“How much is it going to take to get that guy to move?” My husband asked me at midnight.
We had just driven by our property in Sonoma and saw Christmas lights strung from end to end. Every window glowed with soft, warm lighting.
Earlier in the day, barred by law from entering, we peaked through the windows and saw space heaters on full blast, though no one was home. We were responsible for the electric bill. It was against the law to turn the power off, even though the guy hadn’t paid rent in months.
The place was trashed. Literally tons of trash. A motorcycle on the living room carpet. Holes in the walls. A pit bull took up residence there, although dogs violated the terms of our lease agreement. The laws in California prevented us from evicting the vicious dog, and the eviction process against our tenant would be costly and take up to six months. He was a savvy tenant who knew his rights.
“How much,” Gary asked me again. We were both wide awake, and I was fuming with the injustice of the situation. It was making me sick. I didn’t answer.
“We’ll try a thousand dollars,” Gary replied to my silence.
The next morning, he went to the bank and got ten one-hundred dollar bills and then called the sheriff.
An officer met Gary at the property. The cop had his pepper spray out, ready for the dog just in case. “If you’re out of here by five o’clock tonight,” Gary told the skinhead, “all this cash will be yours. You’ll have to sign a paper giving up the right to the house, and the locks will be changed.”
It was a deal.
At five o’clock, Gary, the cop, and a back up officer returned to the property. Skinhead counted the hundred dollar bills, flipped everyone the bird, and drove off.
Gary and the two cops walked into the house. A mattress had been jammed into the shower stall and tomato sauce was sprayed on the kitchen walls. The electric panel hung precariously from the cabinet by a couple of wires.
“Best thousand dollars you ever spent,” the first cop said in a surreal commentary of the reality of landlording in California.
It’s a story that makes me sick, even all these years later. But that thousand dollars helped us cut our losses, repair the damages, and move on to a happier reality.
Get them out of your life
That guy’s presence in our lives was damaging in so many ways it was worth it to pay him to leave.
Everyone of us knows someone whose presence is damaging. Sometimes they are family members, good friends or work colleagues. This story is unique in that the cost of extrication was mostly financial.
Butt heads consume more energy than they deserve. Getting them out of our lives and surrounding ourselves with positive, supportive people is a better way.