"I want to talk to management to ... um ... "
December 10, 2010 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Please help me achieve more than arm-waving and general grarring when I talk to my apartment management company tomorrow (or, should I even bother talking to them?).

Maintenance workers came by my apartment today while I was out to begin work on a leak and hole in my bathrom ceiling - and left a disgusting mess. I returned to find a 1-foot square hole ripped in the ceiling (with some sort of blackish vegetative mass dangling out one corner), along with a filthy wet towel left on a book of mine, and black mold-looking debris and ceiling bits all over everything. They were also apparently using our dog's crate (which is in the bedroom, right outside the bathroom) as a shelf, leaving the toilet tank lid on it despite the fact that our dog was in the crate at the time. No note was left indicating when anybody would be back, but given that I got home around 7pm it was clear that they had left everything for me to clean up - and given the management company's track record I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's a week or more before someone returns to patch the hole in the ceiling.

I took what pictures I could and then sent a message via the apartment complex's "Contact Us" form detailing the condition I found the bathroom in. I said I wanted to speak with someone about this ... but now I'm not entirely sure what my goal should be in such a discussion.

I suppose at the very least I want someone to know what happened in the hopes that it doesn't occur again, but is this even worth it? Assuming it is, do you have any advice as to how I should approach this discussion? Despite my comment above about arm-waving and grarring, and despite my cumulative frustration over many poor interactions with management staff since the current company took over, I do realize I need to remain calm and businesslike ... I guess I'm just not entirely sure now what I ought to be saying.

FWIW, I'm in South Carolina, although I'm more interested in addressing the matter as a customer service issue rather than a legal/tenants rights one ... I just want to be able to make maintenance requests without having to worry about what I'll return home to in the future. If you have ever been through a situation like this and/or have any advice in terms of things I ought to cover when I talk with management (or whether I should just drop the matter altogether), I would appreciate it.
posted by DingoMutt to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well as a general opinion I have had pretty good luck approaching situations like this from the point of view of somebody who is alerting a company to a violation of their own high standards, i.e. by giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are as horrified as you are. If you give them an easy way to save face, they might take it and start apologizing like mad. And if they're just jagoffs about it, you didn't lose anything by giving them a chance.
posted by facetious at 6:33 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, figure out what you want, besides just expressing your displeasure. It sounds like you want (1) someone to fix the hole promptly (and clean up the mess?) and (2) to know that future maintenance requests will be taken care of efficiently, cleanly, and in a way that's respectful of you and your pets and belongings. So make sure you explicitly ask for both of those things.

Second, do you know anything about your management company's general attitude toward this type of thing? From the comment you made about their track record, it sounds like you think they won't respond to a general complaint by being eager to do a better job. So you might want to take a harder line than "hey guys, could you do better next time?"

I would calmly and rationally explain what happened and show them the pictures, and tell them that I need to know that the damage will be fixed quickly and cleanly and that I expect maintenance requests in the future to be handled much better than this. You can also say something about how you're sure they weren't aware of the problem, but now that they are, you know they will do something about it. Try not to get emotional and talk about how this upset you -- it sounds like the facts speak for themselves here. Then directly ask for what you want.

If they're rude to you, you may want to mention that you won't pay full rent for a damaged apartment. (I don't know what LL-tenant law in SC is like, and I know you said you didn't want to get into that, but some people respond better to threats.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:45 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there is mold your bathroom will need to be gutted and repaired.
posted by dfriedman at 9:36 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Black mold is a Very Bad Thing in a building. Enough to hang out of a hole in the ceiling? That's really bad.)
posted by maxwelton at 2:28 AM on December 11, 2010

Best answer: I've been a Resident Manager for a couple of years and I can tell you that you're either dealing with some new (to your management company) contractors or a really heinous management company. What's happened here is completely unacceptable.

The above advice is good, to start from a position of alerting the management company to the problem, assume they don't know their contractors are lazy jerks. As an addendum I'd make sure not to talk to a receptionist or anyones voicemail, but directly to your Property Manager. There is someone in that office who's been tasked directly with dealing with your building and that's the first person to contact. How long they take to respond to a request to speak about an upsetting incident will give you some idea of what sort of company you're dealing with (but resident managers usually have several properties to handle, and (should) spend quite a bit of time in the field, so give a grace period of maybe 12-14 hours after any message is left. I can't stress enough to make notes of every call, who you talked to, and what was said/promised/denied/discussed. I assure you that even bad Property Managers make record of everything, if arbitration happens you'll be glad to have facts at your fingertips.

You're talking about plumbing, which is pretty nasty stuff, and a hole with something inside. I don't know the age of your building but there are health risks involved in this situation, no matter how minimal. Keeping that in mind, if you get any sort of push-back from the Property Manager, and if it takes more than a day or two to get this all fixed (weekend be damned) I wouldn't recommend threats of withholding rent, or threats of any kind, but locate and contact the local real estate licensing commission and get this all documented with them. Tenants laws are in place to protect you, but they can be tricky and you don't want to wade into those waters alone. As a rule (AFAIS) the licensing commission is on the side of the tenant, let them make the threats, it's their job and they can follow through with much worse.

Your goal is to get the mess cleaned professionally, get the bathroom back in the state it was, and if I were you, get that mold checked out on their dime. Professionally, that would be the minimum I'd expect to get done for you in this situation.

Good luck.
posted by mikoroshi at 2:37 AM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the advice, everyone. As suggested, I've documented everything and approached the Property Manager from a "I'm sure you aren't aware of this kind of problem" perspective, showing her the photos I had taken and emphasizing that I was especially concerned about the black mold. They sent someone to clean up the residual mess right away and put a temporary patch over the gross hole in the ceiling, and are telling me that they're in the process of finding someone to test for and treat the mold - supposedly they'll have someone in by tomorrow for that. In the meantime, as of tomorrow I'll be out of town for a few weeks, so I asked them to keep me updated on what's going on so I don't return home to any more unfortunate surprises.

Overall it went far better than I expected it to, even if it's still in the process of being resolved. I'm sure that approaching the situation with a collaborative rather than combative attitude made all the difference, so again I really appreciate the suggestions on that front. Moreover, I don't know that I would have been able to be so calm without knowing just what types of things I should ask for and what recourse I had if they were unresponsive, so mikoroshi, thanks for your suggestion of contacting the real estate licensing commission if need be as well!
posted by DingoMutt at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2010

« Older What's this British show about animals?   |   UK Delivery Dan Aykroyd's Crystal Head Vodka Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.