Thursday, June 30, 2011

Predatory Landlords and Their Victims

By now most of us have heard about predatory mortgage lenders, however are you familiar with the term predatory landlords? Well, as of recent I was on a payment plan with my landlord; a verbal agreement between both parties. Yes, my current rent was up-to-date and I had made substantial payments on my arrears while making substantial concessions so my landlord was getting paid and my family retained our apartment; concessions that included no car, no telephone at all, no cable, no Internet, and I had even sacrificed my beloved laptop to a local pawn shop. My routine of food shopping had also been dramatically altered by my frequent visits to local food pantries instead of local grocery stores. I believed my family's sacrifices were beneficial instead of in vain as long as my landlord was receiving his due money that was agreed upon. However, one day I received an unexpected 48 Hour Notice that had been slipped under my door; my shock was compounded by the fact that I not only had just recently chit chatted with the owner of the building, but there was no legal forethought such as an Execution, any other type of Notice to Quit, or even the courtesy from my landlord in anyway of being made aware that my family was on the road to homelessness.

Predatory landlords do exist and some of their main targets are:
  • Low-income 
  • Uneducated 
  • Previous or Current criminal/civil issues
  • New immigrants
  • Students and Young Adults
  • Unsophisticated renters
  • Homeless
  • Previous housing issues
  • Disabled physically/mentally
Playing unfair is the game that the landlord will evoke upon vulnerable tenants. And this situation does not just happen to renters in apartments it also occurs within the rooming houses where the person is not aware that they too have rights, rights that are more concrete especially if they had rented a room at the same location for longer than 3 consecutive months. In Massachusetts you then become a "Tenant at Will" and the eviction process must be followed by the owner of the rooming house. I personally had been in a local rooming house and was illegally locked out since I was awaiting a retro-active unemployment check and at the time I was only 1 week behind. I proceeded to file a police report for my protection, went to the Housing Court and received permission to re-enter the premises and I was able to retain my room until I moved out. And what certainly helped me the most is that not only was the owner known to the community as being "shady," I had nothing "shady" to prevent me from keeping my rights as a tenant either personally or financially.

Most landlords do run a legitimate and fair business through their rental units or are home-owners that need that extra income. I definitely know too that some tenants do exist that take advantage and not only do not care about their neighbors, the property, the rent, or even themselves; certain renters do give others a bad name. Yet, too many potential renters and current renters are being preyed upon as not only the economy gets worse, but as the desperation for housing continues to rise. It is this desperation that almost made me homeless not believing the 48 Hour Notice to be forcibly moved was an effective and legal order. I am thankful to the mediators at the NorthEast Housing Court and especially to the lawyer I originally only called with one quick question that came immediately to my defense handling my day in court Pro Bono. 

I can still recall being a very little girl growing up by the Collins Cove in Salem, MA. My mother was raising 6 children in a small 2 bedroom apartment working hard and doing it all basically on her own. Our landlord cared about us as a family since he knew my mother as a long-time tenant and knowing she tried was of upmost importance to him. He allowed my mom to make payments and appreciated her honesty as well as her perserverance. It is this same landlord that also would occasionally give my father odd jobs to assist with the rent costs since my dad was usually unemployed. I can even picture my father as a younger man on the scaffolding of a home near Derby's Wharf painting alongside with the landlord and his crew on a hot summer day. I, as a child, believed back then that those that did everything right and those that did the best they could would always have security; security not only for themselves, but for their families. Well, not only have times changed from long ago, unfortunately so haven't people changed from long ago. My advice, never believe things are stagnant because in this world you never know what each day may bring. 

Monday, June 27, 2011


Firework Debris

  • Emily Dickinson wrote:
    I'm nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
    They'd banish us, you know.
    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!

    Well, I sincerely believe we are ALL somebody no matter what and hopefully my columns depict that.

