As you may know, we recently moved into an apartment, from military housing, in the hopes that we would save some money. (If you don’t know this, check out this previous blog.)
Things have been going fairly well. A couple of things I forgot to mention in the previous blog. One of them was that when we signed our lease, we asked who the property management company was. We asked, not because we were that concerned, but because we’d had a bad experience with a company and simply wanted to make sure it wasn’t this same company. Bridgette said, nope it’s not that company but I can’t tell you who it it. We asked who the owners were and were again told that she couldn’t tell us that. Bridgette said, “That’s her policy. I don’t know why. I guess she doesn’t want people to know who she is.” We thought it was very strange but figured a little bit of internet research would shed light on the subject so we didn’t worry about it.
Another thing I forgot to mention on said previous blog is that we overpaid our first month. We moved in on the 10th and were supposed to pay $403 for the remainder of January. Well, when we set up our allotment…okay let me take a step back.
Military Partnership Program: If an apartment is a MPP participant, they agree to provide a special deal for military members. They do not charge the tenant or future tenant a security deposit, an application fee, or any other fees. In exchange, the military member pays for their rent as an allotment. An allotment is a payment that is paid by the military out of your check. So the military member never sees the money. Every paycheck, half of the rent is taken out and on the first of the month, the apartment gets a check for the whole amount.
Back to the story. Maison D’Orleans Apartments is a MPP participant. So we pay our rent as an allotment, as specified in our lease. When we set up the allotment, Israel set it up to begin in January, thinking, we get paid twice in January, $299 + $299=$598. Then they’ll get paid on the first of February. Yeah, unfortunately for us, the finance office is not in the business of telling you how things work. By setting up the allotment to begin in January, we were, in fact, setting it up as though we needed the month of January to be paid in full. So the last check of December had $598 removed from it. YIKES!
While we didn’t have to write them a check for $403 because they’d all ready received it we were concerned that we’d not see our money ever again. When I realized what had happened, about a week before moving in, I called, explained the situation and was assured by Bridgette, the leasing manager, that, though it might take a month or so, we’d be refunded the money.
After a month of haggling with them about the door (see previous blog), I went in to ask about our refund. As soon as I walked in the door, they, Amber, the assistant manager, Michelle, some blond who I assumed worked there because she was there all the time, and three maintenance men, began explaining how they would be getting to my door as soon as they could but they had a leak between apartments they had to find so they probably wouldn’t get it installed today. Yada yada yada. I said, “That’s fine. I’m actually here about some money you owe us and I was wondering about getting that refunded to us.”
Amber and Michelle both looked skeptical and seemed to by trying to blow it off like no big deal. I made it clear that it was a big deal to us and so Amber headed in to the office, I followed her and Michelle followed me. The maintenance men who were already in the office, remained. Amber rummaged around with some paperwork and said, “Yeah, there’s a credit here for a hundred and ninety dollars.” And then she just stood there looking at me.
“So, when can I expect a refund check?” I asked, trying to not reveal that they were making me very, very nervous. Both women are taller than me. Both are wearing heels. Both are very put together and by that I mean, gussied up. Both are thin and remind me of high school snobs. Amber is standing behind the chest high counter, Michelle is standing behind me in the door way, and the maintenance guys are standing to my left, watching us.
“It’ll be refunded to you when your lease is up, when you move out,” Amber said.
“That’s not what I was told when I called a month ago.”
“Who did you talk to?” Amber asked.
“Bridgette.” And upon hearing this, Amber rolls her eyes. You see, Bridgette got fired about two weeks ago. I don’t know why. The maintenance guy fixing some little things in the apartment gossiped to me that it was because she never gave messages. I don’t know. Maybe it was because she was a little too nice. So Amber rolls her eyes and I wanted to slap her and say, “Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m not the one who hired her!” but I didn’t. However, when neither of them responded, I said, “That’s not acceptable to us. We’d like the money to be refunded to us now.”
“Well, that’s why you are supposed to pay the first month’s rent out of pocket so you can pay the prorated amount.”
I explained that, yes, we set up the allotment wrong. Blah blah. They countered with, well normally we would just credit it to the next months rent and you would only have to pay the prorated amount but they couldn’t do that because of the allotment. Blah blah. I countered with, well I want my money. (I hope I said it better than that but I might not have.)
Amber says, “Well this is our policy.”
I say, “I’d like to talk to your manager.” When I receive a blank look, I add, “I’d like to talk to the next person up.” Amber looks past me at Michelle, who is still standing in the doorway, as though she’s about to leave.
Michelle, I kid you not, scoffs, that little expulsion of air that accompanies a curled lip expression. “You’re talking to her. I’m the regional and that’s our policy.”
By now, I’m no longer being treated as a tenant. I’m being treated as someone they are threatened by. Gone is the thin veneer of professionalism and in it’s place is pure disdain and malice.
I, knowing a little about managers and policies, say simply, “I’d like to see that in writing.”
When my request is met by a blank look, I start to clarify (since it was such a confusing statement) but before I can say anything she says, “It’s…well it’s…a bookkeeping policy.”
To which I respond, “Okay, fine. I’d like to see a copy of this policy.”
After a bit more sputtering and stuttering, she says, “It’s not a written policy. It’s just a bookkeeping thing.”
I just want to repeat that in case anyone missed that “It’s not a written policy.” Do you read that? “It’s not a written policy.” Um, can you say “discrimination”?
Since there really wasn’t anything left to say, I said, “Okay,” then turned to Jael told her to gather her toys and we left.
