Legal / Illegal / Right / Wrong / Laws / Ethics / Morals

9 Replies

I want to open a topic that is based more in purpose than product. The 'why' we do things. On most boards I see people asking what is legal and illegal. While that is a worthy topic, I am perplexed to note that seldom are we discussing the Ethical and Moral side of the issues- aside from the legal ones. It seems, people want laws to rein in what other people do. Over time we will 'law' ourselves into some corner where there is no escape. When I see someone express a 'ethical or moral' argument, the people that do not agree stand on the law- like if it is not legal it is ok. When I see people bend the law, I see the opposed stand on a loophole to justify their stand. It seems when it comes to respecting another persons ethical and moral stand, in general as a society we have a really hard time doing so. Almost like, there is only one way, and other way is flat wrong. Here is a simple but personal example for me. I do not speed. Period. Not 10 over- not 5 over... I do not do it. I happen to respect the speed limit and for me- that is that. I also do not begrudge you from speeding. I stay in my right or middle lane, and just go the speed limit. So more info- I also happen to drive a very, very high performance sports car. The kind all of my friends say- if they drove the car one day they would have a ticket for sure- no questions. A joke between my son and I is how many people get really, really, really mad at people that drive the speed limit. I have had people get out of their cars to cuss me out because I was driving 55 in a 55. I have some on video- you would think I ran over all of their pets on purpose and did an OJ slow speed chase to get away. In fact, I just respect the law. Easy example right- the law is clear- though most people 'bend' it- for reasons I am not really sure of, nor do I really care so long as they are respectful of me obeying the law. Now a more grey example- I choose to not bend or break my marriage vows. These are not laws, but something different. Can an argument be made there is no law that says if your married you are to act certain ways and refrain from certain acts... yep. In court for instance I would loose every time. What is wrong for me, and most- is legal. Not every issue is about legal, or not legal... in fact the issues that shape our character, that fiber people stand on and say- he / she is that 'kind' or 'type' of person... they have nothing to do with laws- they have everything to do with where we operate inside of the laws. There are many, many business people I respect because they are savvy, smart and really know their stuff that I would never do business with. Not because the violate the law- but because the law is their boundary, making their actions predictable but for me- not tolerable. I would like to see more encouragement here, and in other forums, meetings and business dealings to respect each other. To try to understand where someone is coming from, not just bash what people are doing. The name calling and generalizations serve no meaningful purpose except to put people down, stifling people that might post for fear of being attacked by someone that thinks differently.  No one is right all of the time- and I am just thinking if people are fully educated on all viewpoints and the morals and values that drive them, and we all respectfully listen- we will all make better calls in business and life in general. In the end there will be people that agree to disagree... and that is ok...

@Jim Johnson  I am with you on that. The right thing is not always covered by the laws. And the laws and rules are not aways enforced. But that doesn't mean we should seek the loopholes and do what we want. I've had a few of those discussions here also.


Interesting way to start a discussion, you have caught my interest.  There really is no "heads or tails" side to this discussion, so I will throw out a few thoughts just to contribute.  From my perspective, things sometimes boil down to what is the right thing to do in a certain situation and sometimes that is in spite of what the law or a code of ethics drawn up by somebody else says.  Maybe that comes from my "judging" personality trait.

Here is one example of a current dilemma I am working through.  I have a tenant that has struggled from day one to keep up with the rent.  She has been a tenant for probably 3 years or so.  For the first couple years, she always managed to figure things out and get me paid.  It wasn't always on time, but she always came through.  I will go back to the very beginning and WHY I rented to her in the first place.  While this tenant was filling out an application in one of my vacant apartments, I was chit-chatting with her daughter, who was, at the time, around 10 or 11.  I found the daughter to be very respectful and quite the conversationalist for her age.  To me, that was a sign of a decent parent.  I rented to her mom in spite of the fact that her income/rent cost was not in my preferred comfort range.  This worked well, I always worked with her and she always managed to come through.  Sometimes she was able to get help from Social Services, sometimes she just figured it out.  That was until about 6 or 9 months ago.  The tenant changed the "rules" of our relationship.  She became more confrontational, she NEVER returned my calls inquiring about status of past due payments and generally became very difficult to deal with.  During this time, she was almost 4 months behind on the rent.  My fault for letting it go this long, but remember, she had always come through before.  In part due to her behavior changes, I had to serve her 3-day notice.  Her response to that was to call in code enforcement to get me a stack of violations that included a cracked window I was never told about and floor tiles that were worn (she has been in that apartment 3 years and they weren't new when she moved in).  In this situation, same people, same situation, but behavior changed, so now the game changes.  We file eviction papers tomorrow.

