“That smell is unbearable,” Carrie gasped. “You have to call your landlord again.”
It was Carrie’s day to drive them to them to the insurance office where they both worked, and being a bit early, she had gotten out and rung Robyn’s doorbell.
“I just can’t,” Robyn answered. “He’s already told me I could just move out if things didn’t please me. Carrie, there’s no way I can afford that.”
Carrie knew her friend and co-worker was making an understatement. Being a single mom with two small boys was quite a load. With only her salary and some irregular child support payments, Robyn was barely getting by. Consequently, she was having to bear with serious repair needs in her apartment, along with this constant odor of a well-hidden leaky sewage line.
A number of other tenants in the large apartment building complained of similar problems, but to no avail. The owner, Rod Jeffries, realizing he had the advantage of a weak economy and a housing shortage, was hard to reach and quite unsympathetic. He stayed just ahead of the law’s requirements by hiring incompetent repairmen and careless, sloppy plumbers. There had been some angry incidents when tenants even threatened him, but he was unrelenting, implying that he would send eviction notices if there was any more trouble.
“We have to do something, Robyn. This isn’t right.”
Robyn was quiet on the drive to the office, and Carrie knew she was close to tears.
“We will pray, and I know God will show you what to do,” Carrie encouraged her friend.
Robyn didn't answer. Sometimes life gets too heavy, Carrie thought. Silently she did pray for Robyn, and a way to help her.
Once inside their office, they went to their respective desks. Perhaps it was their evident mood that caught their boss’s attention.
“Okay, girls, spill it out, so we can get on with work here,” Lois smiled. She was a great employer, and they knew her concern was genuine. Carrie and Robyn talked often of how blessed they were to work for her.
Robyn couldn’t hold back the tears, as she described the peeling paint in her kitchen, the dishwasher that no longer drained, and numerous smaller, yet maddening things.
Lois was quiet, but only for a moment. She picked up a pen and began to make a list. Then she reached forward, touching Robyn’s hand gently.
“We are going to begin a massive onslaught here. The three of us will take any spare time today and all next week to write to these people: editors of both local newspapers, the city housing department, and the health and sanitation department. We will call my lawyer, who for a small fee, can write Mr. Jeffries a letter stating complaints received from tenants. We’ll need to get their signatures on that letter also.” Lois finished, determination in her voice.
Robyn’s face went white. “Oh, but I may have to move. He’ll be so angry with me. I’m afraid.”
“This is a matter of right and wrong, Robyn.” Lois was unmoved. “It’ll be a group effort, for you and everybody in your building. He will be unable to do anything about it, legally, except to come up to standard as a landlord.”
The next couple of weeks were abuzz with activity. Robyn got fully into it. The lawyer was most willing, and the tenants eager to sign their names to something that looked so promising. They even assisted by writing their own letters to the different agencies. The letters to the newspapers were given prominent space, and brought immediate response from readers. City officials began visiting the property, taking notes, and making contacts with other agencies.
Exactly one month from the beginning of their deluge of complaints, Rob Jeffries was forced to appear at a city council meeting. He made a grudging but public apology, and agreed to bring things up to par and submit to inspections to assure that it was all done well. Rumor had it that he was going to raise the rent, but was restricted from that for at least a year, since it was determined that many renters had overpaid, considering conditions.
Soon the word got around that Mr. Jeffries was selling the property, and Carrie expressed her concern that someone worse might take it over.
“It'll be okay,” Robyn grinned. “We know exactly how to handle that."
"And now, how about helping me start a letter about that irregular child support?" she finished.
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