Now, my ability as a writer is not what I wish it were because I’ve not portrayed the rage I was feeling. They purposefully physically placed themselves around me in such a way as to make me uncomfortable and off guard. They scoffed at my request. They implied that we were stupid for making a mistake. They tried to over talk me so that I couldn’t say anything. They implied I was retarded for believing anything Bridgette, the person I was supposed to trust enough to explain my lease to me, had said. They said the words “unwritten policy.” I left calmly and professionally but inside I was a boiling pit of lava.
Upon returning to our apartment, I began to take pictures of our door. I figured if we had to talk to Israel’s First Sergeant about the apartment management, we’d better have all our ducks in a row and have proof. I took a dozen pictures, inside and out, and a couple of videos of me bending the bottom foot of the door. I downloaded them onto my computer (which because I don’t do very often took me almost twenty minutes.) Just as I finished, there was a knock on my door and a maintenance man announced he had a door for me. Odd, just thirty minutes ago I’d been told there was almost no way they’d get to it today and yet, here they were, first thing. Strange, no?
Anyway, he replaced the door but as I left for story time, I took the camera with me, just in case. Upon returning home I began research to find the owners and management company. The property management company was easy enough to find. I Googled “Maison D’Orleans” and the third website was ApartmentGuide.com. I clicked on the tab labeled “Management” and discovered that they are managed by Evan’s Realty. Okay. Now for the owners. Tax records never fail. I looked up who paid the property tax’s for 2436 Beach Blvd, Biloxi, MS and found that it was Spencer E L Jr Family LTD PTN and/or Spencer Lumber Co Auburn, AL. Why the secrecy when the information is readily available online? I do not know.
The next day Israel and I went to the housing office and explained the situation. The gentleman we talked to was wonderful. He’s been working with military housing for about twenty years and he assured us that we were in the right and that the apartment managers did in fact owe us the money. As a MPP participant, they could not keep any money owed to us. If they did, it became a deposit, which they aren’t allowed to charge. He called them up and asked to talk to Amber. She wasn’t available so he asked to speak with Michelle. He explained why he was calling and was rebuffed. He explained that they were in violation of the MPP guidelines and that as such they could be removed from the list of MPP participants. Again he was rebuffed. She, apparantly, as we could only hear one side of the conversation, said to him, “That’s our policy,” to which he responded, “You may have a policy like that. We do not. That is their money and you have to give it to them.” She talked some more and said that no one else minded waiting until they moved out to have their money refunded to them. On and on. At one point, near the end of the conversation, our advocate said, “Okay, let me make sure I understand you. Your official response is that you don’t care.” She talked some more, back peddling I’m sure, and then he said, “Okay. You do that. Talk to your home office and see what they have to say.”
He advised us to give them seven to ten days to work it out and allow her to cool off. As he put it, “Michelle is not a happy camper right now.” No kidding.
We gave them 10 business days and then I went in again. As I walked in, I noticed that Amber wasn’t behind the desk. There was a new face. A nice looking girl actually, someone I would have like to have dealt with instead of Michelle, who, upon seeing me walk in the door, turned to riffle through a cabinet. “Can I help you?” asked the friendly looking girl.
“Actually, I need to talk to Michelle.” At this, Michelle turns to me and says, “They’ve not gotten back to me. I’ve left a couple of emails and haven’t heard anything.”
Then she goes on to say that Amber hates the Partnership Program and that’s why she said what she did. But the Michelle said it made it sound as though Amber had been the one talking to the housing guy. She said about one out of seven military members trash the place and then they, the apartment, are left with a trashed apartment and no deposit. They would just as soon be out of it.
As I continued on my way to the store, I thought about this and none of it makes any sense. You can’t fix a trashed apartment with $300 anyway. A deposit doesn’t begin to cover the expense of fixing an apartment. It barely pays to have the carpets cleaned. Why does the opinion of an assistant manager (Amber) effect policy for the whole complex? Does the home office hate the MPP? If so, aren’t there less damaging ways to leave the program? Why, if Michelle is the “regional”, is she at the office all the time? Does the “home” office even know this is going on or has Michelle simply not contacted them? Do they think we won’t sue for military discrimination? What the hell is going on here?
Israel and I discuss it at length. We’ve come up with a theory that makes it all make sense in a twisted sick sort of way.
What follows is theory so I’m going to put it in italics so as not to confuse the masses.
Michelle is mean. She’s also not very good at her job. She, and probably Amber as well, enjoys making people, especially overweight confident women, feel small and stupid. She made up a rule that her employees couldn’t tell people who the owners and management company are because she doesn’t want her employees to know, thereby hampering their ability to go over her head. She made a decision to not refund our money. Maybe it is unwritten policy. Maybe she made it up on the spot. Whatever the reason, she talked herself into a corner by saying the words “unwritten policy.” She has not contacted the “home office” at all in the hopes that we will just go away. Or maybe she hates the MPP and hopes we’ll get the military to drop them from the MPP participant list and then she can go to the home office and say, “Look what they did.”
What is our plan now? I think Israel is going to give Evan’s Realty and Mr. E.L. Spence Jr. a call and make sure that Michelle is in fact speaking for them before we take this back to the military. Because they are breaking their contract and the military will drop them from the list and I don’t think they’re going to like that. The kind of people who trash an apartment are also the kind of people who forget to pay rent. She said one out of seven. I’d say there’s at least a hundred military members here. That makes about 14 people who are dirtbags. Let’s say they have the same kind of unit we do and pay between $600 and $900 a month. That’s between $8400 and $12600. It’s not much but I bet they notice.
I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know it’s not over yet. So, do you think that the management is just incompetent or are they, in fact, evil?