I recently had the “pleasure” of testifying on behalf of the real estate industry against the so-called “Just Cause Eviction” ordinance. As I listened to the testimony (and catcalls from the gallery), I heard terms like “slumlord” and “money-grubbers” being thrown around to describe our industry. Our industry was portrayed as an organized group of profiteers, whose sole purpose is to make money arid evict tenants.
After the hearing, I walked over to handle several cases in Boston Housing Court. One case dealt with a woman whose hoarding had risen to the level where she could no longer use her apartment (the judge actually referred to it as a trash dump). After several hearings and the resident’s refusal to accept services, the judge was prepared to sign an order barring the woman from the property and putting her back on the street. Social services and the court system had given up. The property manager, however, was still trying to find a way to keep this woman housed, despite having already spent countless hours working with this resident. At the last minute, she asked whether there was any other solution.
In the end, we asked the judge to authorize us to remove and discard all of the trash, leaving only her clothing and furniture, which order the judge gladly endorsed. The manager went so far as offering to give the resident a Panera gift card so her caseworker could get her out of the apartment during the work. As we were leaving the courthouse, I mentioned to the manager how she had likely just saved this woman when social services had clearly failed. Her simple response was, “it’s what we do.” A real moneygrubbing slumlord!
Every day, our office has the honor of working with hardworking property managers and owners who have dedicated their lives to helping others. Who do residents call when they lose their jobs? The property manager. Who do residents call when they have a health issue? The property manager. Who do residents call when they are having mental health issues? The property manager. Of course, the job of the property manager is to manage the property. Property managers, for the most part, are not trained social workers or psychologists. Yet they are on the front lines every day, providing safe, decent housing and care for people. For each case where we have to remove a resident for the benefit of the property as a whole, there are a hundred cases where we have saved the housing of the resident. Whether it is finding funding for the resident who loses their job, connecting mentally ill residents with necessary services or simply listening to a resident that is having a challenge in their lives, property managers have now become the first line ( and sometimes only line) of defense in housing preservation.
It is time property managers and owners received some much-deserved recognition for what they do. It’s what we do. We provide safe housing. We provide housing which is free from crime and drugs. We are the shoulder to cry on and the person to find resources when needed. Property managers should be proud of the work they do and, since Hallmark apparently has refused to accept my proposal for a national “Hug Your Property Manager Day”, it’s time that we said Thank You for all you do. We are proud to be a small part of the wonderful work our clients do every day.