Trash  and firework debris is strewn about as people who reside in the Point neighborhood deal with the ignorance of others which includes those that patrol the area. I have been a Salem resident my entire life and I have lived just about everywhere within a city that I love and a city that is diverse. As a grandmother I generally do get along with others and I do consider myself knowing many people as well as many types of people. However, I know that when I cross Lafayette Street to visit with my elderly mom or to spend time with my grandsons I generally find my patience being tested.

Now, I am aware that many of my readers will say , "Well you live in the Point so deal with it." Deal with it I will not since this city is my city and I also consider Salem my home. A home that lacks as of late courtesy with not only some of the residents, but those that travel through Salem onto Lafayette and Washington Streets. The other morning for example I pressed the lights at Dow and Washington to bring my grandchildren home after a wonderful sleepover at my house and as the light was red a driver in a pick-up truck laughed and he hit his gas pedal speeding right by my grandchildren and me who just missed being struck; meanwhile a patrol car was facing in my direction and whether the officer saw what had just occurred I am honestly not sure - one thing I  am sure of is that when I walk to my mom's or my daughter's at times I am followed as the patrol car probably is wondering what I am doing in the "neighborhood." Another thing I am sure of is that though there are young children with parents on the streets at 11:00 at night crying because fireworks are being set off, even though it is not yet July 4th, that the patrol cars will just drive by as if they are taking a country ride. Now, most of the people on the street of course do not have to work or even get up in the morning so they do not even comprehend that others that live among them do have obligations.

Initially the Point was settled in the 1850's and does to this day encompass architectural and historical significance. A significance that is reflected amongst most of the area residents with just the few "bad apples" that give the neighborhood its bad name. And it is the few "bad apples" that need to know that we as long-time residents do not want to tolerate the nonsense of not caring for your neighbors and not caring for yourselves. And it is those in authority and others not living in the area that also need to stop labeling those that live here due usually to economic reasons. Especially when there are those who live in the area that own businesses and take pride in their homes. And I will be the first to attest that problems can be found everywhere within Salem and that issues certainly do not just happen in the Point.

As I mentioned to a local landlord that I was going to write this on my blog I was confronted with the fact that I should be more compliant and to give in. Giving in is not in my nature and honestly I do not care what others do provided whatever is going on does not "bleed" into the lives of myself or my family. So as July 4th is right around the corner have all the fun you want on July 4th and God Bless America. Also, to those police officers that do their job, especially under rough circumstances...Thank you from all of us "Nobodies."

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

From the Streets of Salem; Reuniting the Arbellas of Salem, MA

Salem, MA. - The searing heat of the sun, the beat of the drummers, the voices of the horns, the magic of the color guard, the stomping of the feet all marching together in unison is a sound that is lost to our city.
This sound has a rich history stemming from the military era after WWI, through sponsorship of the VFW and the American Legion during the 1960s to become what was once known finally as the Arbellas. Named after the famous vessel that sailed as the flagship of Gov. John Winthrop’s Arbella fleet in 1630, the Arbella Drum and Bugle Corp was derived from the consolidation of Salem’s IC Rockettes and Comets due to financial purposes around 1976.

The decline leaves an empty space in the local communities that once heralded their drum and bugle corps such as the fans and supporters of the once existing Arbellas from Salem. That space is not void, however, in the hearts, souls and memories of the grown men and women who were once members of the Arbellas.
I can recall many wonderful, yet very rigorous tryouts, practices, parades and competitions with a militaristic theme to them, a theme that taught us at a young age discipline and most importantly to be the best that you can be. Yes, there were tears of sorrow and tears of joy, but the tears just made us all that much stronger. It is a strength that that I know is still within me today.
It was teamwork and dedication that made us as the Arbellas what we were to become as a unit and also as individuals. And help in keeping everything together was our parents who carpooled us back and forth to practices, parents that cheered for us, and parents that were our shoulders to not only lean upon, but to cry on whenever it was needed.
We were a community that grew together and a community that is still together, a youth activity that is missing within our city that included support as well as entertainment for people of all ages. When the Arbellas marched locally the crowd loved us and as young adults the pride we felt when people clapped is indescribable.