“A what?” Tia asked.
“A McLandlord,” Tomo replied. “You know- Do they have them up in Canada?”
“What are they?”
“They’re franchises that the bigger banks license responsibilities for the houses they own to. You know, all those houses they own, they can’t care for all of them themselves, so they offer businesses a fee for watching them, making sure that they stay in good condition and that the renters pay their rents.”
“Oh,” said Tia, “like housing agents.”
“Except that it’s not quite that well put together,” said Jenny. “I mean, a housing agent like what you have, they’re smaller and generally care a lot more. A McLandlord, they’re not quite as good.”
“Yeah,” said Tomo, “it’s more ‘How much can we get to make the business profitable?’ than really being a landlord, because most of them, they just put a bid in for the contract to manage and then collect fees off what they can. I mean, the people I worked for, they bid to manage thirty houses, and they kept maybe five of them standing. Some of them were barely better than a roof and two walls standing, but the fees they recorded for those met the bank minimums and didn’t cut too deep into the rents they charged the rest of them.
“And to add to that, I had to learn in a hurry when I was in their office how to cover the entries so that the bank’s cross checks didn’t detect the crap they were pulling. Fake entries, billings for repairs that didn’t get made, stuff to keep the bank stupid about what they were doing so that as far as they knew, these thirty houses on their ledgers out of the thousands they franchised out were not any worse managed than the rest of them, so that an auditbot wouldn’t raise the flag.”
“And how many houses are franchised out by the banks?” Tia asked.
“Most of them,” said Jenny. “My Nana used to say owning a house was the American dream, but I don’t think there’s a lot of people who do anymore. The moneyed over on the West Side are about it; the rest of us ain’t.”
“And your place, Jenny, is that managed by a McLandlord?”
“The guys Tomo used to work for, yeah. They used to have someone working for them that came around every month for the rent, and he used to offer some of the girls ‘discounts,’ if they were willing to shave off some of their rents through other means.”
“Was that as… disturbing… as it sounds?” Tia asked.
“Yeah. We had one girl who took him up on it, and when she disappeared one night to skip the rent, he tried to make me a ‘special offer’ to cover her part of the rent.”
“What did you do?”
“Well,” said Jenny, “Shaun was still in one piece, and he looked him up to talk about it. I never saw the guy again, and never asked Shaun about it, so-”
“Hey,” said Tomo, “it’s Georgie. Here she comes,” she said as she shook Dutch and Charlie awake.
“Sure took her long enough…” Jenny started to say, her voice trailing as Georgie came closer.
“What’s that she’s got with her?” Tia asked as Jenny noticed the box…
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