By Sue Saville
North Carolina, USA
Back in 1995, we had been renting a nice little house in a quiet neighborhood for about four years. Our children were aged 6 and 4, and I was an at-home Mom. On the very day that I learned we were expecting our third child, my husband’s boss dropped a bombshell on us. His pay would be cut in half due to this small company’s financial troubles. Being a one-income family, just barely making ends meet, this was impossible for us to live with.
Our only viable option was to move in with my husband’s parents (great folks!) on the other side of town until my husband could find a better-paying job and we could get on our feet. They had been considering moving to another town and renting a townhouse anyway, so as to have less upkeep and be closer to their work. It was decided that we would move in with them, and they’d move out when we were financially recovered. We would rent from them for the amount of their mortgage payment — $200 less than we’d been paying for rent, and more square feet of living space.
There was a big hurdle — aside from all of the obvious upset and turmoil involved. Less than a week before the pay cut we had signed our lease for another year.
For me, this was more a matter of “going back on my word” than a legal issue. I was absolutely mortified. I phoned the property management company we leased from and explained what had happened. I begged to be let out of the days-old lease, to go on a month-to-month basis instead. One of our options at the time of signing had been to switch to month-to-month. By the time I finished explaining our situation I was in tears, which was terribly embarrassing.
The receptionist promised to get back to me as soon as she spoke with the manager. The next day, she called to tell me that while they couldn’t let us out of the lease, they would do their best to re-rent it as soon as possible after we vacated. They would work with us on any late payments, and release us from obligation as soon as the house
rented. She was very kind, but I understood their hands were tied.
We moved out in mid-November. In mid-December, I received a call from this same young woman. She informed me that, though the house had not been rented yet, we had been great tenants. She said, “It has been decided that we cannot bear to look ourselves in the mirror if we hold you to this lease.”
We were released from any further obligation. They even returned our security deposit — it arrived the week before Christmas. I would never in a million years have expected this treatment from a business. I will never, ever forget how truly touched I was by this group’s understanding and compassion.