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Living In A Tent Made Of Red Flags

, , , , , , | Working | December 8, 2021

I take a tour of an apartment complex, and everything looks above-board to me. Several staff are in the office, and the tour itself is very professional. [Manager] tells me the rate for a one-bedroom, and I say I’ll need to think about it. I tour a few other complexes. Two days later, I give the first complex a call in the morning.

Me: “I’d like to come in and sign a lease. Would that be possible today?”

Staff Member: “Oh, yes! You can come in at any time.”

Me: “Great! And it’s $575 for a one-bedroom, right?”

Staff Member: “Oh, it’s actually $605 for a one-bedroom.”

This is the first red flag. I decide to go in, anyway. When I get there, it’s mid-afternoon, and [Staff Member] is the only one in the office. She is running between phones and trying to help tenants who come in with issues while I’m there. I end up being there for about half an hour, during which time no other staff makes an appearance.

She gives me a blank application to fill out, and I ask about the price hike. She has to hunt around for a price list and explains that the rate increases with each day that passes, which is the first time I’ve heard this. She also mentions that the rate is now $625. While she helps a tenant, I look over the application. It is generic, with no details about the specific unit I’d be renting.

Staff Member: “If you just sign that at the bottom, I’ll make sure my manager gets that and gives you a call.”

Me: “I’d prefer not to sign a blank form. The monthly rate isn’t even on here yet.”

Staff Member: “Oh, it’ll be $625. It should be fine.”

Me: “Yeah, I’d still prefer for that to be written on the form before I sign it.” *Stands up* “I’m going to have to get some info from my co-signer, too, before I finish this.”

I did not go back.

Some Landlords Just Aren’t Good Lords Over Their Land

, , , , , , , | Legal | December 1, 2021

Ages ago, before the Internet and cell phones, I shared an apartment with three of my buddies near the university we attended. When we first looked at the place, there were some obvious issues with the building itself and with the particular apartment we were looking at. We were assured that everything would be taken care of. Yes, we were naive.

The building supposedly was “secure” in that it had a lobby separated from the interior of the building by a locked door that could be opened by key or by a button in each apartment. There was a phone in the lobby that would ring the phone in an apartment if you entered the apartment number. The door worked as advertised except there was a missing glass panel in the lobby where, by ducking through the opening, you could get into the secured area. The phone also worked, but the phone numbers it rang were never updated, so entering our apartment number rang some poor folks who happened to have the number of whoever lived there years ago.

The first winter, we discovered that the fans on two of the three electric heaters didn’t work. We reported it to the superintendent (who lived across the hall from us) but it was never fixed. Eventually, we got them to work ourselves, but they were really noisy.  

The toilet tank leaked into the bowl which would then eventually flush after about an hour and repeat. Yeah, reported and not fixed, so I figured out how to replace the seal on my own.  

There was some damage to the walls and inside doors; one area looked like the previous tenants had a dartboard and were very bad at darts. That also was reported and then never fixed. There was cracked glass in some windows, there were doors that didn’t close properly, etc., etc. Always the same thing: reported and never fixed.

After about a year, the building was sold to a different company. This had no effect on any repairs.

Oh, remember that superintendent? One day, I came home from class and there was a big lock over their door handle and an eviction notice stapled to their door. I happened to have parked in front of the main window into their apartment, and the next morning I noticed it was broken and their stuff was all gone from their apartment. I guess they did a “midnight move”. This led to some confusion for a while as that is where we were supposed to drop off the rent.

Eventually, we all graduated and moved out. A while went by, and we were informed that we were not getting our security deposit back “because of the damage you did to the apartment”. Fortunately, we had documented everything, and the one guy who was still living nearby managed to get them to issue checks to each of us for our part of the security deposit.

And — drum roll — the checks were returned when we deposited them because the checking account had been closed — for quite some time as it turned out. Oh, well, they would issue new ones… if we stopped by their offices in person. They were open Monday through Friday, eight to five. As the individual amount was only just over $100, it was not worth it to take time off from work and drive there from my current living location, which I would guess was their plan all along.

A few years later, I read about the companies that had owned the building while I lived there. They had a scheme where they would sell their buildings to each other every so often which “reset the clock” on repairs that the city housing inspectors had ordered. From talking with other people who had lived in their other buildings, apparently ours was better than most, which is hard to believe. At least the city eventually caught on and changed things so their scheme didn’t work.

The last time I was in that neighborhood, the building was still there, and I was tempted to peek in the lobby and see if that glass panel was ever replaced.

This Story Will Leave You Banging Your Head Against The Gates

, , , , , , , | Working | November 4, 2021

I live in a gated community managed by a homeowners association. The HOA contracts with a company that manages its finances along with several hundred other associations throughout the southeast. Residents use their website to pay HOA dues and each community is assigned a [Company] community manager, which is the only point of contact to get in touch with our HOA directly.

