"God's grace is the greatest wealth. To consider the amassing of money, gold, or other material objects as symbols of wealth and social prestige is incorrect. The goal of life, instead, should be the acquisition of the divine wealth of God's grace." --Sai Baba
In a recent telephone conversation with my friend and car mechanic Mike Costigan, the subject of our relationship with money came up. At the end of the conversation we both agreed that, for this century to evolve into the new Golden Age, the greatest decision each of us has to make is whether we work for money and profit, or out of a desire to be of service. We agreed that this topic would make an excellent choice for an article in Cultivate Life! and made a commitment to write such an article!
Little did I know that God would immediately present me with a financial dilemma which would act as the perfect example for our article?
The very next day, in my role as landlord, I was presented with one of those financial conundrums which face every one of us who work out of a motive of love and service - those of us who bring the Heart energy into our work.
This week I have been endeavoring to let an apartment in a shrinking rental market in Dublin. The apartment had been advertised for nearly a week and there wasn't much interest in it. (Every week that the apartment sat empty was costing me €300!)
I was approached by a single mother. When she saw the two bedroom apartment she was delighted and agreed to take it at the stated rent - €1,250 pm. We discussed the next steps. She said she had the money to pay the rent and handed me the deposit of €1,350 for the apartment and the keys. I was really pleased. Then she gave me the welfare form that I had to complete and asked me to fill it in straight away. I started to answer the questions on the form with her help and the help of her sister. Then we came to the question that said - What is the monthly rent?
She said that if I wrote in the actual rent, €1,250, she wouldn't get any rent allowance. Apparently as a single mother out of work, she was entitled to €950 rent allowance. She said she could make up the difference between the welfare payment and the rent by putting in €50 from her benefit and the rest would be paid by her ex-boyfriend and father of the child, who was paying maintenance. She asked me to put down €1,000 on the form in answer to the question, "What is the monthly rent?" because the welfare would not pay rent allowance if she rented an apartment that cost more than €1,000 per month. Apparently some landlords, in the desire for money and profit, took this course of action.
This was being sprung on me and was a surprise development, so I asked her what it was like being a single mother, trying to find accommodation. She said she was living with her 4 month old baby and 2 sisters in a small bedroom. She said it was impossible to find suitable accommodation for €1,000 pm since this figure would only pay for one bedroom accommodation in unsafe locations that were unsuitable for children. Consequently landlords were refusing to take a tenant with a child! Furthermore nearly every landlord that advertised a property said they would not accept welfare payments, making the task for a single mother of finding suitable accommodation almost impossible.
I felt for her situation - so I wrote on the form that the rent was €1,000. Then at the end of the form I had to sign, that all the above that I had written was true. I was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable - but signed.
I took the deposit, gave her a receipt, and we agreed to meet the next evening to sign contracts. When I arrived home I could not settle. Something in my Heart did not sit right with what I had done. So I rang my pal, Mike Costigan (he was in bed but kindly entertained my conversation - he could sense I was disturbed) and we discussed what I had done. Mike laughed when he heard what I had phoned about and said - "Now there's an interesting one!"
I reasoned that no one was losing out by this indiscretion, because the government would pay €950 whether she was living in a bedsit or in my apartment. I also reasoned that I was helping a single mother find a suitable home and what was I to do - turn her away into the street back to her tiny bedroom and 2 sisters? My mind was trying to justify telling a lie. As well as being motivated to help the single mother I also had an eye on my own needs to rent the apartment and avoid further financial losses!
I found the conversation with Mike most helpful. After putting the phone down I knew I couldn't let that form go forward with the wrong rent. I also began to see other ramifications ahead as a result of letting that form go through to the welfare office. What was I going to say in the contract? Was the contract, that we both had to sign, going to state the real rent or the false rent? If it stated the real rent, then if the welfare office asked to see a copy of the contract, the whole deal would end up in my face! If I put down the false rent, then I had no legal security with the tenant, who could claim this was the real rent. Then could I have two contracts, one real and one false? ...it was all getting far too messy! The more I explored this situation the more my Heart rebelled. I remembered Mike's comment from the night before - "If you build the walls off square then you'll have to build a crooked roof!" This was proving so true.
I remembered my prospective tenant's difficulties finding suitable accommodation and knew that every single mother in the city of Dublin faced these problems. So I decided, instead of focusing on getting money into the bank by renting the apartment under dubious circumstances, to set myself a different task - I asked myself how I could, in my role as a landlord, best be of service to single parents in Dublin, who are looking for accommodation?
I couldn't reduce my rent to €1,000 pm. because I would be losing a large amount every week - I wouldn't have enough rent to pay the mortgage costs due on the loan I have for the apartment. In an effort to answer how I could be of service I phoned the prospective tenant, asked her not to send in the form, said I wanted to put the correct rent on the form and offered to support her in getting the accommodation through legitimate means. In an effort to find assistance with this, I contacted the only housing charity in Dublin. They were quite unhelpful. An internet search revealed no other help. I began to feel alone and isolated, the way single mothers feel when they are searching for help!
Then I had a bit of inspiration. Why not contact the previous tenant, who was a single mother and had managed to persuade the welfare office to give her the rent allowance for the apartment at the legitimate rent. We had left on really good terms, so I phoned her and asked her how she had managed to gain the support of the welfare office even though she was outside their stated rules. She was most helpful and told me exactly what she had done and offered a few tips on how to get the support of the welfare service legitimately.
I noted down all her points and turned them into a single mothers' 10 Point Plan for getting support from the welfare office, for apartments costing more than €1,000 pm. I wrote the 10 Point Plan out on a single page along with some other helpful information about the welfare rules and stored it on my PC so that I could email it or print it out for single mothers.
When landlords and their agents are creating their advertisements on websites in Dublin, they are invited to state whether they accept rent allowance (welfare) or not. They also have the option of leaving it unspecified. To the dismay of many single mothers nearly every landlord specifies that he does not accept rent allowance, cutting these single mothers out of the rental market. I had always put unspecified. I did not want to say no to single mothers, but I did not know how to deal with them when they approached me because of all the welfare complications. I chose unspecified as a way of not making a commitment to either possibility.
Then I had another piece of inspiration. I went to my property-to-let advertisement currently being displayed on the internet and changed the advertisement so that it said yes to welfare and in the advertising description added a paragraph encouraging single mums to apply, by telling them I had a 10 Point Plan that, if implemented, would help them find support from the welfare office.
Once I had done this, I phoned my prospective tenant and told her about the 10 Point Plan and we agreed to meet up that evening. I also reflected that if more landlords did this, then single mums, instead of experiencing so much exclusion, would be welcomed and supported in getting suitable accommodation. I knew I could not speak or act for other landlords, but I also knew that I had now done my duty and my advert would act as an example that others could follow. As an unforeseen side effect I also realized that I now had a competitive edge over other landlords. I was appealing to a broader customer base because I was inviting single mothers to apply as tenants (a neglected market) and, as a consequence, had increased my prospects of renting the apartment. I knew I could use this 10 Point Plan, both now and in the future, to broaden my customer base when renting any of my apartments.
By developing an attitude of service toward this single mother, I had learned a lot about serving my tenants in my role as landlord! By holding my Heart pure and using my creativity, I was working for all concerned! Following the promptings of my Heart had brought God's grace into the situation because I had:
God's guidance, given through the Heart, is truly magical in its ability to bring harmony into every situation involving money. Following our Heart is the only path that will make us whole. Allowing ourselves to be directed inwardly is the only path that will transform the world.