Congressional candidate Joe Coors made headlines back in May, by claiming he is not a beer. But now, a disgruntled tenant who lives in a property the GOP candidate owns is hoping Coors gets attention for something else he says the congressional hopeful isn't: a good landlord.
The tenant claims Coors went back on his word and is essentially kicking his family out; his lease ends tomorrow. But a Coors spokeswoman has a very different take.
Jonathan Johnson, a 42-year-old resident of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, who at this writing is still living with his wife and two grandchildren in a property Coors owns, says that the candidate personally promised him and his family another year in the property and then changed his mind, giving him nowhere to go.
But the campaign team for Coors, who is hoping to unseat Representative Ed Perlmutter, says there's no controversy here, and this is a simple real estate transaction.
Johnson reached out to Westword to try to bring attention to a situation that he says is very difficult for his family and reflects behavior that he does not think is fitting for someone who wants to represent voters as a member of Congress. He also provided a handful of e-mail correspondences to us to back up most of his claims.
According to Johnson, he and his family -- two grandsons, a seven-month-old and a four-year-old -- moved into the North Carolina property in September of last year, signing a one-year-lease contract with the option to buy. In June 2012, Johnson says his wife, Bianca, spoke with Joe Coors's wife, Gail and asked for a one-year renewal on the lease. He says Gail was disappointed that they were not going to buy the property but "also glad that we were still going to stay and take care of the property."
Gail told them that she would talk to Joe and prepare the lease for them, Johnson says. The next day, Joe called up Johnson and said he would get a renewal on the lease and he just needed a couple of weeks to prepare it.
Then in July, Joe and Gail Coors sent the couple an e-mail saying they were going to sell the house after all. The Johnsons could make an offer to buy, but either way, they would be terminating the lease, because they needed it vacant. Here's an excerpt of that e-mail to Bianca, signed by Joe and Gail:
After much thought, we have decided to sell our house on Fernando Street in Manteo. We haven't decided on an asking price yet.... I'm telling you this now because we won't be renewing the rental contract with you. We feel it's best if the property is vacant to accommodate showings during the period it is for sale. However, if you wish to present an offer to purchase the property, we will gladly consider all reasonable offers...
"I was flabbergasted. We had just put money into outdoor lighting, a new door, new landscaping," Johnson says. "It ticked me off. Why didn't he call me? He's hiding behind an e-mail."
Johnson and his wife hadn't intended on purchasing the property at that time, but since they wanted to stay and weren't sure they could find somewhere else in such a short time span, they looked into the possibility of a purchase.
Johnson says he then paid for an appraisal, which determined the property to be worth $420,000. However, Coors said he wanted $699,000 -- and for Johnson and his family, that was out of their price range. He says he couldn't find a bank that would even finance a purchase at that price, since Coors was asking for far more than the appraisal.
That meant that he had until September 15 -- tomorrow -- to find a new place. At that point, the date was only a month away.
"I pleaded with him," says Johnson, who does web installing. "He said, 'It's not my problem. Either you get it financed [or move out].'"
Johnson says he was particularly surprised with Coors changing his mind and then refusing to reach some kind of compromise, given that he is running for office. "He's trying to help make America a better place...but how can you help out the economy when you're not even doing your part?"
Continue reading for the official response from the Coors campaign as well as e-mail exchanges between the candidate and his tenants. Michelle Yi, a campaign spokeswoman for Coors, declined to comment on any specifics regarding Johnson's claims, saying, in an e-mailed statement: "This is a real estate purchase negotiation where the buyer and seller have not come to terms on the price."
That's an honest response. It is fairly standard that renters looking to purchase ultimately may not be able to agree on a price with the buyer, in which case the lease is terminated. Coors, in this case, does not appear to have violated any terms of the lease or done anything illegal. A seller has a right to sell a property whenever a contract is finished, and the family had not actually signed a contract for the following year.
There is also no e-mail record of Coors promising the family in June that they could renew the rental lease for a year, since Johnson says that all happened on the phone.
The Coors campaign, as is apparent from the "not a beer" video, has tried to paint the candidate as a regular guy who is not a "career politician," as opposed to the wealthy, out-of-touch portrait his opponents have pushed. Either way, Coors has spent a lot on ads in his effort to win in District 7, which includes parts of Jefferson County as part of redrawn boundaries.
