Reform Rochester Now!

Making city and citizens self-sustaining

Setting a bad precedent

It was on the morning news. The figures came in, home ownership has dropped nationwide to nearly 65% and The Boston Globe expects it to fall below 60% by 2020. Meanwhile, nearly everywhere in downtown Rochester, new houses are being built. Who can afford to buy, and live in, these buildings? No one. My friend who does building maintenance tells me they’re for DSS and Section 8 tenants. When I started landlording, I was told to prepare my apartments for DSS inspections because Welfare always pays the rent on time. Even back then, I felt a little funny about that arrangement. When all your friends are vampires, what do you eat?

Maybe that’s why Judge Crime is convinced that he and his minions are so noble. It’s easy to think of landlords as a bunch of vampires bleeding the system dry, the end recipients of seemingly endless bags of welfare money. The guy who sold me my building said, “I only rent to cash tenants.” Back then, everyone had a car, the parking lot was full. While I must say I discriminate when I rent, there’s only one criteria I use. Will the tenant’s rent be paid on time every month and are they willing to put down a cash security deposit? That may be reasonable, but I’m still a vampire, and I still get harassed and accused of discrimination. I was verbally abused by a legal aid attorney in Landlord Tenant court back on February 3rd for suggesting a tenant should help out with the excessive water bill because her boyfriend had moved in with her at the beginning of her lease term and told me so to my face just prior to my filing papers to evict them.

“You’re trying to control what other people do in their bathroom!” said this heavyset woman with close-cropped brunette hair.

“Not unless they’re going to make me pay for it!” I shot back.

“You have no case,” she said. “Are you going to drop it?”

“Of course not,” I told the legal aid attorney. “Do your worst!”

And she had already been doing her worst. Her salary is paid by a national charity, and she and the other legal aid attorneys schmooze with the judges all day long at City Court, five days a week. When the rest of us come in and try to conduct legitimate business, we see judges like Stormy Thomas making eyes at a panel of lawyers. We are more entertaining than second-run movies because we pay filing fees to perform for them, and the judges sit and snigger at us, while the junior lawyers are all peeing on their shoes trying to make sure they laugh along with the omnipotent man in the robe.

Two years ago I appeared before Judge THAT Girl trying to evict a shop owner who had been stringing me along for six months. I had a legitimate complaint and she smiled seductively and dismissed me because I put the guy’s home address on the papers I filed. Another judge dismissed my legitimate complaint because I had served the tenant properly but not on the premises. I was a good sport about losing those cases and the money I paid to file them because hey, I haven’t been to law school. But on February 3rd when I went up before the judge, I had everything filed correctly and I had served the tenant correctly, and I explained my complaint to Judge Crime in a straightforward way. And he listened.

“GLAAAARRRRGHH, case dismissed!” he hollered. It wasn’t language, the noise he made wasn’t even human, but that was the judgment. I couldn’t argue with that. Nonetheless, I didn’t know how I had lost the case and Judge Crime wasn’t going to tell me. I turned around and fled the courtroom. The tenant won the right to stay in my apartment.

Forget about collecting judgments against tenants for the money they owe, you’ll be chasing them for years. The time to get the award is when you’ve still got something they need, the roof over their head. Unfortunately, the Rochester City Court judges don’t feel that’s worth any money. If you’re a landlord, you’re a swindler, the ultimate welfare cheat. They make it difficult for you to own property and yet they insist you pay property taxes on it.

There comes a day in the life of every DSS tenant when Welfare stops paying their rent. Likewise, we may only be getting one-third the money we feel we’re entitled to from Albany, but come on. Isn’t there a more intelligent way to handle the resources we have so we all don’t have to go begging every year? Mayor Richards gave his first State of the City address yesterday, saying that “the city can’t tax or develop its way out of the structural imbalances it faces” (Christine Carrie Fien, The City Newspaper). Certainly not, with City Court judges who shit where they eat.

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