Thursday, July 31, 2003

A Big Fuck-You

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but landlords are still screwing over tenants everywhere.

The management at my former apartment owes Jenny and me $145. This money was taken out of our deposit for professional cleaning services. According to the paperwork, our apartment was "dirty" when we moved out--uninhabitably so--while it was in good shape when we moved in. The new manager, the third they've had this year, says his hands are tied. The building manager who checked us out is the one who says the place was in such terrible shape. We signed the paperwork, they said, so what can we do?

You're told to "get everything in writing" when dealing with these entities. What you're not told is what to do with said documents, what their ramifications are, and what you can do to modify their contents. The process, especially in a big property management company like Coho, is so streamlined that us stupid young'uns are liable to everything is hunky-dory. We did our research, but still didn't know the right questions to ask.

So today, a year and some months later, two business managers removed, we're short $145. Not that it's a huge chunk of change--albeit not inconsequential--but it's the principle of the thing.

The day we were scheduled to move in was the same day the previous tenants were moving out. We were delayed several hours, which was a huge hassle because Jenny and I were kicked out of the dorms the same day and had all our shit in our parents' respective minivans, just waiting to unload. It was midday when Jenny called to angrily inform me that Greg, the then-manager, told her we couldn't move in because the old tenants hadn't moved out.

The whole day is kind of a blur of hauling, bitching, and cleaning, but I recall it this way: We were allowed to start moving our stuff in around 4 p.m. The boys were still getting their stuff out. The place wasn't cleaned. In fact, Greg and I vacuumed the living room ourselves as the boys hauled boxes out. Sometime in there the carpet cleaners do their thing quickly and Jenny and I leave for the weekend. Greg did the checklist, though not very thoroughly, and we signed it. He said everything was fine. Nowhere and at no time did anyone say a word about professional cleaners.

Our little apartment, while not in the best condition, was habitable and comfortable. Over the year, we didn't trash the place. Poor ventilation lead to some problems like mildewey showers that we couldn't do much about. Behind the toilet tank was totally black; also not our fault. The rest of the house suffered nothing more than the usual wear and tear. I mean, we're girls. The worst thing we "did" to the place was spill tea on the carpet and leave corners to collect dust.

And we cleaned. Oh, how we cleaned. Bleach was applied to the mildewey bathroom in several coats over a weekend. Everything was scrubbed. Under the fridge, even, was cleaned, though it was obvious when we did so that no one had done it before. (There were broken candles under there in colors I haven't even had.) We vacuumed, we washed walls, we dusted, we did everything in our power to make the place clean as possible. It wasn't sparkling, but it wasn't any worse than when we moved in.

The building manager, however, felt it was disgusting. She didn't say so at the time, of course, but we found out today. At check-out, we asked her about the cleaning crew we knew was waiting outside. She told us they were going to clean all the apartments, and promised to vouch for us because she remembered our move-in fiasco. She was afraid she'd be in the same boat. This put us at ease. We made a point to ask the then-new manager about it right then, even, and he said he'd talk to her and said it sounded like we shouldn't have to pay the cleaning fee.

Then I got the check in the mail. It seemed a little skimpy. There wasn't a clear explanation of what the money was for or why we got back what we did, so I consulted Jenny, who went to the office and asked about it herself. Two points emerged from this: One, we'd been delinquent $200 for an expired rent voucher, so that was taken out of last month's rent. Fine, we can eat that one. Two, a $145 cleaning fee had been levied. But we'd asked about the cleaning fee! They'd told us it shouldn't be a problem!

Well, it was a problem.

That's why today I stormed out of there, absolutely livid and swearing at a mommy with a newborn baby that she was lying to me and this was such bullshit, blah blah blah.

Essentially, I'm sure, we are less the "victims" than the "people who fucked up out of naivete," and $145 ain't too bad for such an important life lesson. But it still sucks.

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