Judge Judy had an interesting case on today’s episode.
A young lady was suing her landlady for prorated rent, saying she only moved out because she was afraid of the woman.
The episode brought up from my memory vault when, as a young girl, I moved because I was afraid of my male landlord.
I worked night shift, slept during the day and had only lived there a month, having just mailed in rent payment for the next month, when I suddenly woke up one afternoon to find the landlord standing in my bedroom door.
I was frozen.
Time stood still.
Where he was standing blocked my way of running from the bedroom, through the living area, out the front door. The only other way out of my second-floor apartment would have been to jump from the window.
The landlord was just standing there, staring at my frozen with fear, barely clothed self, until ─ I kid you not, he asked if I had a pen.
I got out of bed, in shock and too scared to scream or cover myself, as he allowed me to walk past him, but hoovered over me ... all in my space, eyeing me up and down, as I walked into the living area and handed him a pen.
Once I handed him the pen, he continued to hoover and said he needed to get the number off the refrigerator mechanism, took the number down and exited the apartment.
I breathed a sigh of relief, called my boyfriend ─ the cop I later married, who became father of the twins, told him what happened, so he came over, calmed me down, guarded me.
Not knowing how many times the landlord had been in there, watching me, while I was sleeping, I was outta there within a week. Didn’t even ask for prorated rent since I had a whole second month already paid for.
Of course, in the interim days before I moved out, I was nervous, jumpy and afraid to be trapped in the back bedroom again, never slept there again. I slept on the couch by the door, so if he came in, I’d hear and could run out.
One night, thinking I’d heard a noise, I awoke, jumped up from the couch and knocked over a coca cola I'd stupidly left near the couch, in kicking distance. The spill left a small stain in the carpet, which I'm sure a carpet cleaner could have removed, but I didn't have time for that on my way out, and knew could be taken from the cleaning deposit. So, I apologized for causing a stain in the carpet in the letter I sent to landlord notifying him I’d moved and WHY ... that the apartment was now vacant and he had a whole extra month’s rent.
THEN he took me to small claims court.
I didn’t even know why I was there, and don’t remember the initial case landlord presented to the judge, but something about my moving.
To which the judge asked me, “Why did you move?”
“Because I was afraid to stay there”, said I.
“Why were you afraid?”, asked the judge.
“Because I woke up and found him standing in my bedroom door”.
As you can imagine, the entire courtroom gasped.
Landlord, in an effort to cover himself, quickly blurted out something about my having made numerous maintenance requests and that was why he was in my bedroom door.
I’d made no requests at all.
I’d only been there a month.
Then landlord, embarrassed at being put on blast in front of a courtroom full of people, scrambled to make himself the victim by pulling out the letter I sent and making a big deal about my having admitted to staining the carpet. “See!” landlord said, “She admitted it right here” as he put his fingers strategically over parts of the letter and showed the judge only the part where I’d admitted it.
The judge said, “Let me see that” and snatched the letter out of landlord’s hands.
We didn’t have space between us and the judge like they do now. We stood right up in front of the judge’s podium.
At any rate, the judge was reading the entire letter and suddenly looked up, gave landlord such a look as he shouted, “YOU SAID SHE DIDN’T PAY RENT!”
So that’s why I was there. That was landlord’s case. He lied, said I’d paid no rent, and tried to cover with his fingers the part of the letter which indicated he had a whole extra month on the books.
Being caught in that lie by the judge, landlord completely lost his cool and blurted out, what I took to be the real reason I was there, “WELL, MY WIFE READ THIS!”
Landlord was mad that I, a Black woman, had escaped him, got him in trouble with his wife, went through the work of finding out where I’d moved to and, wanting revenge or ─ at the very least, to see me again, hauled my ass into court on a lie.
He didn’t get revenge. He just further embarrassed himself and, of course, lost his claim for unpaid rent.
The young lady in Judge Judy’s courtroom didn’t fare as well. Her case was dismissed because she’d moved her boyfriend in with her and, when the landlady wanted him to also pay rent, because the landlord had bargained for one, not two, they didn’t pay up.
Thinking back on that experience with landlord, I was really lucky he wasn't a psychopath, didn’t come in to rape and murder me. He just looked and probably had done so before, except this time something woke me up.