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Branbury Park landlord nightmare. What should I do?

We lived in Branbury Park for a little while. It's a nightmare there, just in case you're considering moving in. Parking spots are rarely available and maybe eight inches wider than a standard car, management sucks bigtime, there is hardly any insulation so you pay through-the-roof gas bills in the winter and electric bills in the summer, the "free internet" is actually not free and fails, on average, about once every five days, etc, etc. I could make a much more comprehensive list. One particular problem we had was the sewage from our neighbors coming up into our toilet. When we moved in the place was a wreck; we told the management and they said, "Oh really? That stinks." ["Quit complaining and go clean it up."]

I sent in work orders on a regular basis, and it wasn't just little stuff... We had serious ant problems. Our heater wouldn't work. The blinds in the front room were broken in half and laying in the floor. Aside from the heater, I never asked less than four times (every other day) before they would do something about it. But the real kicker was when, after we had already pretty much made our post-Branbury plans, they stuck a note on our door that said, "We know the contract says you have until August 27, but you really need to be gone by August 22. Here's the checkout sheet, blah blah you'll pay these fines if it isn't exactly perfect." So this screwed us bigtime. Instead of being out be a Saturday, we had to be out that Monday. Which really meant we had to be out the weekend before, because people have work and school during the week, which obviously doesn't matter to the Provo landlords.

Anyhow, we had already paid our last month's rent, which was also our deposit, when we moved in, so when the 1st of August rolled around (a week after we got that notice), I just didn't pay them more rent. I'm sure they intended for us to pay for August and then get a "refund" on the balance, but I wasn't about to give them more money than the contract called for, and they had already changed the contract. Contracts are supposed to go two ways, right? Not in Provo, so I've learned. Well it gets worse, because a week after rent was due, they repeatedly went to our apartment and left the door open. We had almost everything boxed up and just waiting to take out; an invitation to anyone wanting an easy theft. Repeatedly. So on the night of the 15th, we moved out completely. Instead of paying for just five days rent of August at our new place, we paid for sixteen. Doesn't sound like much maybe-- those eleven days cost us over $200.

Anyhow, we moved out and I left a note that said, essentially, that they can't just kick us out early and expect us to just deal with it. I made a long list of reasons and left it there, with our keys and parking sticker. We cleaned up some, but not thoroughly. Vacummed and swept, but didn't follow those ridiculous four page checklists they give you. I figured that they already owed us some three hundred dollars.

But no, they went ahead and charged us for an additional week (through the 22nd) that we weren't there, then on top of that they slapped us with a few hundred dollars in non-cleaning fees. Of course I ignored their invoice to me. Today I got another statement, threatening legal action and a court appearance to me. For two hundred dollars we owe them.

I'm thinking about just ignoring it. I'm also thinking about writing a letter with a counter-suit (my lawyer thought that was a clever idea). What should I do? I'd love suggestions.

If what you said is true

If what you wrote is true, you have them by the balls on this one. If you have your initial contract with the contract termination date specified (the 27th), and then later they put checkout forms on your door indicating you need to be gone by the 22nd, that's breach of contract. Incidentally, if this is BYU-approved housing, your entitled to fourty bucks for them making you move on any day other than the contract termination date, even if it's within the same complex (check paragraph 22a of the standard BYU-approved housing contract.)
Since this is under 500 dollars, it'd go to Utah small-claims court, and you could probably represent yourself, as long as your documentation is in order, or you can offer your landlord mediation before resorting to legal action.
Write them (your landlord/management) a letter indicating your offer to mediate or intend to pursue legal action, and attach copies of all the documents proving your case.

If they change the date

Then they need to prorate the difference, at the very least. Also, if you wish to defend yourself, I would suggest getting signed and notarized documentation from roommates or fellow apartment-dwellers attesting to your various grievances. Attach those to whatever letter you send to your landlord/management (whoever is being the jerk in this case, though it sounds more like the management).
Remember, most people don't want to get into any sort of court battle, especially if it's got a chance of hurting them. Pack a manila envelope with as many signed forms affirming and authenticating your grievances and deliver it to management, and chances are they'll run scared and drop the whole matter.

Couple hundred in cleaning

Couple hundred in cleaning fees? Ouch
In terms of that, unless they gave you documentation with your contract indicating what was necessary when you departed and their per-hour rate should those checkout requests go unfulfilled, you can easily contest the cleaning charges. They can't bill you for unauthorized work (the way it normally works is that the contract stipulates the checkout procedure; don't adhere to it and they're authorized to extract money from your deposit. If they don't have it stipulated in the contract you signed initially, they have no recourse for end-of-contract proceedings).
If you keep a journal, and have incidents recorded in it, that record would be legally admissible.
Even if they did prorate initially, they still have to go by what THEY signed to in the contract. Which means the 26th; otherwise they owe you 4 days of rent (worth 20-50 bucks, depending on where you live).
I get peeved whenever my landlord-- or any other entity with whom I have signed a contract-- tries to extract more money from me. Where people transition from charging money for a service to charging simply because they can, a line has been crossed.
I'd say, fight 'em.

Branbury... BYU Approved

If i remember correctly Branbury lost its BYU approved status and has just recently gotten it back... Whatever you choose to do make complaints with "off campus housing" Enough complaints and they will lose BYU approved status again. That seems like one of the best ways to get back at them.

