My Name is Mary. I once had a memorable applicant named Mary. Mary was a polite, well-dressed middle-aged woman. She filled out my rental application form; however, the only questions that she answered were ‘Do you smoke?’ and ‘Do you have a pet?’ I said: “Mary, you forgot to write down your last name. You also forgot to fill in most of the rest of the form.” She said: “I didn’t forget. I don’t like to give personal information about myself to strangers.” I said: “Well Mary, if I rented this apartment to you, what name would I put on the lease?” She said: “Mary, just plain Mary.” I said: “Mary, I cannot run a credit check on you if all I know about you is that your name is Mary and that you don’t smoke or have a pet.” She said: “That’s OK with me. It’s OK with me if you don’t run a credit check on me. In fact, I would prefer that you didn’t.” I said: “Mary, what I am trying to tell you is this. I cannot rent an apartment to someone who I cannot identify.” She said: “You have to rent this apartment to me.” I said: “Why?” She said: “Because the reason I won’t tell you my name is because of my disability. I’m protected by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act.) I have a letter here from my psychiatrist.” She showed me the letter; however, she had cut out all the names and addresses. The letter said that she suffered from ‘chronic paranoia’ – but I already knew that. It was obvious that this woman was paranoid. However, Mary was wrong about the ADA. A landlord actually can refuse to rent an apartment to someone who he cannot identify, whether that person is disabled or not. I rented the place to somebody else. I later found out that Mary tried to rent an apartment in Oakland from another landlord I know, but she told him that her name was ‘just plain Wendy.’

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