It's just business...or is it?

You know, I used to think that the phrase "it's just business" was something that people said to make themselves feel better about acting uncharitably toward someone else. Now that I find myself in a situation where I find comfort in the phrase, I see that I was right.

See, a little over a year ago, we bought a new house. Because of...reasons...we bought it without having sold the old house. We put the old one on the market and got all. For months. Finally we got a bite from a family that wanted to buy it but, as an immigrant family, they didn't qualify for the credit necessary to purchase. We agreed to a lease option. What a disaster that turned out to be.

Contracts were exchanged. Papers were signed and sent to the various agents. Everything appeared to be ok, and we were feeling good until the first deadline came. And went.

Let me gloss over a lot of headache and anger and just summarize with: the buyer's agent was a complete bozo. He basically forged the contract signatures, since his ESL clients had no idea what the terms of the contracts were. They understood the payments to be lower than I had signed, they had no idea of the HOA fee, and they thought I was putting money in the bank for them.

Now, I'm a nice guy, and I was tired of trying to sell that stupid house, so I decided to eat the shortfall and pay it myself. So, over the course of the year, I essentially subsidized the house for the buyers.

The time comes for the buyers to exercise the lease or leave, but they still haven't fixed their credit. Again, I'm a nice guy, and they seem to like the house, so I decide to let them stay provided we sign a new contract where they pay the full mortgage amount and the missing HOA fee. The buyers were reluctant, but agreed. The new terms included an escrow company intermediary (I was tired of the monthly money collection), and a late fee if the payment wasn't made on the 1st.

First payment date comes and goes, and on the 7th I put a 3-day notice to evict on the door. They flipped out and claimed that they had told us that payday is the 10th, and that's when they would pay. That was the first I'd heard that claim, but I decided to allow it this one time since, you know, I'm a nice guy. But I told them to save up the next check so they could pay on the 1st next month.

Now, it's hard for me to be too harsh, because I've been there. I know what it's like when you are barely making ends meet. It's not easy to come up with 2 house payments in a month, but at the same time "it's just business". When they fail to make a timely payment, it reflects poorly on me. My name is on the mortgage. Late payments show up on my credit. Not to mention that I've dumped thousands of dollars into a stupid house that I have no desire to be connected to any more. I can't afford to be a financial buffer for someone else. Uncharitable? Maybe. Business? Yes.

So, the next month goes off without a hitch. Great. Maybe things are going to be OK after all. December 1st comes...and goes. On the 5th I get a call about a water leak. I show up with the plumber, drop a few hundred on repairs, and leave. Nothing is mentioned to me about the payment, and I don't ask since it takes a few days for the escrow company to email me a receipt.

As we prepare to leave the country on vacation, Jena gets yet another harassing call from the mortgage company. We call the escrow service and find out that, nope. No payment. Literally the day before we leave for Mexico, Jena logs on and pays the mortgage and HOA with our own money so that we don't default while we're gone. So for December, we have made 2 mortgage payments.

Our agent calls to find out what happened and...nothing. It's like they just decided not to pay for December. So, the obvious answer is to evict and be done, but by now we're mere days from Christmas, and "it's just business" will only absolve you of so much lack of compassion. We can't bring ourselves to evict on Christmas, so we give them until January 1st. On the 1st they have to pay for December and January both. We are given assurances that it will happen.

It doesn't happen. January 5th, a payment is made to the escrow service for the month of January, but again, no mention of December.

And now here we are. Our agent is out of the country on his own vacation, and we're playing he-said, she-said with the buyers about repayment of December. They claim they can make payments, or pay when the tax refund shows up and that they have discussed it with our agent. Our agent says no. Ugh. I feel that I'm being taken advantage of.

I am not a bank, and that was not a loan. The charitable thing to do would be to forgive them for December...maybe just let it slide, but I can't afford that. A mortgage payment is a non-trivial amount of money, and I don't have extra. I don't have the luxury of being charitable, but it makes me feel bad to be an enforcer, so I have to keep reminding myself "it's just business".