A Tale of Hearts and Tails

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m writing this in the midst of a very unexpected situation that occurred with the homeowners insurance on our little rental house. When our tenant moved in, 7 years ago, I agreed she could bring her Pitt Bull. I had my concerns but after several phone conversations getting to know her, I decided to trust her judgement.

She’s been a great tenant. We’ve had some bumps in the 7 years which were resolved quickly with no hard feelings. Being a landlord, even for one tiny little house has its moments. My husband and I started our life in that tiny little house and it was a godsend for us as we were both wiped out from our previous marriages to not very nice people. Enough said. Anyway, we lived in that little house until a little larger little house came on the market. We were in fine financial shape at the time, with me working and decided to keep the first little house as an investment and rent it to someone who needed a fair shake. We were only looking to cover the expenses, not charge a ridiculous rent to line our pockets. That little house was very good to us and we wanted to pass on some of that goodness to someone else.

The first tenant was a relative of neighbor, paid her rent on time but in the few years she was there…..trashed the place. I mean trashed, it took over $2000.00 to get it habitable again. That made us, as landlords a bit jaded to say the least. We were pissed!!

We got the place spotless, new appliances, the works and through word of mouth we found our new tenant. She disclosed up front that she received assistance from HUD to pay her rent. This was something I knew nothing about, but it sounded sensible. A rent backed by a government agency, how could you go wrong. Everything went perfectly smooth, until the very last-minute she was ready to move in. She called me and told me about her Pitt Bull. I was taken aback a little, I’ve had no personal experience with these types of dogs and so as not to repeat myself here, I allowed her to bring her pet.

Fast forward 7 years. A surprise inspection of the little house initiated by our insurance agent uncovered the fact that a Pitt Bull was on the premises. Not just one Pitt Bull but two, as she is fostering her daughter’s dog currently. Our agent informed us that the dogs were not allowed under the homeowners insurance policy. They had to go. Period.

My husband called our tenant to notify her of this surprise inspection and the horrible outcome. I don’t have to elaborate how devastated she was. I was kind of numb about the whole thing, it just was such a shock. Didn’t see it coming and not being big time landlords knew nothing of this “dog hit list” with the insurance companies. I did some research and realized what a big deal Pitt Bulls among other breeds are in the big giant world of corporate insurance.

After working with our current insurance agency to have a new policy written without the dogs I received an e-mail from my tenant. A heartbreaking e-mail telling me she  had made an appointment to have her 13-year-old pet put to sleep. Her daughter’s dog was going to a kennel until it could be driven to Indiana. This news just didn’t set right with me at all. I wouldn’t want to put any of my animals to sleep and being who I am could not live with the consequences of having my tenant do so. At that point, I didn’t think I had any other options, so I did what I could and gave my tenant her July portion of the rent for free. She was very grateful, as removing the dogs would involve some extra costs on her behalf, plus I just didn’t know what else to do to help.

My heart turned around. This was not going to happen. Luckily my agent gave me the name of a “dog friendly” insurance company called Farm Family Insurance. I called the local agency immediately and did all of the leg work to see if the property could be quoted with the dogs. I have completed the 2nd day of throwing myself into this and except for the final paperwork and deposit payment to bind the policy, everything looks good to go. The dogs can stay and some very strong emotions can begin to settle down.

I’m not writing this blog to label myself  as a do-gooder or anything like that. I think I’m writing about it because it was such an extraordinary and emotional event that came out of nowhere. Happened right in the middle of my life and my tenant’s life. Boom!  First of all, I’m grateful to my agent for being honest and giving me the name of another company, if not for the name, the options were very limited and VERY cost prohibitive.  As I said before, this little house is more or less “rent controlled” as HUD pays a much larger portion of the rent than the tenant does. I don’t have the option to raise the rent, nor do I try as long as the expenses are being met. The tenant and I even discussed her paying the special policy on the dogs which for her was unaffordable. Every avenue was gone down to make this right.

There is a sizeable payment I have to make tomorrow to bind the policy and put all of this behind us and I could care less. You can not put a price on the love of someone for their pet, you can’t put a price on a good and loyal tenant of 7 years and you most certainly can not put a price on the life of an innocent dog who almost was a victim of a corporate rule.

This has been a true learning experience for me in several ways. A business way, an emotional way and a keeping your cool when you have a truly broken-hearted person depending on what you do way. My tenant would have actually had her dog put to sleep and farm out her daughter’s dog because she decided that she needs a roof over her head, no matter how painful,  that was the choice she had to make for herself.

I had to go take some pictures of the house this afternoon and my tenant came out and hugged me in tears. She made up a beautiful vase of flowers for me also.  I took my pictures, walked up my driveway with my vase of flowers and for the first time since this dilemma began felt that my heart was right. That by not taking the convenient and less time consuming  way out, someone will not be grieving tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. when her dog is being put to sleep. Believe me, she would not have been the only one grieving, I love animals!

