-troll arguing tactic is self-contradiction? First they say X, then when you respond they insist they actually said not-X. Which is frustrating as hell and evidence of bad faith, but with online trolls you can at least quote or link to their earlier arguments: “You say X now, but here's where you clearly said not-X, not five minutes ago.”

Of course I couldn't quote any contradictory posts during today's discussion. Nor could I speak in full sentences; either the office manager or the “Warrant Service” guy would always interrupt. They never threatened us with eviction before – though she said they're going to evict us now, after my terrible, threatening behavior here today. At one point Office Manager made some comment about how I kept misquoting or misinterpreting them, and I (admittedly exasperated by then) said “I'm sorry; I did not think I needed to record this, but if—”

At that, OM got even ruder and more furious than before, going on about how I'd be facing lawsuits if I ever tried that, which made me frown in confusion and say “Oh, I'm sorry; I thought Georgia was a one-party consent state?” [Narrator: It is.]

That seemed to make her even more upset, and said she'd give me her email address and we could continue the conversation that way. Which I thought was a wonderful idea — I feel more comfortable communicating via writing than speaking anyway, especially in stressful matters such as this one — so I said “Yes, please, that would be great! Plus that way we'll have a paper trail in case of future misunderstandings” or something to that effect .... but before I could finish speaking she interrupted me again to tell me to get out of her office, and she had the intimidating Warrant Service guy escort me to the door — and no, I never got her promised email address either. 

Of course they have no legal right to evict me for asking about a violation (or getting the false violation in the first place) – but they can certainly be annoying jerks who make my time here unnecessarily unpleasant. And when our lease is up for renewal in a couple months they can likely raise the rent sky-high, or we can take on the expense and annoyance of yet another midsummer move. Fortunately we can “afford” it (meaning the expense will hurt us financially, but at least the wound wouldn't be fatal) — but I'd wager most tenants here can NOT afford it, and that's what these corrupt managers are counting on.

When my friend Kevin Carson read my blog post from yesterday, he tweeted it and remarked that "If you think structural racism is bad in law enforcement, check out the landlords in predominantly black areas." To which I can only add: holy shit, yes. Even in my broke-student days dealing with cheap and skeevy landlords, I never encountered any so-called "professional" who behaved with such belligerent dishonesty.

From what my neighbors later told me, I gather the bully-behaving "Warrant Service" dude has been scaring kids in the complex ... and I'll bet he's the guy with the aggressive and fake "drug dog" from yesterday, too. 
*Probably the worst pun or attempt thereby I've made in my life. But today I careth not.


Blogger The Atomic Fruitbat said...

Advice (I am not a lawyer, etc.): Get your lease agreement. Scan it. Email another copy to yourself (assuming you use gmail or similar). You can't afford for that to go missing right now.

Unless there's a clause allowing the management to evict you for being sarcastic, they may not be able to evict you. But it's possible that they're going to be looking for something that *is* in the contract to kick you out over, so thoroughly go over the document and make sure you're 100% within the rules. Also hook up a non-obvious webcam or something watching your door... if these people are as shitty as they appear, there might be a misuse of an emergency access clause ("we went in without 24 hour notice because we thought there was a leaking pipe... I don't know what could have happened to their copy of the lease agreement.").

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