Any and all thinking Americans are by now aware of the Trump Effect and methodology — abandon the rule of law and desecrate the U.S. Constitution. What might be less obvious is the insidious trickle-down of the Trump Effect on a city or a town–especially one in a flyover zone: the quasi-rural American West.
Just as Trump’s main shtick as he daily screws the country is that to get what you want you can do whatever you please, no matter the cost to others, no matter the breaching of democratic traditions and the sacrosanct tenor of the US Presidency, those who represent themselves as trustworthy so that you even invite them into your home can ultimately reveal themselves to be unscrupulous and unwilling to comply with state statutes regarding residential property and the protections of the Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Antidiscrimination Act– all to acquire a piece of property–a glittering six acre gem, in fact.
Six months after what appeared to be a golden opportunity and the kind of windfall one dreams of, it is clear to us that The City of Fort Collins’ head of Natural Areas, the city’s “real estate specialist” , its conscience-challenged lead attorney will do anything to avoid the underlying and problematic rule of law, obfuscating such behavior with smarmy and folksy demeanor, asserting that they “really do care,” that they have negotiated in good faith.
For at this writing, despite my efforts as a civil rights advocate to keep bad things from happening to us, City Attorney Ingrid Decker, Natural Areas Manager Mark Sears and Real Estate Specialist Dan Gulley have superbly engaged in the most insidious and vile discriminatory treatment (I am disabled with PTSD and a mobility impairment and property owner, my landlord and companion Jack is elderly and prone to mini-strokes), in commission of the ensuing :
-In violation of the Fair Housing and Americans with Disability Acts, after fully executing a binding Agreement to Sell and Lease Back our property, voided the Agreement, although we contend that it remains in force by virtue of the fact that signatures rendered it binding and that it could only be modified via John and Jen Henry of all parties. Fully apprised of my disabilities, this action was carried out in clear cut and prohibited retaliation for my pointing out the absence of key statutory protective clauses in our leases & the nearly exclusively city-as-landlord favoritism of every paragraph of both the leases and the agreement in force.
-In violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act’s provision that it is prohibited to “retaliate against, coerce, intimidate, interfere with or threaten” a disabled individual who is seeking a disability accommodation to rectify unequal treatment (discrimination) under the Act, (restoration of the heretofore binding agreement referenced above) alleged to my housing coordinator that I was committing fraud.
-Seemingly for good measure, again violated the Fair Housing Act as set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations, CFR, in which it is unlawful to offer to lease to someone and then withdraw that offer on any discriminatory basis as further retaliation against me for functioning as advocate for our civil rights, leaning on them to restore the agreement including the offer to lease back our home to us–my lawful advocacy on my own behalf and on behalf of my partner and in repeatedly refusing to accept my housing assistance, or to reinstate his lease.
-Wilfully and knowingly violated The Fair Housing Act & the Colorado Revised Statutes in re the purchase and rental of real property and even, the provisions of the Colorado Antidiscrimination Act in re the presentation to us of a clandestine and misanthropic second agreement– again, as if the first one hadn’t existed.
-In this agreement, via an admirable sleight of hand and shell game, Mark Sears still refuses to ethically operate per the state statute’s requirement that the landlord shall warranty the habitability of the premises, meaning, as everyone knows but he, evidently, that a landlord assumes responsibility for major repairs of property that would upon closing, be his and against which he would levy substantial rent from us, accepting my housing voucher of nearly $1k a month and $500.00 a month from Jack, his prospective co-tenant.
-The second agreement was the tantalizing ripe apple from a now seductive serpent indeed, for we had been perusing the Albuquerque listings, getting approved for a loan or loans, putting ourselves in touch with realtors, gluing our eyes to one richly stunning home after another and otherwise, in the errant lulls in busy, hard-working daily lives.
A stunning “Territorial” home in foreclosure in Rio Rancho NM north of ABQ which we could have purchased for $150k.
Firstly, the new agreement stated that the City would add to the purchase amount another $15k to the $315k it had previously offered, so, it crowed exultantly from the page, if over five years we made no repairs, not even buying one sheet of plywood, we stood to receive $330,000 for a property that in ’90 began as purchase of fallow land on one credit card for $20,000 and on the other, a reconditioned modular home of $27,000.
Be still my beating heart; the modest yet stunning great room of the above home.
A deal you can’t resist, yes? Consider that in addition to the chronic headache of months of negotiation, we have two mortgages totaling $160k, credit card debt of circa $30k so that $180k was immediately gone, indeterminate capital gains tax of up to $50k, house hunting and moving expenses, and likely about $50k with which to put down earnest money, a deposit, pay closing costs, for a home inspection, get ourselves, our belongings and our dogs to New Mexico. Money disappears like water, with a single sunny flush. Still, we thought, we would potentially be able to make something of a sea-change for us in leaving the town without pity, this deceptively picturesque berg of the privileged in which aging rural people are marginalized into poverty and hit with the unexpected every day.
