I tend to be sympathetic to renters and landlords in their disputes with problem tenants, many of whom can be irresponsible and exasperating. Some renters are deadbeats. But then I run across a shocking case like the one documented by renter Winter Whittaker and published on the Virginia Mercury.
Whittaker, a Richmond resident, called her landlord, Dean Parsons, to ask him to fix a leaky roof. We don’t know the history behind the phone call, which may or may not leave out critical context. Clearly, Parsons, who claims to oversee a portfolio of 375 apartments and rental units, was agitated about something. Whatever the possible extenuating circumstances, it’s hard to imagine any excuse for the racist and profanity-laced tirade he unleashed.
Responding to Whittaker’s threat of a lawsuit, he said, “I don’t give a shit about you. … I don’t give a good goddamn. You’re just another dumb ass n—— I got to go to court with and I go to court every damn day with them. It ain’t no big damn deal to me.”
You don’t have to just take her word for it. The Virginia Mercury provides the recording.
Bacon’s bottom line: Tenants-rights organizations use incidents like this to argue for changes in the law that shift the balance in legal protections from landlords toward tenants. Policy shouldn’t be driven by anecdotes that present only one side of the story. We’ve seen enough news furors blow up — the Covington Catholic high school boys and the Native American activist video may be the most famous — to know that videos and audios can be taken totally out of context. Still, Parsons’ tirade is seriously disturbing, and a reader’s instinctive reaction is one of disgust and outrage, fueling the conviction that something must be done.
There’s an even more fundamental question: Do we need to change the landlord-tenant laws, or can Whittaker avail herself of laws already on the books? Does she have a valid legal case against Parsons? If so, isn’t the issue a matter of ensuring that she has the means to pursue her case in court?There are currently no comments highlighted.