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Authority without Responsibility: Part I

The Office for Conflict Resolution is on the fourth floor of the Wilkinson Center and I went there last night for the first time. If you call their office, you’ll most likely speak with Janet - a kind, helpful, understanding woman who works at the front desk. I sat by her desk as I filled out a ‘Request for Mediation’ form - mediation between Belmont Apartments (the ghetto Belmont, located at 195 E 600 N) and myself. Belmont Apartments alleges that I owe them $80 and informed me that I will be evicted at the end of three days if that balance is not paid. I hold that they are chasing a bogus charge, demanding payment for services never rendered. Neither of us will budge, hence the request for mediation. I would say that I am a pretty patient, easygoing guy; it takes a lot to get me riled up. Even so, I have been pushed past irritation and even anger; I’ve been pushed to action.
I’ll relate my experience, and if you’re interested, I’ll follow up with parts II, III, and so on until it’s over. The reason I’m writing is simple. It’s time things start getting better, not worse. That means it’s time for a little responsibility to be added to the authority so freely given (or taken) by apartment complexes in Provo. BYU contracted apartments is the only option available for the 26,000+1 students here, and I have no doubt that you will relate closely to the experience I am about to share. We have all experienced the difficulties of finding an apartment in Provo; choices are limited and they fill up quickly. Wait too long and you take what is left. It is apparent that owners of various complexes know this. These apartments are not run like normal businesses, working to entice new customers or please existing ones. Instead, apartments are only repaired when they are close to falling down and in danger of being condemned. Requests for repairs, more reliable internet, or a more complete record and explanation of fees charged are either ignored or waved aside with ambiguous statements by managers such as, “We’ll talk to the owner about it,” or, “We’ll try to get that fixed soon.” I was told “…Yes, you ‘can’ move in early; the apartment will be ‘ready’…” Apparently ‘can’ and ‘ready’ have entirely different meanings to landlords than they do to tenants.
There was a two-week gap between the date my old contract at a previous complex ended and the date my new contract with Belmont began. I contacted Belmont and asked if I could move in early. Yes, they told me, for $10 a day you can move in early. Those in that apartment were moving out early, so it would not be a problem to have the apartment ready for me to move in on Saturday the 18th.
On that Saturday, I arrived at Belmont Apartments with all my belongings in my car and walked to the manager’s office (apt. #22) on the second floor to obtain my key and check in. The manager was nice; he welcomed me and handed me my key. I went to my new apartment (#11), put the key in the lock and turned it, only to find that the doorknob turned with the key—it was already unlocked. The only reason the door should have been unlocked, I thought, was if I was not the first one there that day. I opened the door and found out just how right I was.
In the living room to my left sat two couches, on one of which lay someone reading a book! Responding to sounds on my right, I looked around the door to see someone else putting dishes in the dishwasher. I later found that a third occupant was taking a shower in the back bathroom.
Now, to spare you the travel log, I’ll give a summery to link the above mentioned eviction notice and bogus $80 charge with the scene I just described. Two of the three still living there when I walked in that afternoon said they were leaving that day; the third informed me that he was staying nine more days. I immediately went back upstairs to the manager and asked him about this situation. Believe it or not, telling me three people would still be there when I moved in, one for an extended period of time, just slipped his mind. I went back downstairs, thinking I would make the best of the situation, but it only took a few minutes to find that was not going to be so easy. Every cupboard was filled with dishes, pots, pans, and food. The refrigerator was full - top to bottom. Closets had old towels, paint cans, and other random items in them. There were books, papers, shoes, and scriptures lying around the floor in the living room. An extra bunk bed was in one room, which I would find out later could not be used at all, because in three or four days it would be replaced with the original single bed. And to top it off, there was an extra refrigerator in the kitchen that would be removed ‘later’(only after the manager unplugged it, the ice packed freezer melted and flooded our kitchen).
Needless to say, the apartment was not ‘ready’. I could not move in early. I left, and stayed elsewhere for nine days. Upon returning, the apartment was in the exact same condition, minus two people. One was still living there and every item in the apartment before was still there. The next day, the final occupant moved out, but took nothing with him. The apartment remained full as if it were occupied. I determined then that I would not pay $10 a day for the ten day retreat I was forced to take, but that I would willingly pay the remaining $40 for the 4 days left before the actual contract began. Fair enough, right?
The day after supplying the managers with a written notice of my decision, I received a notice of eviction, effective three days later if I did not pay the balance, which according to them was $80. Where they came up with that amount I do not know. Ten days should have been $100. This experience is just one example of apartment complexes exercising authority without taking responsibility. There is no sense that they even attempt to run a legitimate business. There were no final cleaning checks and no advanced notice that the apartments would not be ready by the agreed upon date. Belmont is exerting authority in an attempt to collect money for services it never took the responsibility to provide.
All is not lost. Last night I filled out a request for mediation, and while that is pending, I cannot be evicted. I went to discuss the situation and the direction I was headed with the manager. Naturally, he would not hear a word I had to say. But wait until you hear the threat he made if I continued to refuse payment. You can read on in Part II.
To be continued…

