One of the greatest things about real estate is that it’s an investment that actually helps people. Instead of throwing your money into some kind of financial instrument whose connection to the real world is tangential at best, you’re providing a home for someone.
But when basic human needs are combined with capitalism, conflicts inevitably arise. If someone can’t pay their cable bill, shutting off their cable isn’t a very big deal. But if someone can’t pay their rent, making them leave their home is a very big deal indeed.
At Castle, evictions are something we handle in the rare circumstances when they become necessary. We try to manage them as fairly and compassionately as we can. Here’s how we do it.
Preventing evictions starts with careful, thorough tenant screening. While it may seem harsh to reject large swaths of applicants for a property, if we let someone move into a property who likely isn’t going to be able to afford it down the road, we’re setting them up for failure.
We do our best to keep our screening fair, and to not reject potential tenants for unnecessary reasons. For example, many landlords perform a credit check as a standard part of the screening process, but we don’t: there’s actually very little correlation between someone’s credit score and whether or not they’ll pay rent on time. (When cash is tight, most people will pay their rent and other essential bills first, even if it means running up credit card debt.) The exception, of course, is when a credit report includes rental history data, but right now most don’t, especially in markets like Detroit.
Additionally, an eviction can take a relatively long time: between serving notice, waiting for a court date, getting a writ, and actually going through with it, a few months can pass. (Our FAQ has more details about how this works from a practical standpoint.) These two or three months give a tenant who’s had a rough month or is in between jobs some time to get things together.
An eviction is a black mark on a person’s record that can make it harder to find housing in the future. That’s why, if a tenant is having issues paying, we always offer them the option to move out voluntarily. We’ll even pay them for the trouble. This option saves time, money, and stress for everyone involved.
We’re proud of the fact that of the over 100 tenants we’ve placed, we’ve only had to evict a single one. (And that one was pretty straightforward, ethically: a tenant who moved in, never paid or communicated with us again, and threatened us when we visited the property.)
Serving an underserved market like Detroit is hard. There are times when it feels like it’d be easier to operate in an exclusively high-end rental market like southern California, where the chances having to deal with an eviction are much lower.
But doing something like that would make us just another startup that caters exclusively to the wealthy, which isn’t what we want to be. Being in a business like ours means that we do sometimes have to address evictions. When that happens, we do our best to treat the situation with fairness and care.