It's been crazy and again I will delay the continuing saga of Jeff while I make excuses. Debt Kid is a guy who speculated wildly and unresponsibly. He got his act together and now he's trying to pick up the financial wreckage. He recently has begun looking for an apartment (since his home just sold in a short-sale), and is realizing how tough it is when your credit score begins with a 4.

He wrote (post is re-ordered my own purposes):

"You seem so happy to see me when I meet you to look at a place. I’m well-manicured, fit, friendly…the perfect tenant. You even get excited when I say, “Sure, I’d love to take the place”. But then you rely on the 3rd party company to make your decision. It’s as if meeting me didn’t matter at all.

It’s really too bad. I’ve had an office lease for 2+ years. My business is booming, and my personal debt will be gone (read: bankruptcy filing) very soon. And yet you still can’t look at me as a whole person.

All you see is my past. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy. Late Payments.

None of those words explain me now, or where I am headed, but that is how you define me."
Here is the comment I wrote to him defending landlords:
"I know that you are frustrated. I know that you’ve gone through a lot and it’s been emotionally and physically draining on you. I’ve been following your story and I feel for you, I really do.

But speaking as a landlord, it’s unfair to cast us all in a bad light. Your credit score is pretty important to us and I’ll tell you why. We don’t know you. Yes, you show up to meet us well-dressed and spoken, but so does the alcohic who’s been fired three times in the last two years and is likely to be out of income again soon. And the geeky guy in a wrinkled shirt with long hair who mumbles just happens to be a computer programmer who earns a fair salary every year and pays his bills on time.

You see, renting out property isn’t a charity to us. It’s a living. When we get a bad tenant it can easily destroy a year’s worth of profits. First we have to wait for non-payment. Then we have to evict, which can take months (depending on the tenant’s sob-story). Then we usually have to pay for costly repairs because a person facing eviction doesn’t tend to care for a property. And during all of this time, we still have to make mortgage payments, because our credit scores are important to us too.

A professional landlord could be potentially be financially ruined by only one or two bad tenants. And history shows us that people with low credit are far more likely to be bad tenants than people with good credit. It’s not much and it’s certainly not true in all cases, but we don’t have anything else to judge by.

I know you’d be a great tenant. And I feel horrible for your plight. But if you take away a landlord’s use of credit scores, what’s left to help us make a good decision? What you really need to do in your situation is either get someone to co-sign on a lease for you, or find some people who are looking for a roommate."

And I really do feel for him. But let's be fair. His credit score is horrible because he made some very un-wise financial desicions that have, in the very recent past, led to him not being able to pay his debts. Yet he wants a landlord to trust that he will pay his rent on time based on what? The fact that he grooms himself?

The fact is that while he rebuilds his credit, he has options. If I were him, I'd go on craigslist and look for someone people who were looking for a roommate. Yes, as a white, middle-class, business owning, former home owner, it may be a bit of a hit on his pride to share his living space with 2 or 3 other people. But it's simply the consequence of his desicions. And it's cheaper.

And yes, I agree that the poor and homeless face a serious up-hill struggle in finding living, but as I mentioned before, landlording is not a charity. I give lots of money to various causes, but my business is simply a business. Please don't place the burden of social inequalities on the individual property owner. That's a problem for our tax dollars to solve, not some independant landlord trying to get by.

All that said, I continue to be a big cheerleader of Debt Kid and his struggles to right the wrongs his gambling caused. And if he lived in Virginia, I've rent a place to him, but that's because I've read his blog and feel like I can judge his character to some level. Without the blog, he'd just be another guy who didn't pay what he promised...


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