1. http://unicomm.byu.edu/about/default.aspx?content=quick-facts

You're not that special unless it's in writing

This tread seems to have generated a significant amount of readership because the issue is polarizing. While it is difficult to establish culpability based on the rough description of facts outlined, I think the crux of the issue ultimately revolves around the documents, specifically the housing contract.

How many people actually read these prior to signing? Or for that matter, how many people read them within the three day period after signing during which either party may rescind? I think if you take a few minutes to see what the actual terms are, you’d be surprised.

Earlier posts describe the mediation process as slanted in favor of the apartment manager; I believe this may be the case because BYU renters tend to put too much trust in the verbal assertions made my management, especially when these assertions may directly contradict certain terms of the lease agreement.

It is generally easier to solve a problem before it becomes a large problem. Farker alluded to this concept in his prior post. Ultimately, if you want to protect yourself you need a document trail to prove that management is in violation of the housing contract and/or other arrangements. I believe that this is why many BYU students lose in mediation—“he said, she said…” just will not hold up.

If management is unwilling to provide you with an email or to sign a document which amends terms, including duration, then this is probably a good indication that management is not willing to uphold their end of the deal.

Don’t expect special treatment unless you have it in writing. If you have a dispute with management, initiate it in writing. You may state something such as, “If you disagree, in whole or in part, with the facts of the situation or proposed remedy, please respond to me in writing.”

I honestly don’t think that the apartment managers have nefarious intentions for student renters. However, inviting them to document their promises forces them to be accountable to you, their customer.

I know everyone is going to

I know everyone is going to hate me for this comment, but I must make it. First, when you left the apartment, did you inform the manager that you were not going to stay there for those 10 days, or did you just leave? You did not mention that you told them you were leaving, so I must assume that you just left. You should have to pay if that were the case. Secondly, the part everyone will hate me for... Everyone says that apartment managers are the most horrible people ever. I am not an apartment manager, but, I am aware of all the crap that they put up with. Let me give an example. A student gets booted, and it is THEIR fault, but they then blame the manager and demand a refund. Or, there is a late fee added to their account because they paid a week late, but, it is the managers fault. My favorite is when the BYU student has their mom call because they can't handle the situation on their own. Give me a break. You are in college, yet you still have your parents handle your problems. I know people that experience these situations on a daily basis, and if it were me, I would HATE dealing with BYU students. Students cause A TON of problems, they don't take care of the apartments, they trash them, and then demand the Ritz Carlton when they move in. I am 100% on the side of the manager, only because I know that managers deal with BYU students all day long, and no matter what you all say, BYU students complain to no end about everything, and if they don't get their way, or if they are forced to follow the rules, they go to BYU housing and demand mediation.

New Facebook group

check out this new facebook group
"BYU Off-Campus Housing Has Problems"

I believe this town has

I believe this town has taken on a small-guy vs. all-the-big-wigs-who-try-to-suppress-us-with-supreme-control. Housing in this town really does stink. And not just the complexes. My wife and I lived in a house this past year that wasn't so great, with loud, and believe it or not, stinky neighbors, and a do-nothing owner. Nothing was ever fixed right.
In this case, I am totally rooting for the little guy. Mr. Belmont can fix this situation himself. It would not loose him his job to revoke the eviction notice and fix the problem. Save face. It's just making a bad name for the complex. Power to the littl guy!

where is the follow up?

i thought we were going to get the rest of this story. anyone?

Contact the Owner

Contact the owner. Some complexes are owned by absentee owners who are unfamiliar with daily operations. These owners may not be aware of, and may not agree with, the poor decisions that onsite managers make. Owner's opinion trumps management's.

I think managers can become so entrench in their jobs and the authority that it lends them that they can eventually end up making poor business decisions that can damage a comelex's "brand equity." Based on your situation alone, my opinion the the Belmont Apts. is reduced. Appealing to the primary stakeholder, the owner, seems like a reasonable course of action.

I would also put your experience up on the various apartment rating websites to make other potential renters aware of your struggle with Belmont management.

yaa...

This is not surprising at all. I've lived in a few apartment complexes in Utah but never again. Those people are crooked, and you have no recourse for any bogus charges they come up with. I've just had to bend over several times.

