Landlord-tenant relationships don’t have to be contentious. When everyone is collaborative and respectful, they can become mutually beneficial. This is a story of how one landlord and his tenants worked together to solve a host of problems – and developed friendships in the process.
In September 2015, Adriano Galvao bought a residential property in Evanston that he planned to convert into office space. But he also had tenants, and he was worried about them. He immediately did something rare among landlords with bad news to deliver: personally met with the tenants in the four units to discuss and plan for the upcoming transition.
The tenants’ rent was no more than $600 per month, and they were worried about finding apartments in the northern suburbs at a similar rate.
Rather than take the attitude that their problems weren’t his, Galvao contacted Sarah Flax, Housing & Grants Administrator with the City of Evanston, for help. She put him in touch with Oliver Jury, Open Communities’ Landlord-Tenant Liaison, to discuss how to file for an eviction if necessary, and how to avoid doing so if at all possible.
In the meantime, Galvao continued to check in with his tenants. Two of the four were able to find new homes. But by the end of January 2016 he had to deliver 30-day vacate notices to the other two tenants, both of whom were elderly women.
Galvao knew they were having a hard time finding affordable places to live. One uses an oxygen tank and the other needed special accommodations. So he offered to drive them to showings and promised to help them with moving fees.
But Galvao was also at a crossroads; he needed to begin construction on his new offices or risk delaying renovations, which would force him to sign another yearly lease. “I was really upset with the idea of having to evict someone who was a good tenant and paid on time, but my business and livelihood would suffer with double rent,” he said.
He asked Open Communities’ Jury to help him mediate a solution. “It was so great to have a neutral person who I felt comfortable with and who the tenants also felt comfortable with,” Galvao said. As a result of the mediation, he agreed to give the women a two-week extension and continued to drive them to apartment showings.
After visiting five places together, one woman signed a lease for an apartment in northern Chicago. The other tenant decided to move in with her sister in preparation for an upcoming surgery. Galvao paid the moving costs for both women and even drove the moving truck. Of his former tenant who moved to Chicago, he says, “I will visit her new place and have coffee with her and bring my daughter. We became friends.” He added:
“The money I paid to help them move, in addition to not charging them their last month’s rent, saved me from stress and saved them from damaging their credit score and background records. I know how difficult or impossible it is to find a new place with an eviction record. I am really thankful for Open Communities’ help. Oliver truly listened and understood the issue from the beginning.”
And Open Communities is grateful for Galvao’s compassion, and his willingness to adhere to the spirit, not just the letter, of the law.
“I learned how the eviction process works without having to do it and I learned that being flexible and understanding of others’ situations can pay off. It’s easy to marginalize the struggles that low-income populations face, especially when that is not your reality on a daily basis. Taking them to court doesn’t make the situation better or easier. It just makes it more difficult and stressful for all. It’s not a great solution.”
Adriano, his wife and daughter live in Evanston and own an innovation research and strategy firm that supports organizations and big brands in bringing clarity and purpose to their innovation and growth agendas.