Shortly before the health crisis, someone drove directly into the community entrance gates and completely destroyed the mechanism that opens them. Due to shortages and insurance holdups, the gates were left in disrepair and open for well over a year.

Finally, in March 2021, we receive news after months of radio silence: the gates are finally being repaired! The community manager sends out a mass email saying that if you moved into the community while the gates were broken or simply want to order new remotes or RFID cards to open the gates, get your orders in now by sending a letter of request with an enclosed check to the local corporate office in Atlanta.

I jump to do so. I order a remote and some cards for my sister, mother, and other people who visit me frequently so they won’t have to call me at the gate callbox and can just let themselves in. I write a check and send it off. Two weeks later, I see in my bank account that the check is cashed. Great! That means my remote and cards are on the way.

Then, I wait, and wait, and wait some more. I think the delay is still because of the health crisis, so I don’t think much of it and assume they’ll be sending out the devices when the gates are finally ready to go back into full operation. Then, months later, the community manager sends a mass email out that the gates will be closed after July 4th and they aren’t going to wait for any more orders before closing the gates because, at this point, we’ve had several weeks to make orders. That’s strange, I think, because it’s been months since I put the order in, the check was cashed, and I am still empty-handed. So, I email her.

Me: “Hi. I ordered some remotes and cards back in March for [amount] and the check was cashed but I still don’t have them. Can you look into it?”

Community Manager: “There is no record on your account. I didn’t receive an email from you ordering the devices. I can add it to your HOA account and the charge can be drafted along with your regular HOA dues.”

Me: “You don’t understand. I mailed the order physically to you, which is what you told us to do. I already paid for the devices. Here is an image of the check being cashed from my bank. I’m asking where the devices are.”

Community Manager: “We cannot send devices without a charge being put on your account. Contact your bank.”

Fantastic. She is very dismissive throughout the exchange and doesn’t seem interested in looking into it further, but she is my only point of contact. I contact my bank and ask about the cashed check. They look into it, and less than five minutes later, the money is back in my account because the check was insufficiently endorsed. Huh, I guess the check really was stolen, then. That’s annoying, but at least I got my money back. But I’m left exactly where I started: without the devices for the gates.

The exchange with the community manager left a really bad taste in my mouth, though, so I decide to write another letter and check and drive down to Atlanta to deliver it in person at the office myself. When I get there, I am greeted with the unpleasant surprise that the office is closed due to the health crisis, which is not stated anywhere on their website or Google Maps, which both list the hours they are open. It says to place any payments in the dropbox nearby. I am about to do that when an employee actually walks up and unlocks the door to the office.

Employee: “You have a payment? I can take that for you. I’m emptying out the dropbox now.”

Me: “Great, thank you so much!”

I leave feeling relieved. I was able to hand the check directly to an employee, which means my order will finally be processed! Little did I know what a mistake this was.

I’m skittish over the previous check fraud, so I watch my bank account like a hawk waiting for the check to be cashed. It’s been over a week and it still hasn’t been processed, so I call the corporate customer service line to ask about its progress.

Me: “How long does it usually take for checks at the office to be processed?”

Representative: “Your community manager will be able to look into it further. I’ll refer your inquiry to her.”

This is exactly what I wanted to avoid, but it looks like I am forced to come back to her no matter what. A few days later, she emails me.

Community Manager: “The office is closed. I don’t know who you handed the check to. If you want the devices, a charge has to be added to your HOA account.”

Me: “He unlocked the door and was opening the dropbox. He must be an employee there. I went there at [date] and [time].”

Community Manager: “I don’t know who you handed the check to. You may want to check with your bank, put a stop payment on the check, and reissue.”

I am losing my mind at this point. I handed the check to an EMPLOYEE and she is making no attempt to find it. I am realizing what a terrible mistake I made by not just putting the letter in the dropbox. I thought it would be safer if an employee took it, and I didn’t even get his name. I’m starting to wonder if I imagined the whole scenario of handing the check to him. Maybe he was a scammer posing as an employee lying in wait to steal checks from people putting them in the dropbox.

Thinking history is repeating itself and my check is lost again, I follow her advice, contact my bank, and place a stop payment on the check, and my bank charges me $15 for the pleasure. Then, I suck it up and email the community manager back to please place the charge for the gate devices on my HOA account this week so I can finally complete the d*** order. One week later, she responds.

Community Manager: “Sorry, your email went to my junk. Placing the charge on your account now.”

Fine, whatever. I log into my HOA account to see the charge and am hit in the face with something else: a $35 insufficient fund fee for a stopped payment check, complete with a note containing the check number and order I dropped off.

