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May 4, 2010 - 12:55pm

Local landlord calls in police to investigate damage to apartment following eviction

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, landlords.

apartment_attic.jpg

Willard and Duane Preston didn't like what they found this morning when they entered an apartment Willard owns at 122 Summit Street, Batavia, so they called police.

Three doors had been pulled from the hinges, they said, three windows busted out, trash and debris littered the attic and the garage and there were numerous large holes in the walls.

They blamed the tenants they just evicted, and spurred by a recent article on The Batavian, they decided maybe they could get the police to pursue a criminal case against their former tenants.

"What is the city doing to help landlords?" Willard said. "The city can tell the landlords what to do, but the landlords can't tell the city what to do.That's my point. Damage is done? Fine. Get them in court. Put them in jail. If they're on social services, then cut it. Get them out of here. Send them back to Rochester or Buffalo."

Officer Ed Mileham confirmed he's conducting an investigation, but said he preferred not to discuss the case further. 

Police Chief Randy Baker said last week that while it's possible to look at tenant damage as a criminal matter, gathering sufficient evidence to make an arrest can be difficult.

"We have a level of proof to meet before it’s a criminal matter," Baker said. "One is, was it intentionally done or recklessly done? Then it’s a matter of identifying who did the damage. We can’t always meet all those criteria, so sometimes we can’t file the criminal charges."

Mileham said he did have a case about a year ago where a woman trashed an apartment owned by James Pontillo, and in that case, Mileham said, he did make a felony arrest.

In the case of the former tenants at 122 State, a woman was originally living there with a boyfriend who had "a good job in Rochester," Willard said. She was drawing social services benefits and had a job, too.

After breaking up with her boyfriend, apparently, she asked permission to have another man move in with her, to help her pay the rent.

"Why not?" Duane said. "It helps her and it helps us. What are we going to do, say no?"

But it wasn't long, Duane said, before the couple stopped paying rent, so they started eviction proceedings. It was during the eviction period, Duane said, that he believes they did most of the damage to the apartment.

"When she moved in, the apartment was clean and recently painted," Duane said. "It was beautiful."

Pointing to an abandoned couch, Willard said that it would cost $10 to have it removed, and $10 for each of the busted TVs left behind, plus $35 for a broken smoke detector, and all of the debris left in the attic and the garage.

"The small stuff like this ads up into thousands of dollars, at least $2,000," Willard said.

And it's hard to collect from tenants like those who just moved out, Duane said, because she's on DSS and the boyfriend -- whom he said claimed to be the son of a local contractor -- worked for various roofers, contractors and property owners around the city, always getting paid allegedly under the table, so there's no way to garnish the wages of either tenant.

While both of these former tenants have longtime roots in Batavia, both Duane and Willard pointed to transplants from Rochester and Buffalo as a cause for deteriorating neighborhoods.

"Batavia used to be pretty rosy," Duane said. "I've been in this business for 20 years. The streets used to be beautifully lined and the houses were all kept up. Now -- well, I'm glad we have an enforcement officer who says, 'let's get things cleaned up.' That's great because I'd like to protect my investments."

apartment_hinges.jpg

Top photo, Duane Preston points to debris in the attic. Bottom photo, Duane and Willard hold broken hinges, which Willard said showed no sign of wear or rust, but were just sheared off.