Again, the final offer hung in the air in front of us like Jason’s fleece. But when we looked at it more carefully, still believing the original agreement to be locked in, here is what we saw:
However Sears or the City’s bitchy attorney Decker baked this pie, the reality was that Sears thought he couldn’t live without taking $15k away from us to pair with the obvious fact that he would make back the other $15k from our rent. He was still refusing to act like a landlord by using his own substantial coffers to set up a fund for repairs. When I spoke with him on the phone he said, in response to my remonstrations, “Oh no. The $30k is a non-negotiable amount to set aside for repairs. I can easily see a plumbing bill of $10 k.”
What happened next is one for the books damp with the tears of the disenfranchised the world over.
First Jack offered to waive the Warranty of Habitability and said he would take care of any repairs. This was rejected. I then crafted a Fair Housing reasonable accommodation request in the assumption that by now the City of Fort Collins Department of Natural Areas and City sycophant Decker would know better than to undercut the law any further
. My request was simple: “Your need for this outrageously high deposit is grounded in your discriminatory and attitudinal perception of me–that if you didn’t do this, I would bleed you dry with demands. Not so. Keep the 15k i.e. use our rent for the fund for repairs. Don’t worry about increasing the purchase price by another $15k only to take it away. Restore the original agreement to give us $315 k for the property and lease it back to us taking my voucher, which will be increased by a new disability accommodation and Jack’s rent.” I had explained that the new agreement took us down to the point at which there was very little left–not enough to move away or to make a beginning on it.
How many times in six months can you say Fair Housing Act before the head of a pro-conservation department of a City and one of the City’s lead attorneys and its amazingly smarmy real estate agent can grasp that they need the entire Act under their belts, that it was our right to invoke it, since leasing back to us on the foregoing terms was integral to each version of this estranging hot mess??
Despite the caveats of the Fair Housing Act that it is prohibited to “retaliate, coerce, intimidate, interfere with” someone requesting a “Reasonable Accommodation,”* and despite the fact–such a small yet phenomenally important word in the “Trump Era” i.e. America’s first and we hope last banana republic phase– that it is also prohibited “to refuse to make reasonable accommodations as necessary to afford someone equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling”–that per HUD and the Department of Justice, such a request must be granted– or if it meets a certain three prong test that doesn’t apply here– an alternative accommodation negotiated, these three highly intelligent but unconscionably devious people jerked the deal again, committing retaliation, unlawful– and refusal to accommodate, a civil rights sin.
Having presented themselves as down home folks, with all of the faux sincerity of Eve’s serpent and egged on by a lawyer so in love with herself that she indubitably orgasms when she looks in the mirror, this trio has screwed us with well-honed manipulation, bribing us in dangling a succulent buy-out amount in front of us that we took them up on, executing an Agreement to Sell that got the deal rolling that they then jerked, having led us to believe we could pay off our mortgages, credit card debt and buy a modestly lovely home in New Mexico, although the original agreement they have refused to even mention is technically still in force –then tendering an even worse plan in which they appeared to be increasing the offer, but were really reducing it, calling for an entirely obscene damage deposit of $30,000, thereby grinding us into the dirt, dreams and all.
The ins and outs of this experience have been unnerving and painful and these people should be sued and fired.
Our story had begun as many American stories do, in medias res, mezzo camino nella nostra vita— in the midst of things, in the middle of the road of our lives, with an innocent enough phone call from a pleasantly deep male voice of someone who on our voice mail of the ground line in our modular home on six acres, with its snaking & luminous creek, tall cottonwoods on its banks anciently and gloriously shady in summer and gilded and glittering in autumn, said he was the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Manager and that he wanted to “chat” about acquisition of our property to conserve it and add it to the city’s substantial network of land, water, wildlife habitats and trails.
The call came in the middle of an ordinary day around here, when we were busy with various writing projects and the ongoing multitasking that comes when you have seven English Golden Retrievers that you rotate in and out of the house.
It came in the course of relentless domestic duty picking up the fine and omnipresent cream hair from our dogs blowing coat, as we took writing breaks to let them in and out of their indoor dens into the glittering Colorado day and breaks from being all things unto them with our nurturing and playing with them to work on my latest collection of my poems that appears to finally be on the horizon of Ireland’s Salmon Poetry Ltd’s 2019 docket, and Jack’s elegant long-hand production of one of a host of short stories–an oeuvre awaiting a protean typist, one who can adroitly transmit the fruit of his brow to a thumb drive and thence to publication through our imprimatur, Orfea Editions.
The voice, introducing itself as one Mark Sears, “from” the city’s Natural Areas Department, said, “We’d like to meet you and chat.”
We hope and pray that we’ll be talking to you soon, Mr. Sears, Mr. Gulley and Counselor Decker. We really do.
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