When Tenants Go Bad!: The Sad Saga of “Hamburger Dan”

What is it that facinates us? Why do so many people watch shows like “Cops“, “Jerry Springer”, “Maury“, or any other drama fueled train wreck programming? I have an idea for a new show. Something that is a cross between “Jerry Springer” sprinkled with some “Cheaters” and a healthy dose of “Montel.” My new show would be called “When Tenants Go Bad!”

The inspiration for “When Tenants Go Bad” is the story of “Hamburger Dan.” In 1985 my father owned a rental property; dad is an accountant, a stickler for detail, Capricorn in nature, and a very down to business kind of guy. We were looking for a tenant when he found a suitable candidate: Dan. Dan showed up to his “interview” wearing a new suit, tie, and supporting a rather military like haircut-something my dad identified with immensely. My father seeing nothing outwardly amiss & running the proper credit checks, offered Dan a lease which he signed that afternoon. The property located in Sonoma County wine country was a 2/2 with 1,350 sq ft. It was in great shape with fresh paint and appliances in the kitchen. . . until Dan arrived!

Dan seemed to be a good tenant the first two months but then things changed-in a big way. We began receiving phone complaints from the neighbors surrounding our unit. It seemed that our boy Dan liked to party a lil bit. Having no experience in this type of problem, well a little bit with me in my youth, my father asked me to take “a look” into the problem. What I found was horrifying, hilarious, and pathetic all at the same time.

Dan stopped paying his rent, stopped returning phone calls, went completely “undercover.” We continued to try to reach Dan and the months began to move by quickly. After Dan fell behind two months in rent (month 4 of his tenure) and little or no communication, my father decide it was time to do some evicting. What we ran into was a labyrinth-legal maze protecting the renters rights and spitting on the landlord. We consulted with an attorney who informed us that Dan could “squat” in our unit for up to 6 months without having to actually vacate! The advice was that we need to hire a private eye, quickly, to build a case against our albatross. Simply put we need him out and this was the quickest way.

So began the process of interviewing private investigators something I found hysterical. We interviewed half a dozen and most of them seemed worse than good ole Dan. One guy was an ex Vietnam Vet with a very noticeable tick and a very nasty disposition. Another “candidate” eluded to his connections with the local chapter of the Hells Angels; his idea was to do some old fashion evictin-wood shampoo style! And the final straw was the P.I who claimed to have worked for “the ‘G'” as he so quietly under his breath whispered. That last guy gave me the creeps. We finally settled on an old time “Dragnet” like character who seemed to be the sanest of the bunch. . . here is what he found out.

Dan our now invisible renter was known in the Sonoma County drug culture as “Hamburger Dan” a high volume street level cocaine dealer. Where the moniker “Hamburger Dan” came from remains a mystery to this day. What is known is that Dan did the following things:

Dan had people coming in and out of our unit day and night. He had at least 2 large parties per week. Dan alienated all of our neighbors to the point that even the sweet church going lady down the street never forgave us for bringing Dan on board. He rented a washer and dryer unit which he stopped paying on immediately; we received endless requests for payment months later after Dan’s departure. Dan changed the locks on the entire unit. He created a “safe” room in one bedroom where he stashed his drugs and his gun! Yup this guy had a gun. When things really went south on “Hamburger D”, PG&E turned off his power. In response, Dan ran two long extension cords out of our unit to the “model” unit next door (new complex) to tap into their electricity. And finally the cops were called to our unit, over the course of Dan’s 6 month stay, over 20 times!!!

As they like to say on the train wreck show “Cheaters”: The Aftermath. Dan left us in the middle of the night. He pulled a “Grapes of Wrath” move never to be seen or heard from again. The eviction notice had been tacked up on the door; embarrassing to say the least. Dan’s drug dealing activity, although monitored by the Cotati police department, was never interrupted nor prosecuted. The final cost was 4 months lost rent,$600 in cleaning, and enough lost sleep to fill a full month!


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