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Photo: US Library of Congress, ca. 1910s

The coronavirus crisis has brought with it some striking acts of kindness as people around the world do what they can to help each other. And then there there's this landlord in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Nat Hyman, whose property management company sent out a letter last week telling tenants that, coronavirus pandemic or no, they had to pay their rent on time or their asses would be evicted, damn it. The letter was all over social media this week, and by Monday, Hyman was backtracking and apologizing, explaining that an underling had sent out the letter without showing him first. But wow, look at this letter:

Superficially, the letter attempts to follow one of the maxims taught in business writing classes: There's a sorta-kinda attempt to address the reader's concerns before getting to the sender's goal. Which is why superficially following a formula doesn't necessarily equal good communication.


Just look at this whiplash-inducing transition from perfunctory "empathy" to cracking the whip!

To All Tenants:

We understand that these are difficult times and some of you may have lost your jobs and/or be on unemployment. Despite these circumstances, you are required to pay your rent on time. While this may sound like we are being uncaring, please keep in mind that all of our expenses, including bank mortgages, taxes, insurance, etc. continue to be due and payable on time.

Our policies to enforce the payment of rent remain exactly as they were before.

The letter reminds tenants the rent is due in full on April 1, and advises that if it's even a day late (through April 5), there's a $50 late fee. Come April 6, it's time for evictions to be filed. We also think the bitching about people wasting money on cable instead of paying their rent is very special.

Still, there's an offer of help in there, of sorts: "If you are not able to pay your rent in full, please contact the office and we will arrange a date for you to move out of your apartment." So that's nice.

The Allentown Morning Call notes that Pennsylvania courts are actually shut down right now, through at least April 3, because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court "ruled last week that no one can be evicted, ejected or otherwise displaced from a home because of failure to make rent or mortgage payments during a court shutdown[.]" But hey, gotta be ready to evict some people if the courts reopen, and isn't it nice that the laid-off deadbeats are getting some advance notice before they're put on the street?

Hyman was very apologetic, in the most sincere terms possible, explaining Monday that one of his managers had written the letter and that it wasn't "worded as well as it could have been." He also explained to the Morning Call that he's in a really tough place right now because people have all the wrong priorities in a crisis:

All too often, he lamented, tenants stop paying rent before they stop paying cable and utility bills.

"We have enormous debts, and the reality is that if we don't get paid, we lose these buildings," he said. "If it wasn't sensitive enough, then I apologize."

Times are tough all over! What about ME?

Hyman later issued an apology via text message, which he said he'd post to Facebook as well, although now the page is down. Guess maybe people were mean in the replies for some reason.

Image: Andrew Wagaman on Twitter; modified for ease of reading by Wonkette


As apologies go, it's not the very worst in history; at least it avoids the "sorry if anyone was offended" trope. There's probably too much explaining why the original letter was absolutely necessary. An apology should apologize, not attempt to justify the thing you're apologizing for. Still, the letter is clear that nobody will be evicted "during this crisis," so there's that. Besides, he's willing to work with "otherwise good tenants" who can't make rent — presumably more than arranging a move-out date.

Beyond what Hyman and his outfit said, the Morning Call also spoke with a tenant who seems to suggest that the initial letter is a lot closer to how the company actually "works with" its "otherwise good tenants" facing hard times because of the crisis:

Luis Ortega and his wife, Nicole, rent a two-bedroom apartment at a Hyman building [...] Both lost their jobs last week — he works in manufacturing, she's a nurse at a dermatology practice.

Ortega shared emails in which he asked Hyman directly if they could wait to pay rent until they get their first unemployment checks. Hyman didn't budge.

"Go file tomorrow and you should have no problem having your money in time to pay the rent," he wrote.

Ortega said he was hopeful the backlash on social media would persuade Hyman to work with tenants.

"People don't deserve to be bullied, especially not right now," he said.

Ortega has a point: Landlords sometimes become a bit more accommodating when everyone's watching them. As of right now, the state Supreme Court's hold on evictions remains in place, but no telling what's likely to come when the courts reopen.

Probably everything will be just fine. Those unemployed lucky duckies will soon be getting a nice fat check, and they can just hand it over to the landlords instead of blowing it on cable TV or food.

The Morning Call says, "Hyman ran for mayor in 2017 and has said he's giving a 2021 run 'serious consideration.'" His slogan could be "The Rent is Too Damn Late." Sounds to us like a surefire winner.

[Allentown Morning Call]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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