There are also further details in this back-and-forth that Johnson says show how Coors in general has been unnecessarily stubborn and completely unsympathetic to him and his young grandchildren.
Once it was clear that they were not going to reach an agreement on price, Johnson -- in an e-mail pleading for Coors not to force him and his family out -- offered four different alternatives to Coors, including a three-month lease or a six-month lease, during which time he could show the house, a twelve-month lease for a higher price in addition to a $10,000 non-refundable check if they did not buy the house by the end of the lease, or even a month-to-month lease while the Coors look for a buyer.
Coors didn't consider any of those avenues. "He turned down everything," Johnson says, adding that it doesn't make sense to him that Coors wouldn't even let them stay an additional month. In e-mails, Coors and his realtor say that they need the place vacant if they are going to try and sell it.
Johnson says he and his family have been packing and looking for a place for the past several weeks but haven't yet found anything. After they move out, they will have to stay with family in Pennsylvania until they find a new place.
"He's as stubborn as can be," Johnson says. "What gets me is, why is he doing this right now when he's campaigning? You'd think he'd at least wait until November, after the election."
Continue for full e-mail exchanges and other documents from Johnson. First e-mail from Joe and Gail Coors, with notice that they are selling.
July 28, 2012
After much thought, we have decided to sell our house on Fernando Street in Manteo. We haven't decided on an asking price yet. I'm working with Lee Whitley on area comparables and should have a price within a few days.
I'm telling you this now because we won't be renewing the rental contract with you. We feel it's best if the property is vacant to accommodate showings during the period it is for sale. However, if you wish to present an offer to purchase the property, we will gladly consider all reasonable offers (owner/seller financing is not an option).
Therefore, this notice is to inform you that your tenancy is hereby terminated according to the terms of the rental contract.
You are required to vacate the premises and remove all your personal possessions from the premises by August 31, 2012. All keys to the premises are to be returned to Lee Whitley upon your move out.
Your rent and any relevant bills for the premises will be payable until the termination date.
Thank you for your understanding.
Joe & Gail Coors
Screenshot of the appraisal, showing the $420,000 finding
E-mail from Coors' realtor, noting the $699,000 price tag
I received a copy of the letter you sent to Mr. and Mrs. Coors this morning. They asked me to contact you.
We were contacted by Mr. & Mrs. Coors on July 27, 2012, to list their house at 326 Fernando Street for sale. The lease with Bianca Ellinger stated that she had first option to purchase. It was presented to Bianca and Jonathon that the house was for sale around August 1, with notice that the lease was not going to be renewed. Rupert Wilson at Century 21 made an offer on their behalf on August 10, 2012, which was rejected by the Coors.
There were several other offers made, but all were turned down. On August 17, Mr. Coors sent an email to Jonathan reconfirming his desire to terminate the lease and asking them to vacate the property by September 15.
The list price is $699,000. Mr. & Mrs. Coors understand that they will have a better opportunity to sell their home if it is vacant, and therefore are not extending the lease beyond September 15.
Lee Whitley Sales Manager
E-mail directly from Joe Coors about negotiations and the appraisal value
Jonathon & Bianca --
We need to try to sell the house, and will be confirming a revised letter about not renewing the lease with you all. I'm told there is an abundance of rentals and other properties for lease in that area, so you shouldn't have a problem finding alternative housing.
Sorry the appraisal came in so low. But the appraisal price simply is at least 50% below even the tax appraisal. Maybe you should try a different appraiser?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Offers from Johnson for alternative options, sent via e-mail.
Since we didn't come to agreement on the purchase of your home, I was wondering about this
(1) 6 month lease at $2800 a month and you can still show your house to any interested buyers.
(2) 12 months lease at $2300 a month, $10.000.00 in escrow non refundable if we do not buy it at bank appraisal price at the end of lease.
(3) Rent it month to month until you sale it.
(4) 3 month lease $3000 a month
And we will take care of any repairs if they occour up to $1000.00
We have know where to go with are two grandchildren. Joe If you can find it in your heart to accept any of these options.
Please help us out. We have a selling contract on are house in Pa thinking we was going to buy your house, We really have no where to go.
More from our Politics archive: "Obama in Golden, Colorado: Is the ninth time the charm?"