Bob Harker
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If I'm reading this correctly, the landlord was knowingly renting to someone that was committing welfare fraud. If that's true, he gets zero sympathy from me. What goes around comes around.
Jeremy Yasses
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Bob, Actually, I think you were reading more into it than what was there. Duane was stating that the lady is on DSS and works but the boyfriend can't hold a job and when he does it is most of the time under the table so if you went to small claims court and received a judgement, you wouldn't be able to garnish any wages from either (DSS or the boyfriend who can't hold a job). I too am a landlord and DSS is very difficult to work with as they do not help hold their client to any accountability. They will pay for their next apartment even if they broke a lease, trashed the last apartment or flat out didn't pay. They still find housing and pay for their client at their next dwelling place. The fact of the matter and one of the points that I think Duane was trying to make and many of us landlords feel the same way is the quality of people is not what it used to be. We have fights at the local carnival involving knives and more trouble coming from the big cities (Buffalo and Rochester). We would love to have better renters out there to help keep our investments in good shape but a good tenant is getting harder and harder to find.
Julie A Pappalardo
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I have been through this WAY too many times to count. My solution was to: 1. credit checks....and, yes, I charge the perspective tenant for it. 2. Google is your friend....It's amazing what you can find out by googling a person (like if their name shows up in the police blotter)!! and it's FREE!!! USE IT! 3. Turn away people with poor credit. Turn away people who move every few months (again this is on a credit report) 4. Make them fill out an application and CALL their landlord references!!! Just remember that you can only ask if they paid the rent on time, and if they would rent to them again. Once I started doing these things, and I got WAY better tenants. Usually the credit check (that they have to pay for) scares away the riff raff...... Just some suggestions of stuff that has made Landlording much less painful.....and expensive! If the landlords around here would raise their standards and not just rent to the first guy with some cash in his hand, Batavia would be a MUCH better place!
Julie, That is so awesome and so dead on! Being a Landlord is a business; and businesses carry risks. Those are some basic tatics to try to keep it healthy and maintain your product. I wish that there were more that thought like that.
Jeremy Yasses
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Phil, Not all landlords have the luxury of waiting for the perfect tenant. Some of us have mortgages on our properties and don't forget taxes and insurance. Don't get me wrong we have a lot of great people who are tenants and good neighbors. We don't want problem tenants but sometimes its the enevitable to pay the bills. Yes owning property is like a business and there are risks and rewards and we accept that, we are just struggling like a lot of small businesses that's all, but to think they we don't try and get the best possible tenant available to us is ridiculous.
Howard B. Owens
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Jeremy, but don't bad tenants also drive up the cost of doing business? When you get somebody in who must eventually be evicted, and then you must spend thousands of dollars on clean up and repair -- you're out the rent, you have all that damage, and then you have to advertise and be vacant until you get a new tenant. That's pretty darn expensive, I imagine. Wouldn't it be better to maybe take an extra month, even two, to make sure you have a good, reliable tenant?
Jeremy Yasses
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Howard, You are absolutely right, however do u remember that remodeled apartment that you saw on thorpe street and took pics in? The one with ceramic tile and new appliances? It still isn't rented! I can't get a tenant with good references, sec. Deposit and rent ready to even look at it. You can fix up apartments in some pockets of batavia but that doesn't mean you will get better clients. I cannot hold out any longer it has been vacant for over 6 months.
Howard B. Owens
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But, maybe, Jeremy, if every landlord took that much effort to find the right tenant, over time it might put enough of a squeeze on the bad tenants to get the hell out of Dodge. If bad tenants can't find dwellings in Batavia, or find it too difficult, they won't want to stick around.
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To Julie: This is my mother name whom i have permission to use to clarify that but just to turn down somebody that's name is in the police blotter is right but ridiculous at the same time. If you search my name on Google there are a FEW police blotters that comes up that is a mistake and yes ive made mistake it was roughly 2 years ago and i've totally made a 360 in my life and now starting over and doing nothing but good! (and i get punished for the rest of my years until i change my name i guess! that i look like a bad person bc of my criminal past) But I think that is a big privacy issue for me! My father whom is a abuser that I want no contact with can google my name and find out my arrest and address?! Well thats a different issue but a good topic to bring up! Its bull crap to me! But on a different perspective, i know these tenants of this place. I agree that by just looking and talking to her "new boyfriend" that you can tell hes not all there! and its due to heavy narcotics use. That he still does from what hearsay i hear! Not really the landlord fault but I feel bad for these people who try to screw over these landlords that are trying to give you a place to live, you have a lease you know what your suppose to do and what your suppose to pay and you don't! So you ruin it for others its a shame!
Gabor Deutsch
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Julie, this is kind of harsh. "Usually the credit check (that they have to pay for) scares away the riff raff"...... I don't feel that everyone with poor credit automatically makes them riff raff. I have never paid to have a landlord check my credit nor will I ever ! I have been renting my current apartment now for 12 years with poor credit. I not only pay my rent but I do things around the building to help the landlord out with no pay and sometimes after waiting weeks for a problem to be fixed I do it myself at my expense. I am only pointing this out because I feel there are many other folks like me that may be subjected to unfair stereo typing or maybe discrimination. There has to be a happy medium. I am bound to what I can afford to pay for rent but I have seen MANY substandard apartments being rented here in Batavia. I never had a problem with references either. I have had serious financial difficulties and I am so thankful to the Landlords that were willing to take a chance and help me out. I hope a few bad apples don't spoil the whole bushel. Otherwise you will have more homeless people and quite a few empty apartments here.
Chris Vallett
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Well put!
Howard B. Owens
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There are three issues with a credit check: - First and foremost, dose the person have a history of paying rent. If not, that will show up on the credit history. -- Does the person pay bills on time? That may or may not indicate a person's reliability on rent. You can have a history of paying rent, and long stretches of paying bills on time, and still have a poor credit score. I think landlords are wise to check credit history. If a person doesn't pay rent or utilities on time, why rent to him or her? That's a level of irresponsibility no landlord should expose themselves, too.