I live in houses now, rented to me by private owners. I don't know why anyone would ever live in a crappy apartment.

BAKA

You are all BAKA!!! The belmont apartmens are wonderful apartments and me and my wife give everything we have to them. What do you want from us? I'm crying right now. Right now I am crying!!!

this is new

i've watched stuff on this website for a while, and never heard of anyone crying. I don't think whats been said is so bad. I agree with what has just been said, this is an open forum for discussion, everyone should be able to speak their side of things.

One word comes to mind:

One word comes to mind: baka. It's good to hear the update. Let me know if I can do anything. If worse comes to worse, we have a great hammock on our balcony :)

i've heard a lot of bad

i've heard a lot of bad things about belmont apartments... (not the same as the belmont, the land of hot rich girls).

That unbelieveable manager

That unbelieveable manager is an example of the problems spawned by BYU contracted housing. I hope mediation works for you. Keep us posted in the next column!

i hope you have a better experience than others

I have encountered mediation - I found it to be as useless as asking your mom to step in and tell them they are wrong. Though they have authority in these situations, most BYU mediators (the one I have met, and the others I have heard of) do nothing. Maybe they are afraid of making apartments mad, I don't know.

I finally found success when i got pre-paid legal services. now I'm not advertising it here, nor selling it (so no second motives), but it seriously helped a bunch more. Though your contract likely says you have to seek mediation with BYU, that is a funny phrase as you can still seek REAL legal authority. Ask a lawyer, see what they tell you.

where is the rest of the story?

So what happened? How has this panned out? Has the writer gotten scared off? Was it really the Belmont manager who spoke up a while ago, or just someone having fun?

Amen to that

Throughout my student career, I got EVERYTHING in writing.

I had a landlord tell me I couldn't bring guns into the apartment. I showed her the pertinent part of the BYU Housing Code, got the roommate's permission, and stored guns there.

Another neglected to provide my 6 square feet of desk space that the housing code stipulated they provide me. They comped me for a desk I bought.

In IT, there is an acronym: RTFM (read the *&^^$$ manual). All the whiners out there, READ YOUR CONTRACTS. If you put your name to something, you're legally beholden to it, whether you read it or not.

Now I'm a homeowner and I rent some of my property out. Had one couple who signed; I told them they could move in in a month, but because I was not receiving rent for the month, they had to sign an 8-month contract, and their deposit would be forfeit if they backed out of it without selling their contract to someone else. This was included in the 4-page contract both of us signed.

They found a kind relative who offered to house them for free, AFTER they signed a contract and paid me money. They wanted their whole deposit back. I said no, they'd broken the terms of the contract.

Mystified looks.

My sympathy is limited for individuals who make far-reaching financial decisions without regard to making sure that their contract is to their satisfaction. If you're getting screwed and you neglected to read your contract, then it's already too late.

i agree, there are a lot of

i agree, there are a lot of complainers out there, but the problem lies with the students that do follow procedure and still get burned. Some of us go through the proper channels for legitimate problems and we can't get any response. Even through mediation, there is no help for the student. I have a friend who was told to drop his complaint or the manager would sue him. Mediation told him that he had better drop it because the manager has a lot of money.

2 points

1. Talking to the manager immediately would have been the appropriate thing to do. However, a contract provides that a tenant pays for an available spot. If that spot is not available, the landlord has not met the terms of the contract. End of story. The lack of communication is certainly faux pas, but not justification for demanding payment.
2. Managers (I am an apartment manager) do get a lot of crap. Particularly from tenants who expect a lot from the landlord without being willing to show any respect for the property or their part of the contract. Still, this is no excuse for a total lack of integrity, which is clearly the case for Provo-area landlords, collectively speaking.

what's your side?

Well, I'm sorry to hear you are so upset. Yet as this is an open forum, here is your chance to relay your side of the story.

eh?

Are you serious? Why in the world are you crying about this? If there's one thing you should be crying about it's for shame that your precious Belmont has dealt so foolishly and unjustly with this situation.

i didn't think baka was

i didn't think baka was widely used by english speakers. for those curious, it basically means stupid in japanese.

give us a detailed account

give us a detailed account of your side of the story or i am calling you out as a troll. not that i am unwilling to believe you could be for real, but i can't believe a grown man would make sure a silly response.

you said it first

I didn't want to be the first to say it, but since it's alread been said, I would have to agree that I think this person claiming to be "belmontmanager" is none other than someone else!

Besides there being a lack of professionalism by coming on an open forum like this representing your complex, it seems odd that someone would find out about a posting involving them only days after it was posted, then come on and create a new user account and comment. A bit fast don't you think?

But I could be wrong. I've been wrong many times before. So if I'm jumping the gun, please educate us on the situation.