What happened becomes clear. They had my check the whole time, and when I asked about it, all the community manager did was look up my HOA account ONLINE, not see a charge, and tell me she didn’t know where the PHYSICAL check was. Did she make an attempt to identify the employee? No. Did she send anyone to look for the physical check at the office? No. Instead, she told me to put a stop payment on it, which I did, and then the office, which in reality did have the check the whole time, finally got around to processing it and it bounced because of the stop payment, for which a $35 NSF fee was placed on my account due to the bounced check.

I am now out $50 and still have no devices to show for it. I am livid. With all the politeness I can muster, I email the community manager back.

Me: “Hello. I just checked my account and was charged a $35 NSF Fee for the check that I was advised to put a stop payment on by you. Please remove the fee from my account.”

Community Manager: “I said you MAY want to put a stop payment on it. The fee cannot be refunded.”

Me: “Why did you say you did not know who had the check when the office DID have the check?”

Community Manager: “Your account didn’t show it at the time.”

Me: “So, you are saying that after I asked about it, no one made any attempt to physically track down the check in question at the office itself?”

Community Manager: “This is going to be my last response on this topic. We cannot refund you the $35 for stopping payment on your check.”

Me: “Can I get the contact information of your supervisor?”

She CCs the Division Manager our email thread with a summary of events from her perspective. She seems very confident that I will not be getting a refund. Unfortunately, she’s right.

Division Manager: “Sorry, but we cannot waive the NSF fee. [Community Manager] is correct. The only way it can be waived is if the [HOA] Board agrees to do so. And that is not likely since, if they do, then the association has to incur that charge.”

I scream internally and respond.

Me: “I am very frustrated by this entire process. The fact of the matter is that I did indeed hand a check directly to an employee. With this fact in mind, I have several questions: why were there no attempts made to identify the employee? Why were there no attempts made to physically locate the check at the office? Why was a check that was handed directly to a [Company] employee so utterly lost in the system that multiple inquiries into its whereabouts were completely fruitless? I am out $50 of my own money because I trusted in your company’s processes, and when I asked people about them, I trusted their responses in good faith, which I expect any reasonable person would do.”

His response?

Division Manager: “Send [Community Manager] the check number, exact amount, the name on the check, and the date on the check. Our accounting team can look for it.”

He hasn’t even read the email chain. He thinks I am still looking for the check. I send one last email.

Me: “It is apparent that [Company] is not going to give me any answers to my questions.”

If it’s any consolation, I called the bank and they waived the $15 stop payment fee, so there’s that, I guess. The gates are still open.

Poor Kid Never Stood A Chance

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: w0rd_nerd | October 9, 2021

I own a thirty-two-unit facility that houses felons who have finished their sentences and need some help returning to society. Each unit houses two clients. We do stuff like teach them computer skills and help them learn to cook, build a resume, and stuff like that.

At six am, my night manager calls me and tells me there’s a lady pounding on the front door, insisting she needs to talk to whoever is in charge. I tell him to give her my number.

Before I’m even off the phone with him, she’s calling me, and before I can even introduce myself, she goes OFF. She accuses me of kidnapping her son — this man is thirty-four and here 100% of his own free will — and forcing him to work for me. He doesn’t work for me; he works at the recycling center.

Lady: “As his mother, I need to see what kind of conditions he’s living in, but he refuses to let me visit. He would never refuse to see me unless he was under duress. I need you to come to the facility and unlock his door so I can go in and look around.”

Me: “That’s not going to happen. I’m not letting you into someone else’s home. You are not a resident. Your son is not the only person who lives in that space, and I would need permission from both your son and his roommate to let her in. You have no right to be there. Now, please get off of our property or we will have you trespassed.”

Lady: “How dare you?! If I’m not let into the room within ten minutes, I am going to call the cops and have you charged with kidnapping.”

Me: “Go ahead.”

And I hung up.

I wasn’t at the facility, but from the security cam footage, it appears that when the cops — that the lady called — showed up and she explained the situation to them, her son came to the door and told the cops he didn’t want to see her and that we didn’t kidnap him.

She went into a rage and attacked her son. He didn’t get hurt; he just backed up and slammed the door. The cops took her away.

The Police’s Worst Enemy: A Letter Of Complaint!

, , | Right | September 10, 2021

We rent out homes to people. The police charge into one of the homes. I do not know the exact reason, but I do find out it is justified and tied to a crime. The tenant loses the home immediately, we get the keys back… Case closed, right? 

Then, we get an email from the neighbour.

Neighbour: “Last week, the police charged into the home of my neighbour. It was really noisy and quite the disturbance. Next time, please announce a charge so I can make sure I am not home that day. Also, think of the children in this complex. This was very traumatizing for them.”

I do not think this person knows how police charges work.