A That Glitters Is Not Gold

I saw the most atrocious act this week and I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was.  Again, when I tell a story I change the names to protect the delicate privacy rights of the firms clients.  Last week I spent the entire week in the field with one of our primary investors, overseeing his rehabilitation of a fresh new acquisition and getting a feel for his “ideal” properties.  I was warned that the client had a long history of doing anything to shave a buck or two off of his rehabilitation cost. I was advised “not confront him if I see anything out of the ordinary.” “Alright,” I said as I dutifully reported to observe the practices of one of the firms major clients.  The first thing I noticed about this guy is that he treated the purchase like he had just bought a  storage locker without the benefit of being able to investigate its contents.  Most of the pre-foreclosure homes we sell haven’t been cleaned out, so the new owner will request a dumpster and trash the contents along with any construction debris that result from the rehabilitation.  Our “whale” on the other hand had his people comb through the house like it was a crime scene!  He personally walked through and picked up coins (especially old pennies?), personally weighing in on the value of the stuff that was left.  A number of Fairplay Realty-Elite folks swear that the guy found a mink coat in a house and that they’ll show me the coat at the next formal company event he brings her to (ick!).

On the surface his crew did wonderful work, but as I had been warned, this guy has some peculiar practices.  The house he is working on is a huge turn of the century home in SW Portland.  As a result of the 1970’s energy crises, many of these old homes had been converted to apartments and condos.  They were re-done pretty gnarly, and today the trend is to modernize them by improving their energy efficiency, and returning them to their original design. The problem is our guy doesn’t believe in disposing of all of his construction debris properly.  While removing the existing siding he discovered that the siding contained asbestos (some real nasty stuff that is highly regulated and expensive to dispose of).  Having not anticipated such large deconstruction expense, our guy chose to dump the asbestos siding in a stairwell cavity that he was closing in reconverting the property to a single-family home. Effectively sealing this highly toxic substance in the walls of this beautifully remodel, someone is buying into a toxic waste site!  Quite an ethical dilemma for me as I am well-aware of the hazards of asbestos. The problem is I work for the company that not only represents a client like this, but technically I am no expert on proper disposal and thus have no legal authority to opine on his practices.  I reported what I saw to Jeff Potts and he said, “Hey don’t brag because you got out of there without seeing some of his really bad shit!  In time my friend, in time.”  He was totally serious.


About asuomason

Graduate Student, Conflict and Dispute Resolution - University of Oregon
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