I’m in Austin these days and I got a little, teeny, tiny studio apartment. It’s claustrophobic small, but that’s all I need thanks to the insane hours required to survive on my horrific Great Recession pay rate. Things were fine for the first year. But a few months ago the complex was sold to a company based out of California called Greystar. My experience since ranks right up there with an unmedicated root canal.
Rent went up immediately of course and all tenants had to get insurance on top of that. A lease showed up on my door with that info, I filled it out and turned it in. A few weeks later another lease showed up on my door, this one with a slightly higher rate. I took that one to the office and asked what was going on. No one could say, they were “in transition” and everything was a mess. Well it was only a few more bucks, so I signed that lease too, and handed it over together with a certificate for the now mandatory renters’ insurance.
The new insurance requirement has to cover over a hundred thousand dollars in damages — to the complex. The only way that is affordable is if the deductible is so huge it swallows up any chance of getting reimbursed for personal items, unless you happen to have a safe full of gold and diamonds in this working class apartment complex. Between the big rent hike and the new insurance premium, the monthly cost on my tiny home away from home has now increased almost 20% since Greystar took over. I wish that was the end of it, alas, it is just the beginning.
Next up, there was an “inspection” of my apartment one day when I wasn’t home. Surprise surprise, Greystar couldn’t help but notice the window blinds are old and brittle. They’ll have to be replaced, and for some weird reason parts and labor are my responsibility. Ditto for several neighbors. Aside from how much that stinks, the larger message was crystal clear and my neighbors all read it perfectly; if the dishwasher breaks down or the garbage disposal stops working, better to do without than risk getting billed for those expensive repairs in these hard economic times.
The next Greystar scheme was to remove the night drop for rent checks. Now rent can only be turned in during business hours and only when someone is in the office during those hours. For most tenants who work nine to six or well beyond, that means either taking a little time off every month or driving like a madman during lunch, hoping there’s someone actually in the office when we arrive, and that there’s no traffic jam going either way. For many tenants that added up to attendance issues at work and a lucrative round of late fees added on to the increased rent and insurance premiums for Greystar.
A few days ago I came home and found an eviction notice for non payment of rent on the inside of my door. That alarmed me, because not only had it been paid, I used a registered cashiers check. Visions of thieves partying down on my check came to mind. Now I have to take time off from work on super short notice, head off to the bank, and track down what went wrong.
It isn’t just me. All over the complex neighbors are telling their own personal stories of how this company is screwing up, and the screw ups always favor the company. One of the most common involves pet deposits. In an amazing coincidence, Greystar notified tenants who have been here for years they have no record of them. It’s not hard to see how swell that might work out, as those happen to be exactly the tenets most likely to have long ago lost track of their pet deposit receipts.
Anyway, back I go, photo copy of cleared cashier’s check in hand. Just to be safe, I even got another bank check in case the other had been embezzled. A nice young lady looks over my documents, pulled up my file, furrowed her brow, and said she had no idea why that notice was placed. “No problem,” I said, “mistakes happen. Here’s another check for June though while I’m here. By the way, you guys gave me two leases a few months ago and I turned them both in, but I’m not sure which one applies. I asked you to look into that and never heard anything back, can you follow up on that?”
Oh, they followed up alright. They “discovered” I had never turned in a signed lease despite the two I had handed over, and in another amazing coincidence favoring Greystar, they inform me I now owed big bucks because of it. Specifically, the differential in the month to month rate, plus weeks and weeks worth of late charges on those differentials, times several months. If I’m doing my math right, that could be thousands of dollars on a tiny, $500 a month apartment.
I asked him them how many months and what differential and how much for late charges, especially in light of having given them that other cashier’s check, but so far no one can figure that out (it’ll be funny if they say I agreed to it when I signed the lease they say I never turned in). I pointed out it’s tough to pay a bill or manage a rent balance when the landlord won’t say what is owed or has been credited. They said they’d get back to me. Past experience tells me either they’ll never get back to me, and another threatening late notice will materialize at some point. We’ll see.
Here’s the thing, I sympathize with any front line office workers who are overworked and understaffed, honest mistakes can happen. But I’m not willing to subsidize them. Thankfully, I have options, I have other resources, but a lot of people living here don’t. They’re barely getting by paycheck to paycheck. If they have to move it’s an expensive ordeal, for many of them with families, the cost is so high it’s just not possible without planning and saving for months. They’re stuck for the time being. It’s starting to look to me like those folks are being targeted and preyed on.
I’m curious about this new owner, Greystar. Is it really possible an office could be so hapless, or does this sound like something more sinister? Is this company familiar to anyone and if so, are they reputable?