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From rental application to restraining order, Part 1

Part 1: Jaylynne Yancy is one example of local renters who face increased risk and little support as they navigate a housing crisis and property managers who hold an abundance of structural power.
Jaylynne Yancy filled out a rental application in early September.

Jaylynne Yancy filled out a rental application in early September. /Jaylynne Yancy

The PPO for Yancy

The PPO for Yancy /Jaylynne Yancy

Yancy has screenshots of remarks made publicly in response to her review.

Yancy has screenshots of remarks made publicly in response to her review. /Jaylynne Yancy

In early September, Jaylynne Yancy completed a rental application for a unit belonging to United Properties.  She paid the application fee, but was turned down, based on an eviction on her record that had already been cleared with a bankruptcy as of August of 2019.  Yancy says she knew her own credit score, had a landlord reference, and that she believed she qualified based on United Properties' own criteria, or she would not have applied.

Feeling wronged and upset with funds running low, the application fee gone, and no closer to a place to live in the midst of a housing crisis, Yancy says she left a negative Google review for United Properties, not about the rejection of the application itself, but about the length of time the rejection took.  

Negative review

I felt misled by the application,” Yancy’s review started.  She’d had 7 days to move and had felt misled by the United Properties website’s statement that her background check could be processed in three days when it took much longer.  Her review stated as much.

The office staff explained the delay by saying the contact information for her previous landlord was incorrect, though Yancy says she used the exact same information to get that landlord to send her records directly to United Properties.  

Once the review was posted, events took a turn.

“Enjoyable” and inconsistent rules

As screenshots shared by Yancy show, a United Properties employee responded to the review publicly and explained the rejected application with a message beginning, “I’m glad you aired your dirty laundry because it makes my response that much more enjoyable.”

The message went on to talk publicly about the details of Yancy's application and that Yancy’s bankruptcy was one “of our disqualifying requirements,” but the policy, as outlined on the United Properties website, actually says “Applicants must not have an unpaid money judgment owed to a previous landlord on their credit report, unless discharged or satisfied by bankruptcy.”  Yancy says this was exactly her situation - documents show she had an unpaid amount that had been discharged by her bankruptcy in August 2019, and the website specifically states that a discharged bankruptcy does not disqualify an applicant.

When asked for comment, Lance Griffioen of United Properties wrote, “Ms. Yancy applied for one of our apartments in September.  She was denied because she did not meet our rental qualifications, specifically because of a poor credit history and negative landlord reference.  Ms. Yancy was nevertheless offered an opportunity to have a qualified cosigner apply, which she did not do, to our knowledge.”

A counteroffer

A United Properties employee then requested that if Yancy removed the negative review about the time taken to process her application, they would pay back her application fee.  (“Once your reviews are deleted, I am happy to work on processing that,” says a message from the employee.) Yancy says, “I found this as a disgrace to my character and judgement. It never occurred to me to ask, as their website says those fees are non-refundable.”

When Yancy removed the review, United Properties CEO and co-owner Timothy VandenToorn did refund the $80 application fee (for Yancy and her co-signer), and added on a $20 gift card, because, he says in later messages to Yancy and others, “I wanted to bless you,” and “she obviously needed it.”  

For Yancy, this felt patronizing and controlling, and it missed the point of addressing her complaints about time and how she was being treated.  She also says her phone calls were hung up on and she was treated rudely by the staff as she tried to straighten things out. Yancy says that on either September 17 or 19, 2019, someone told her on the phone to “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan which is perceived by many as a phrase for white people to tell Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) that they are not welcome in a so-called “white America.”

When asked for comment, Lance Griffioen of United Properties wrote, "Our office has no record of any incoming or outgoing phone calls to Ms. Yancy's number on September 17 or 19.  Also... I'll note that no one in our office has any way of knowing an applicant's race when their application is being considered.  Our online application does not ask about race, and all communication with prospects is done by phone or email - no one here even knew what color her skin is when her application was denied."

Yancy says the whole interaction left a bad taste in her mouth.

Social Media

Yancy then posted about the situation on her Facebook page, including the name of the company and an already public picture of the employee who had treated her rudely.  She encouraged others to call them out for the way she was treated, and to share stories and reviews if they’d had a bad experience with United Properties. Yancy also left a new negative review to warn others. Other people commented and shared her post.  Later more negative reviews showed up for United Properties, which the staff questioned her about, but Yancy says they were unrelated to her own.

Dozens of separate people commented on Yancy’s Facebook post, which Yancy encouraged as a way to speak out as a community against a company who had treated her with disrespect.  

One of the comments said, “She needs to be slapped,” referring to the United Properties employee who Yancy says had treated her rudely.   A man also left a comment sexually harassing the employee.  

However, Yancy says, she herself did not threaten in her comments and she cannot control the comments of others. "When I said they [United Properties] were scared, I meant that they were scared of being exposed for how they were treating me, not that we were trying to scare them." 

Restraining order

A few days later Yancy was served a restraining order (PPO - personal protection order), while she was at work, on behalf of United Properties.  Yancy points out that the staff must have used the information on her rental application to have her served at work, and she says this threatened her job security.  

The PPO states that VandenToorn and an employee felt scared, and VandenToorn says, “This is the first time in my career I have considered bringing a gun to the office for protection.”

That’s when Yancy reached out to community advocate, LaDonna Norman, who created a FaceBook live video about the situation. Norman is a volunteer organizer with Together We Are Safe, a group that started in the MLK Park area.  The purpose of the group, Norman says, is to develop community-based solutions in a gentrifying city. 

Asked for comment, Griffioen of United Properties wrote, “Ms. Yancy apparently got the idea that she was denied [her rental application] for other reasons.  When we did not change our decision, Ms. Yancy began to make defamatory statements against us in multiple online forums, and incite others to do the same.  Some of those statements included threats against individual employees, and those employees sought PPOs as a result.”


Now, as Norman points out, the restraining order will go on Yancy’s criminal record, making her situation even more difficult in the future when it comes to jobs and rentals.  Commentary is available in part two of this article.

Amy Carpenter is a volunteer co-organizer with Together We Are Safe.


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