Q: I have been a renter for many years and I have noticed a recent trend among the larger local management companies where they are now seeking to renew a long-term tenant’s lease at the market rate rather than continuing to give them some sort of price break compared to brand-new tenants. Is this a new strategy that is being implemented throughout the country or just my imagination?
In the case of my apartment community, I find this very puzzling, as our community is not at full occupancy and there is no "waiting list" to get in. In fact there are several vacancies in my building alone. I’m just wondering whether my local manager is just being a jerk, or if it’s simply the corporate attitude lately that "who cares if we drive them out … somebody else will be along eventually"? In my 37 years of renting, I’ve never been asked to renew at the market rate if I signed a new lease. Of course, I do understand that if I wanted to commit to a month-to-month rental agreement and declined to renew a lease that this would be a reasonable policy in my view. What are your thoughts?
A: Different owners have different philosophies, but I do not think this is a new trend. I still recommend that landlords recognize long-term tenants with at least a slight discount in the rent (even $10-$25 per month is appreciated), but not everyone feels the same way. These decisions are usually made at a higher level than your onsite manager so unless they tell you it was their decision, then it was likely the owner or at least a mid-level manager.
I suggest you send a cordial letter explaining that you have been a loyal tenant and even while your tenancy began under different ownership that you intend to stay and that you would appreciate them giving you even a modest rent break for a lease renewal to acknowledge you have been and will be an excellent tenant. I would hope that would compel them, but the worst-case scenario is they will just move forward with the market-rate renewal.
Q: We recently vacated our apartment at the termination of our lease. We received a security deposit check about three weeks later (as expected), but the amount was incorrect. They had actually given us more deposit then we were entitled to, as we actually had to break our lease due to a job transfer and they forgot to take the break fee, which we agreed was fair.
We called them and they asked us to send the check back, saying they would issue us a new one. We sent the check back, but now it has been months and still no replacement check. We have called multiple times, but we get no response. The manager won’t call us back, puts us on hold, and once they even told us the check was on the way, which it obviously wasn’t. What should we do and what rights do we have? We realize that they did actually send a check within the allotted time per local law, but it was incorrect so it is really like we never have received our refund.
A: Mistakes happen and I commend you for your honesty. As is often the case, no good deed goes unpunished and now you are chasing after your security deposit refund that should have been sent promptly. At this point, I would strongly encourage you to put your concerns in writing just as you did when you sent me your question. Be sure you try to send it to the owner or the highest level you can in the property management company. I suggest that while you clearly have every right to be upset and point out your legal options that your best approach might be to simply explain your situation and ask for an immediate replacement of the check. If that doesn’t work, then your second letter should be more direct and forceful and indicate that if you don’t receive a new check in 10 days you will have no other choice than to pursue your legal options and you will then seek any additional damages that a court might provide for the failure to provide you with your security deposit refund as required by law. If that still doesn’t elicit the replacement check, you may have to resort to severe tactics like contacting a local TV news station consumer reporter who may be able to get a quick response. Finally, you may need to file a small claims action.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."
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