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Empathetic landlords work with single mom after breakup

Squatters and bad tenants leave sour taste

Staff writer

When Frankie Stevenson, 32, along with her boyfriend and three kids moved into a rental house in the 400 block of Olive St. in Peabody about a month ago, she wasn’t expecting a breakup that put her and her children’s fate in the hands of her landlords.

When they moved into the house, Stevenson said she paid for all utility deposits and groceries with the expectation that first month’s rent would be paid out of her ex-boyfriends check.

When the two parted ways shortly thereafter, the rent remained unpaid and Stevenson didn’t have enough to cover it. Her search for help was fruitless.

Stevenson makes enough money working as a certified nurses assistant at Parkside Homes in Hillsboro to support her family, but the unexpected turn of events made it impossible on such short notice to pay the rent out of her income.

“It was just bad timing with the holidays and just moving in,” she said. “I usually work over 40 hours a week.”

Stevenson contacted her landlord, Gail Myers, to hopefully find a solution that would keep a roof over her family’s heads.

“She was able to let me slide for a couple weeks until I get paid,” Stevenson said.

Longtime Peabody residents Gail and her husband Jim Myers are no strangers to the landlord scene. They started with their first property in 1997 and acquired three more in February of 2003.

“I bought these rentals as an idea for income after we retired, and wanted to flip them after they were paid off,” Jim said. “But the flipping market is dead in Peabody. I’ve kept my rentals too low, but I’ve always kept them full. My philosophy is to keep the rent low enough that people are able to stay there for years. In the beginning that worked fine. But the quality of renters has gone down so bad it almost costs you more money than you can make.”

However, Jim isn’t referencing tenants that run into unpredictable life situations and need a little leeway. The couple has experienced more serious problems that make being property owners difficult.

“We don’t want to put somebody out on the street when it’s 20 degrees,” said Gail. “We’re more apt to work with people who call and keep us informed. I don’t want to have to go hunt you up for the rent. If you don’t have it, we’re mostly flexible.”

The Myers don’t inflict late fees most of the time.

“In other places by the 10th you’re getting charged a late fee every day. I don’t do that. Even if they want to pay half their first check and the rest from their second check I don’t care. We’re flexible in that regard,” said Gail.

The couple is more concerned with the state of a rental upon a tenant leaving.

“We’ve had to clean out a house with 19 2-liter bottles filled with urine left in the bedroom,” Gail said. “We took five loads to the dump and filled three different dumpsters three weeks in a row for that same house.”

It’s not only what’s left behind that poses a problem for these landlords; it’s also what is sometimes taken.

“We’ve had to buy three packages of light bulbs for one house, it seems like we have to buy smoke detectors every time someone moves in,” Gail said. “People have even taken the carbon monoxide detectors because they weren’t nailed down. I’ve also had brand new curtains and furniture taken from houses.”

According to Jim, tenants that move into a rental on an agreement aren’t the only people they have to worry about damaging their properties.

“There’s about three people in town that squat until they get caught and then they find a different location,” he said.

“If you have one that’s empty and you’re not paying attention, there will be someone in it. And I mean checking every day,” Gail added.

“Last November I caught one and scared him off before he moved anything in,” Jim said. “He must have been in the house the day before because I locked the door and shut it and he was there the next day. If I hadn’t gone in there he could have been there for days. We had to call the cops.”

When it comes to people that communicate with them appropriately, Jim and Gail have a lot more patience rather than someone that tears up the property or leaves it in a bad state.

“I understand her point, for a single mom that’s a lot of house to pay for,” Gail said of Stevenson.

Amid all of the hardships the couple has faced with others, Stevenson is thankful they showed empathy toward her situation.

“When Gail told me she’d work with me, I cried,” said Stevenson.

After years of both good and bad tenants, landlord Jim Myers says there is no in-between when it comes to the quality of his renters.

He had a suggestion for people wanting to invest in rental properties.

“It’s great,” he said. “Come buy our properties, I just can’t physically do it anymore.”

Last modified Jan. 18, 2018

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