New York Landlord explains why he rents to whites only


By NYMag

Ephraim turns the car on. I stammer through a request to hear what it’s like to be a landlord in so many evolving Brooklyn neighborhoods. Ephraim nods and stares out the window, as if he lacks the will or energy to answer such a broad question.

Do you know anything about property? There’s a deed and there’s a note.

Like with a car, if you have a lease, the title is in your name but you don’t actually own the car. The deed to the house is the same thing. If you have a mortgage, the actual thing, the house is the bank’s. So they have a note, and they can transfer it to other banks, they can sell it to big companies, they can make packages of notes. You still own the deed — that’s yours. And if the bank wants to take it from you, they have to go through the process of foreclosure. If the house has a small mortgage, that’s fine — you can sell the deed — but if the house is underwater, you can’t really do anything with it.

So we came up with the idea: The bank takes a long time before they take the property away. It can take them up to five, six years. So we go to the owner, buy from him the deed, and then we rent it out. When the market went up a little bit, about 10 percent of the mortgages were almost at market value, so we’d pay them off and keep the building. If it’s a big mortgage, I don’t have any choice; I just sit until the bank takes it away. I’m just sitting, collecting rent. And that’s it.

It’s not 100 percent — I mean, it’s legal, but sometimes in the mortgage there’s a clause that says if you sell the deed, you have to notify the bank and if you don’t notify them the bank can take the property. But even if you didn’t notify them, the bank has to go through the whole process of getting the property and that takes some time.

And the banks don’t care. They actually like when people take care of the building. Because it will actually cost them $100,000 a year — people breaking in, pipes busted. As long as everything is good, everything running, they just leave it alone until they’re taking it.

People that have small mortgages, they’re going to want a lot more for their deed, to give over ownership. A person that sells a deed with a big mortgage usually wants to get $5,000. They don’t care. They didn’t pay the mortgage for, like, two years — the property’s shit. So we would give them $5,000, $10,000, and they give us the deed.

We started out with this, buying over one hundred deeds, all over the place, and we collected the rent. I used to love it. But the bad part was, come Monday, I used to go to the buildings in my car, and knock on every single door. This was like five years ago. And they didn’t give me payment. One out of 10, one out of 20, maybe. And they were yelling at me, “You fucking Jew! Leave me alone!”

I got used to it. And I understand it. Not all Jewish people are nice people. Every tree has a bad apple. Some of them are really nasty and can trick their tenants. But some of the tenants put up such a fight that you have to trick them. I used to do that — but I don’t do that anymore. I did that once four years ago. I told someone, “I’m going to give you twenty grand to move — just move out first, and then I’ll give you the money.” And then I screwed them. I gave him something but not the money I told him. And he couldn’t come back to me because he wasn’t even legally supposed to live there.

Some Jewish people, they’re going to come in and they’re going to try to rip off the black tenants — and the tenants know it, there’s word of mouth. So it’s like, “Oh, a Jewish guy again?” There’s a lot of Jewish guys moving around. Like a lot, a lot, a lot of investors who are either Hasidic Jews or a little bit less, but they’re Jewish. They’re holding Bed-Stuy like this — he squeezes at the air in front of him, strangling it. So sometimes it’s like, “Hello, this was our neighborhood. What are you doing here?”

We started in East New York, but we sold everything we had. We didn’t want to be there. Most of them are either Section 8, other government programs, and even the person that pays with cash is too much headaches. So we sold everything over there and we came out all the way to Park Slope. Then we started backing up, backing up, slowly, all the way to Bushwick. This is one of the houses we’re finishing now.

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