Next situation.  I have a property out of town.  One of my maintenance people was staying there for the week to do some work.  He had his dog with him.  The dog got loose and ran all over the property (a mobile home park) and was chasing a couple cats during the couple hours it took to catch the dog.  The dog kept going under one particular home chasing a cat.  The resident came out and tried to help us catch the dog, which we finally did.  One of the residents cats was missing for the last few weeks since the incident.  The cat was found the other day, deceased.  It is possible that the dog killed the cat, but nobody knows for sure how/when the cat passed.  The resident called me today to tell me the story, then told me that he had called the Sheriff and a lawyer already and said a simple apology would not be enough.  As soon as he said "lawyer", I ended the conversation by saying that his lawyer will need to speak with mine.  This prevented me from running my mouth before my brain could start to function.  In my head, I know that the legal "threat" isn't much of a concern because it can't be proven that it was my maintenance person's dog that killed the cat and not a coyote.  It also can't be proven how long the cat has been dead.  So the law says one thing.....but my moral's won't allow me to turn a blind eye.  I am still working with my park manager to find a way to make things right.  I don't need the law to tell me I have to do that.

We are in a people business.  Without people, the property has no value at all.  Something to keep in mind in your everyday situations.

@Jim Johnson not to take this too far of topic, but what kind of car? I just picked up a Diablo and I know what you mean about speeding. I do go five over, but rarely more than that.


Sounds like a good private discussion...

Adam @Adam Johnson:

It is these kinds of situations that I am speaking of. I have a tenant with cancer in one of my parks. They are terminal and will pass soon. After I fond out, I just stopped sending them a space rent bill. The moved into the park years prior to my buying it, so maybe they have been there 20ish years now. Anyway, I figure the 250 / month does not really effect me, and why not let him spend it on himself in his final days... No lets say I was running a fund or had partners that were all about maximizing income to boost value. They might demand I do something with that tenant, in fact most funds have bylaws the managing members must follow that would demand I forced them to pay or evict them. One reason I really do not like funds that require returns is they are always demanding more. So they raise rents, so the fund can make a bit more this year over last year. You become bound to shareholder wealth, and at some point there is no more blood to squeeze out of the rock. I have rentals I make good coin on, that have not had a rent increase in 5 - 7 years. The same tenants are in the homes, I have a great return, so I choose not to increase my take at the probable expense of the tenant leaving. All of my 'stick built' tenants stay an average of 5+ years... if I was all about making every last dime- my properties would turn over and I would have down time between tenants every year. Can I raise rents- you bet... do I... nope. Here is one last- well I think it is a fun thing to do. Say I charge $2,000 a month for a rental. That is $24,000 a year. Well I collect $2,181.81 for 11 months- and the month of December is free... Sort of like a tenant Christmas escrow plan... ya the first year the numbers are not perfect and they need to pay something, and the final year they might have some time I owe them, but the tenants really like have no payment in December... 

Honor is for those on a stipend.

Great thoughts. But please keep up with traffic it is dangerous to go abnormally slow:)



@Jim Johnson  , 

I believe when it comes to ethics \ morals , within the context of your stories, are examples of why it is a gray area and not black and white. Ethics and morals are created based upon an individual's culture, family, religion, and experiences. With that being said the law is the law and your examples provide proof that we as a society need the governance. What I believe it comes down to is what as an individual do you value more. Is it serving others within the context of the law and situation? Is it your bottom line? Is it something completely different...

Personally, I'm getting into this to provide a service for others and to build wealth for my family. It would be difficult for me to run a business that does not take into account what is going on with the other individual and the situation. I want to be as profitable as possible but not at the expense of someone else. I believe that's why having a "code of ethics" or thinking about this ahead time is important. It allows us to examine what are our personal ethic and moral. That's why this conversation is important because we could discuss situations and understand others point of view. For example, I am going to increase rents every year and it may cause me extra work but that's ok for me. I wouldn't make someone who is dying of cancer pay their lot space. I would try to help out  more through a group fundraiser or bringing him meals. 

What are other examples or stories of ethic or morally dilemmas? Why is it a gray area ?

@Walter Pape 

That is correct. @Matt R.  is saying, maybe he will complete his post into something that is not a one liner and explain himself. So for me to be honorable, do I need to be on a stipend. I have never heard this before and I am curious as to what it means? <-- Moving on --> For me I really do not care so much how others do things- the question is, can I respect diverse views and can I respect people for having them. I grow tired of the name calling, or belittling snide jabs. Is someone really 'stupid' or an 'idiot' because they look at a subject in a way other than mine? To quiet someone do I need to resort in questing their intelligence? I see people that call themselves experts brow beat people that have different views. I really think the story behind why people believe what they do, or the experiences the values and morals are set in is fascinating. There is so much to be learned in the purpose of actions. We tend to pass judgment on what people do, with no back story on the why... in the long run, I get to choose who I hang with. There are many people I respect as business people, but I would not choose to have them over on my Saturday and gill on the deck with them. In turn, I have many very close friends I do not agree on politics with, or how we operate our businesses, how we spend our money etc- that I love hanging on the deck with- because while we do not always see eye to eye on issues- we totally see eye to eye on respecting each others views and why we have the views. In fact- thinking about this- I know several people I almost agree with on every subject but I do not hang with them because they choose to undress anyone the thinks different. Hmmmm... even though I agree with their view- it is how they defend it, and why they defend it that is so repulsive. Remember- I am dating myself here- when in basketball a foul was called and the player that did the misdeed would right away raise their hand... now they all point fingers... I like people that can call fouls on themselves I guess... 

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