Thankfully this absolute madness worked out. People are happy, dogs are happy. I do have to say that this has been the largest bump in the road in the 7 years as a landlord to this tenant. From here on in it should be smooth sailing. Tails wagging. Heart right.

July 14, 2010

Coventry CT

Toppy, our family’s rescued greyhound is in the background of these beautiful hydrangea from my tenant. Sleeping soundly, not a care in the world. How nice would that be?

  1. judy says:

    We visited so many shelters when we were looking for (as it turned out) Lexi. Pit bulls far outnumbered any other breed and, in some shelters, pits were all they had. We were told most of them would be put to down, and to adopt a pit the process is more complicated. Your story brings it to my attention again, the sad plight of these dogs. (I myself was too nervous to adopt a pit.)

    I am so impressed with you and your tenant, and SO happy for her dog. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • joannefirth says:

      Judy – you bring up such a good point and it reminds me of our Greyhound, Toppy. He was bred to do one thing, run and run fast. When Plainfield CT Dog Track retired him from racing at age 2 (he must not have been a winner) he was going to be put down. If not for the dedicated greyhound rescue folks that step in, working with the track owners and potential adoptees, these dogs wouldn’t have a chance. Thousands of greyhounds are put down every year, just because they aren’t winning and making “precious” money for the track owners. So sad. Pit Bulls are a breed I don’t have any experience with, but as I told Mary, below, all dogs deserve a chance as they are as individual as people. Across the board, every animal adopted, rescued, fostered or saved is a major success! I’m just very grateful there was a viable option for my tenant and her pets. Thanks for stopping by, reading the story and sharing your comment. ❤ Woof!

  2. joannefirth says:

    Thanks Caroline, really it would not have had a good outcome without help from my agent. My research turned up nothing and the entire issue was beginning to get overwhelming. Today, the 15th, all the paperwork has been turned in, payment made….a done deal. I’m just sighing and letting it all go at the moment. Very grateful that the outcome was good all around for people and dogs. 🙂

    As always, thank you for your visits, comments and continued support for my silly life. I ❤ you!

  3. Caroline says:

    What a wonderful story! I know you don’t feel that you get much credit in this, but you do. So many people would not have gone the extra mile – good tenant or not. You are an awesome person, which of course I have known for a while, but this is just another example of your sheer awesomeness. Plain and simple. :o) xoxoxo for your acts of kindness.

  4. Joanne Schiffbauer says:

    PS…Cute Title!

  5. Joanne Schiffbauer says:

    Talk about “going above and beyond the call of duty,” you
    went waaaay above and beyond! Your tenant is very lucky
    to have you for a landlord.
    It’s obvious where Vincent gets his “humanity” from…his

    • joannefirth says:

      Joanne, you are way too kind. Sometimes the more complex route is where we have to go to be able to live with ourselves when the dust settles. Today would have really been a sad day if the outcome of the story went the other direction. I woke up in a frame of mind today, that life is good, hard work is good and very grateful a much loved pet’s life was not needlessly over.

      Thank you about Vincent too, I am very proud of that boy as I am of my other two children. They were taught the difference between right and wrong and helping someone who needs a hand. Simple stuff, but in a pinch….makes a world of difference.

      I can’t express my gratitude that you have come into my life. You are so supportive and continue, with your very dear comments, to help me keep going. You mean very much to me. ❤

  6. Mortgage 101 says:

    A Tale of Hearts and Tails…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  7. Mary says:

    Pit bulls are not bad dogs. They get a bad rap because of bad owners. I have a friend who owns one and he is very vocal on the subject.

    • joannefirth says:

      Hi Mary, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I agree. Just because SOME animals have a bad reputation does not mean they are ALL bad. Just like people, it’s an individual thing. Insurance companies do not see it that way, they want zero risk. In my opinion any dog can bite, no matter what the breed. Anyway, just glad this story is written, had a happy ending and is now behind myself, my tenant….and her dogs. 🙂

  8. joannefirth says:

    Thanks hunny. In the 7 years my tenant has been with us along with her Pit Bull the dog has never, ever caused one problem. Who am I to be ultimately responsible for someone losing their pet. I take very little credit here, if not for finding this new company thanks to my agent, there were no viable options to work with. Sometimes miracles happen. I consider this event to be one. Thanks for reading and commenting my very sweet one. Big giant bear hugs back. (I just had to re-edit about 15 times for mistakes, so sorry if you caught them all) ❤

  9. Dani H says:

    Yay, You!!! I don’t feel comfortable around pit bulls ~ it seems like other dogs, and even children, being attacked by pit bulls are in the news every month. That said, I agree one thousand percent that it is unthinkable that your tenant would have to have her pet put to sleep because of the insurance. You are an amazing woman with an amazing heart. I feel fortunate to call you my friend, bunny. *Giant Extra-Squishy Oh-So-Proud-Of-You Hugs* <3<3<3

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