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This afternoon, Spike Mendelsohn and his erstwhile roommate, Mike Colletti, paid a visit to the property manager of the Capitol Hill rental home from which they were evicted last week and handed over half of the back rent and promised to cover the rest of their debt, the Good Stuff Eatery chef told Young & Hungry.
Around 4:30 p.m. today, Mendelsohn and Colletti handed property manager Joel Truitt a check for about half of the $8,700 in delinquent rent they owe to owners Brian and Elizabeth Wetzler, the chef said. The pair also laid out a written proposal to repay the remaining debt in $400 monthly installments. The proposal, Mendelsohn said, was really just a document to show everyone their intention to cover the debt.
In reality, the remainder will be “taken care of in two weeks,” Mendelsohn said. “We’re signed, sealed, and done.”
The chef said that Colletti had immediately called Truitt’s office on Tuesday, the first business day after Memorial Day, to make arrangements to clear up the mess. Mendelsohn said he was out of town on that day, but that he made sure Colletti “got his ass to the office” when it opened on Tuesday. The story of the eviction broke on Friday night, right at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.
Reached by phone, Truitt said that Mendelsohn and Colletti did give him a check today for half the back rent but that no formal agreement had yet been reached on how to pay the remaining debt. The burger men’s repayment proposal, according to Spike’s sister and Good Stuff spokeswoman Micheline Mendelsohn, calls for Brian Lacayo, another chef at the burger joint, to cover the outstanding debt in monthly installments. Lacayo was the man who, unbeknownst to the property manager and owners, moved into the Capitol Hill rental home after Spike Mendelsohn signed a second lease to live with his girlfriend.
Truitt, however, wasn’t keen on Lacayo assuming the debt. “We don’t know him,” Truitt said. “He’s not a lease holder.” Plus, as the property manager noted, the outstanding debt doesn’t just include back rent now. It also includes eviction costs, cleaning costs, attorney’s fees, and even the amount it will cost the owners to reconnect the gas, which had been turned off at some point. The property manager wouldn’t know the final figure for another week to 10 days, he said.
As Truitt explained the extra costs to the two former tenants, Spike Mendelsohn stepped forward, the property manager said, and assumed responsibility for all the debts. “He said he would keep on top of it to make sure everything was paid,” Truitt recalled. The property manager described the men as humble, polite, and apologetic.
“They did make a good faith effort to pay a portion of the money,” Elizabeth Wetzler e-mailed this evening from Bogota, Colombia, where she and her husband, a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, are stationed. “This is great news to us and we are very happy about it! I am so glad that they took the time to go and meet with Joel to try to work something out.”
As to the proposed repayment plan, Wetzler wrote that neither she nor her husband have seen it yet, and that “nobody has agreed…to whether it is acceptable or not at this point.” But she said that she was optimistic for a quick resolution.
The two sides still differ on a number of things, though. One is timing. While Spike Mendelsohn said that Colletti visited Truitt’s office on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, the property manager said that Colletti didn’t come to his office until Wednesday afternoon. It was then, Truitt said, that arrangements were made for Mendelsohn and Colletti to return to the property manager’s office this afternoon.
But the far bigger question is, how did it come to this crisis point at all? Truitt said that he had mailed multiple late-payment notices to both the rental house and to Good Stuff Eatery. His office called every number they had for the tenants; Truitt said he even called Spike Mendelsohn’s father, Harvey. What’s more, Truitt added, D.C. Superior Court wouldn’t have proceeded with the eviction process unless the judge was satisfied that the tenants had been properly notified. Finally, Truitt said, the eviction process itself cannot proceed legally until a certified letter is signed and received, presumably by the defendants or someone close to them.
There are, in other words, a lot of safeguards to make sure landlords just don’t evict tenants without due process and notice.
Neither Spike nor Micheline Mendelsohn ever saw a document related to the eviction process, they both said today. The first time Spike Mendelsohn heard about it, the chef said, was when TMZ stuck its cameras in his face on May 22 and started asking questions. Spike Mendelsohn said neither Colletti nor Lacayo had seen anything either, and Micheline Mendelsohn categorically denied that her father had ever been contacted.
When asked how the eviction process could proceed if none of the defendants was properly notified, Spike Mendelsohn turned the tables and took this writer to task. He was personally insulted by last week’s eviction story, he said. He had given me an hour of his time for an earlier story. He thought he and I were developing a good working relationship. He was looking forward to talking more in the future. How come I didn’t come down to Good Stuff and pull him away from work and let him clear up what was obviously wrong information? (To be clear, Micheline Mendelsohn said last week that none of the Good Stuff guys had a comment for the record.)
Mendelsohn went on to say that he’s a successful business man. He gives to charities. He purposely moved from New York to D.C. so that he could develop a positive relationship with the folks on Capitol Hill. “Do you think if I were aware that I wouldn’t have taken care of it?” he asked rhetorically.
“I’m a responsible guy,” he said.
Mendelsohn couldn’t explain why neither the Wetzlers nor the property manager knew that he had moved out and that he had transferred his share of the lease to Lacayo. The chef said he worked out the transfer with Lacayo and Colletti. “What happened after that, I don’t know,” Mendelsohn said.
As for any certified letter, Mendelsohn had a thought on that, too. “Someone, somewhere forged a signature,” he said. “I would love to find out who forged a signature.”