JoAnne Rock
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Howard, correct me if I am wrong, but, a history of paying rent will only show up on a credit history if the landlord reports to a credit bureau. I agree that landlords are wise to check credit history. But, if they are going to rely on that information, then they have an obligation to make sure that the information on file is accurate by reporting to the bureaus.
Gabor Deutsch
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Posted by Howard Owens on May 5, 2010 - 11:34am There are three issues with a credit check: - "First and foremost, dose the person have a history of paying rent. If not, that will show up on the credit history". Unless a landlord has taken someone to court (and won) exactly where does that show up ? -- "Does the person pay bills on time? That may or may not indicate a person's reliability on rent". I wonder how many people would be living on the street for their credit card bills alone ! "You can have a history of paying rent, and long stretches of paying bills on time, and still have a poor credit score". Let's not confuse credit with credibility. "I think landlords are wise to check credit history. If a person doesn't pay rent or utilities on time, why rent to him or her"? I thought that was what references and prior renting history checks were for. "That's a level of irresponsibility no landlord should expose themselves, too". But it is okay to support and admire a small business owner that doesn't pay their taxes or bills ? (not you Howard). I didn't realize that Batavia is the home of the "richy rich" type of people. I challenge every landlord to check every tenants credit history and be prepared to go out of business ! Any business is a risk. I do think more needs to be done to protect landlords and their properties but without sufficient demand you wont make a cent no matter how much you have to supply for housing.
Julie A Pappalardo
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Bad tenants DO raise the cost of doing business. Especially if you are leveraged. Part of the problem in Batavia is that a LOT of landlords are over leveraged. If they have a vacancy for too long it could put them out of business. Or, if someone trashes one of their places, it could put them out of business. It all boils down to RISK. Is this perspective tenant worth the RISK on my investment?? Credit checks, Goggle, and applications WORK. We, as landlords, have a right to check a perspective tenants criminal background. NO, we DON"T have to rent to people who have been in trouble!!! If you screwed you life up back in the day, well, that is a consequents of your past behavior. Don't blame a landlord for not wanting to take a RISK on YOU! Gabor: credit checks don't just show credit history. They also show ALL of your past addresses. one of the things I look for is someone who has lived in the same place for a number of years. Some people have bad credit because of medical bills.....I don't hold that against anyone cause who even HAS health insurance these days...I have denied people who moved every 3 months for the past however long...To me, that means trouble. Why has this person had to move every few months?? Hey Howard!! Could we get "spell check" in here somehow?? I'm a terrible speller and have to run posts through another program to correct myself :)
Gabor, I couldn't disagree with you more. True there may be those who are trying to rebuild there credit. There may be some who have bad credit due to an issue outside of their control (Health or Death of a spouse)that deserve exception, but as a whole the way you take care of your financial resposibilities is a great indication on your credibility. Posted by Gabor Deutsch on May 5, 2010 - 12:17pm I didn't realize that Batavia is the home of the "richy rich" type of people. I challenge every landlord to check every tenants credit history and be prepared to go out of business ! With all due respect, that's part of the problem. There has been a growing drug and violent crimes trend in Batavia the five years. Most of these issues are coming from individuals from Rochester and Buffalo who moved here. Yes, we are not as bad as the cities, but that's why I live here. I don't want those problems. I am not "richy rich" as you put it, Gabor, but I expect business owners to not lower the quality of my nieghborhood so that they can make money. It's not really my concern if they make money honestly. My concern are two little girls. If that make me pompous, I'll take it. I understand what folks like Jermey are saying, but no offense that is your business. It may cost you more up front, but if you get solid tenents it will save you a ton in the future.
tim raines
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As Mr Yasses posted: a good tenant is getting harder and harder to find. It seems that with a declning population base and 50% of the properties in Batavia being rentals, landlords are lowering their tenant standards in order to have their property rented. Unless landlords raise their own standards, the downward spiral will continue.
kevin kretschmer
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"It's not really my concern if they make money honestly. My concern are two little girls." Whether you're referring to; the landlords, the tenants, or other business owners in Batavia, I don't understand your logic. The former certainly has the potential to impact the latter.
Gabor Deutsch
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My argument was about charging a prospective tenant for a credit check. I guess if I ever have to move then I will have to worry about it. I think maybe I will do the same thing for my prospective Landlord before I move in too. I would have to find out: How many properties do you own? Do you accept college students,children,people with welfare vouchers,disabled in any way, committed any crime,ugly,etc. I see you have good credit and own several properties. You are credible. As a perspective tenant the sword cuts both ways thus the empty apartments with a boat load of fresh paint and leaky plumbing. I totally agree that the burden of proof and financial credit checks should be on Landlords. I agree that there should be stiffer penalties for any renters that break a lease/contract and do damage. I especially feel that as a long time renter that Landlords need to be held more accountable to whom they rent to and why. It is a business after all.
Howard B. Owens
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Gabor, reference check on landlords -- good idea. Are repairs made on time? Follow through on promises? How many code violations? To whatever degree Batavia needs an effort to have fewer trouble makers (and keep in mind, by what I'm used to, the "trouble" here ain't much -- I've lived in worse places), the landlords do play a role. Landlords should be encouraged to do thorough reference, credit, background and criminal history checks and to the degree possible (realizing, it is a business and even on fully paid rentals, landlords can't afford indefinite vacancies) rent to only the most reliable tenants. More landlords improving in that area would benefit the city, not matter how bad or good you think things are, there is always room for improvement -- and it's also a defensive move, keep things from getting worse. Having a strong community requires a group effort and nobody is exempt from doing their part. Julie, FireFox has built-in spell check. Google Toolbar also has spell check, but it's not always available.
Julie A Pappalardo
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For the record, I ALWAYS offer perspective tenants references from my other renters :)

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