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, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœRequest for MediationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been pushed to action.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll relate my experience, and if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re interested, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll follow up with parts II, III, and so on until itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s over. The reason IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m writing is simple. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time things start getting better, not worse. That means itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll talk to the owner about it,Ã¢â‚¬Â or, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll try to get that fixed soon.Ã¢â‚¬Â I was told Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Yes, you Ã¢â‚¬ËœcanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ move in early; the apartment will be Ã¢â‚¬ËœreadyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â Apparently Ã¢â‚¬ËœcanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœreadyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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 managerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 keyÃ¢â‚¬â€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, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœlaterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢(only after the manager unplugged it, the ice packed freezer melted and flooded our kitchen).
Needless to say, the apartment was not Ã¢â‚¬ËœreadyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. 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 continuedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