Just my opinion of course but if they can suddenly no longer offer housing to BYU students that ought to hurt a little.

what RC said

I would follow RC's advice. Assemble as much documentation as possible and deliver copies of it to your apartment management.

I would only add the following suggestion:

If your lawyer is a friend (ie. you're not getting billed by the hour for help on this), I'd have him/her attach a letter to the front of your documentation. Have it put on their letterhead. State your case briefly and outline your plan of action against the apartment management (off-campus housing, mediation, small-claims court, or whatever). Make sure to CC: everything to the actual owner if it is a different entity than the management company.

Also, what is this???

...a few hundred dollars in non-cleaning fees...

Also, what is this???

Also, what is this???

...a few hundred dollars in non-cleaning fees...

Like I wrote, they told us we had to leave on the 22nd. Then on the 16th they started coming in our apartment a couple times a day and leaving it unlocked. This they did without prior notice or consent from us. So we just packed everything up, swept the floor and vacuumed the carpet, but didn't do any extensive cleaning. They charged us for 6+ hours of cleaning @ $50 an hour. After they counted out our deposit, they slapped us with that charge and the "balance" was that we owed them $200.

Whoa!

Wow, sounds like you've had a rough time at Branbury. It's where I live now, and it doesn't seem THAT bad... a bit overpriced for what you get, but not as bad as your experience. I hope I don't run into the same problems in a couple of months or so!

EDIT:

Okay, so I admit, the internet thing I've run into. I don't know what the setup was when you were here, but it's a wireless network they use. It's the worst I've ever seen - heck, I got better internet last year by leeching off of some open connection near my place! I have to pay-per-month here for the wireless that cuts out at least twice a day, and as I just found out last weekend, they won't let my wife and I on the internet at the same time. Yup, that's right, I'm not paying for internet, I'm paying for SINGLE USER 'network access', despite that it says nothing about that in the internet contract. When I complained about this, seeing as I'm an IT major and have no less than five computers in my house and need to get on the internet for test cases, they told me that I had to buy MORE service. I told them to screw off and that I was going to set up a proxy server and have it serve my whole home network with access. They pretty much just stammered and told me that they'd give me a great deal on another account, but it was too late - they'd delayed the day of their repentance and the wrath of hoqenishy was on them.

What kind of documentation?

What kind of documentation? Just a copy of the contract? I looked at the contract and there was a clause that said the landlord could change the date of moveout with a thirty day notice. That's exactly what the notice was, thirty days. Thing is, we had already paid, and they didn't offer any compensation for the difference.

I don't really want to fight this. I think I'll just let them try and get $200 out of me. I imagine they'll spend at least that much making the effort and I'll be sure to bring them down with all the negative publicity imaginiable in the process.

Ah, Provo landlords. Just a small step on the moral line above booters, right under prostitutes.

That's really a good idea.

That's really a good idea. I had three roommates: my wife and twin sons :-). The pro-rated thing is tricky. We moved in at the beginning of January and were moving out towards the end of August, so the contract was pro-rated the right amount to stay until the 22nd. Of course, I never did the math at the time, and the contract stated very clearly that we had until August 26th.

Funny thing is, the exact reverse thing happened at Manavu condos when I was single. They made me pay an entire month but forced me out on the 16th or 17th.

It's like you can't win with these people. You do something wrong and it's a breach of contract, they'll screw you to no end. They do it and they still screw you, and have the legal resources to do it effectively.

Yes, we signed our contract

Yes, we signed our contract maybe a month before they got their BYU-approved status back.

Ah, the ideas are formulating...

Dude, it is that bad. You

Dude, it is that bad. You may not realize until later, but that place sucks all around. It seemed so appealing at the time. Our rent was $625 a month, we got free high speed internet, and look at the swimming pool! Wait, there's a mandatory $25 a month phone service and $15 a month internet service, so you need to cut that check for $665. And we're digging the pool out for a few months. Gas bills in the winter, electric in summer ~$60. And it was totally inconsistent. There were times during the winter where we'd have to turn on the AC because the insulation between our apartment and the ones below and above us was so bad that the heat just killed us. And then during the day the heat would run for six hours and you still couldn't sit in the front room since there was a 1" gap between the door frame and the door and you could feel, from across the room, the wind coming through. I already wrote about the sewage coming up from the neighbors; that was pretty gross. It wasn't just a little bit either. The first few days I thought my wife was having stomach issues and I couldn't figure out why she'd use the toilet five times and not flush. She thought it was me :-) Yes, it really was that bad. Do you have a car? Has it been dinged up yet? The internet is a joke. I had to go to campus for anything that required Blackboard because I never trusted the connection. And there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't get ads littered over our front porch, taped to our door, or stuffed under the windshield wipers.

None of this even has to do with kicking us out early. My advice to you is to get out of there. Fast. I'm serious. Sell your contract. Our neighbors fought them for two years. I haven't heard from a single person who walked away from there happy with their time spent there, as a whole.

New management...

I'm not sure if you're aware, but the management changed at the beginning of last month. It was sold to some place in Salt Lake City. Because of the sieg-heil BYU housing-distance policy, I don't think that Branbury is BYU approved any longer, so they're hurting for tenants. My rent is $520, and includes phone free. The contracts are no longer a year long, because nobody wanted to stay in the summer. They've been offering cash rewards if anyone finds them tenants. It seems they have all the "hurting for business" signs!

While my experience hasn't been as bad as yours, I don't doubt you. I think that over $500 is a bit much to pay for a one-bedroom joint anyway.