how to deal with property management company?
March 1, 2007 12:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with the property management company that is stalling on getting a major repair completed, when I don't have the contract with them?

The big problem is that I'm the tenant, not the owner, so they legaly have no obligation to me, even though I'm the one who is affected by their incompetence. I have tried asking nice, I have tried yelling, and nothing is making this move any quicker. There have been gaps of a week or two between phases of the repair with no explanation, and the whole thing has been going on for two months and is only halfway done. I know it's the management company's problem; I've witnessed all the repairs firsthand and the people actually doing the work have been kind and efficient. It started with a minor leak that required a bedroom being gutted and abated for mold, and now I'm waiting for them to approve a contractor to put in new carpet and drywall, ect. My landlady/the owner is great and has communicated everything she knows to me, but she hasn't gotten any farther than I have getting pissed at this company even though she's contracted with them. Can I suggest anything for my landlady to say/write to them to get this done? It seems completely unreasonable to me for them to ignore us and to move as slow as they want on the repairs, but can I do anything at all about it?
posted by slow graffiti to Law & Government (14 answers total)
You need to tell us where you are.
posted by Dasein at 12:34 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and this is in San Diego, CA, if that helps anyone familiar with the relevant property law.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2007

Seems to me that your only leverage is with the owner/landlady. You're her customer, and she's their customer... if she can't make them do anything, then you're certainly not going to get anywhere. Nice as she might be, she's the one who continues to employ the property management company that is failing to provide her with a service.

I have no legal basis for this, but for starters, I'd withhold rent until the situation is resolved. You contracted with her for a place to live that included a bedroom. Currently your accommodations seem to lack a significant portion of what it is you're supposedly paying for. Money, or lack of, seems to motivate people. Either she'll light the fire under the offending company, or she'll find someone else to do the work since, in the end, it's her responsibility.
posted by friezer at 1:18 PM on March 1, 2007

This is your landlord's problem, not yours.

I would kindly tell her that you will not be making any more rent payments until this problem is fixed, in its entirety.

I expect you would see sudden progress if she knew the income was stopping. Right now, she has NO MOTIVATION, outside of "being nice", to hurry this along. She is not having to live in the construction zone like you are.

If she truly, legitimately can't get anything done, she needs to get her lawyer involved.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2007

Without comment on the legal angle, I've been in this situation. What got results was me explaining to the landlord in writing that this was unacceptable and I was prepared to move unless it was dealt with promptly.

Write to your landlord (keep a copy yourself) and politely outline your complaint and what you will do if it is not done.

This is actually doing the landlord a favour - she now has the evidence to lean on the property management company.

Then plan your move. If the landlord comes through, great. If not, you can get out quickly. If the situation is as bad as you say, you should be thinking about moving anyway.

Do not fail to follow through.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2007

Yep. It is your landlord's obligation to you to get this done. The fact that her contractor is failing her is not your concern, your issue is with the landlord.
posted by winston at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2007

Do not ever withhold rent without checking on the legality with someone qualified like a lawyer, housing clinic, or landlord-tenant association. It can result in you being evicted and having to pay extra costs to your landlord.

The California Tenants book from the state Department of Consumer affairs might be helpful.
posted by grouse at 2:03 PM on March 1, 2007

That property management company pays its repair people directly out of your rent. THEN it passes the remainder if any to your landlord. IF the repairs are more costly than that (and it looks like they are) that could explain the slowness.

Find out from the property management company if that is what is going on then lean on your landlady to get this done.

OTOH sometimes the property management company has troble with its repair people-usually they subcontract out, and for these kind of repairs I can almost guarantee the work is being subcontracted. Those nice workers and their company could be the problem.

(I used to work for property management. Yes, it was hell, thank you for asking.)
posted by konolia at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2007

The only thing I can add: Property Managers are time poor. If you want to get anywhere with them you have to waste their time. Every time they spend money they have probably a couple of managers they have to answer to. You have to make not dealing with the problem look like more a hassle than spending the money.
posted by krisjohn at 4:02 PM on March 1, 2007

Get the book California Tenants' Rights.

Before that book finds it's way into your hands, I'll give you the short version (entirely from memory, so take with a grain of salt)
  • First off, you have a contract between you and the landlord. You likely can't do much against the property management firm
  • document EVERYTHING, every conversation and interaction you have with all relevant parties.
  • Do NOT withhold rent.
  • There are only a handful of things that could allow you to withhold rent; your residence must be heated, rodent proof, have a working toilet, and a kitchen sink.
  • Your only real option after trying diplomacy is small claims court.
  • Unless whatever is broken was written in your contract with the landlord you will have to prove to the court that there was a reasonable expectation that said thing should always be in working order.
Landlords and property management firms suck. Good luck
posted by fief at 8:09 PM on March 1, 2007

I feel I should expand on my earlier answer.

Your leverage is that you are a good tenant who plans on staying and won't trash the joint. Such tenants are gold. Replacing tenants hurts - it takes time during which you get no rent, and the new tenants may be ratbags. Therefore a credible threat that you will leave is effective.

However, this is a move you can only pull if you can and do follow through. If they do nothing, and you don't move, you will never be listened to again.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:50 PM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: I know a thing or three about property management. I also know a thing or three about dealing with contractors who don't get things done in a timely fashion.

Since this situation involves "a minor leak that required a bedroom being gutted and abated for mold, and now I'm waiting for them to approve a contractor to put in new carpet and drywall, ect.," are you living in the unit now, or are you in a hotel? If you are living in the unit, then you do not have access to the full square footage you are leasing. If you are in a hotel, you have even greater leverage because you can claim paying for a hotel room greatly impedes your ability to pay rent on time and in full each month.

Demand to use the model apartment pending your ability to fully occupy your apartment (for which you are paying full rent each and every month). This will inspire management to hustle the contractor along, as she can no longer show her model apartment. If there is no model, then ask about "ready" units like the one you are currently paying full rent on each and every month (and doing it on time). I stress the full-and-on-time thing not only because you can't withhold rent without risking eviction, but also because you want to remind the property manager that you are a good resident and she should want you to renew your lease someday.

Document, document, document. Do everything in writing. Not only does this leave a paper trail, it prevents you from saying things in the heat of the moment that are not beneficial. Be firm but calm. You seem to have a good relationship with the property manager, and you don't want to mess that up; establish that this is not personal, you appreciate what she has done to date, but that you need the repairs finished now.

You might look into local statute to determine what her obligations under the law are. In most states, there is a requirement that repairs be conducted in a prompt fashion, and this fact is probably spelled out in your lease. The only complication I can see is that there may be practical factors slowing things down (eg, "we can't drywall until the studs are completely dry, or it will rot from the inside out and more mold will grow"). The onus is on her -- the property manager -- to get things done, regardless of what contractor she may be paying. I've seen this a number of times; being threatened with a citation from the county is a powerful motivator.
posted by ilsa at 11:02 AM on March 2, 2007

Response by poster: So talking to my landlady more got me a rent abatement that goes into affect as soon as this is all done; basically I have it in writing that I get X amount deducted over X months starting the first month after repairs are complete, but it can't be deducted now because she needs that money to pay for the repair bills that are coming in, which seems fine and fair to me, but that still doesn't get my room back any faster.

There is a new twist which I finally learned about from the management company; apparently there is an HOA for my complex, and the property management company clears every decision with them first. Why they go to them and not my landlady directly is weird, so now I'm trying to track down the name and # of the head of the HOA and apply pressure there. My rent goes partly towards HOA dues paid by my landlady, which makes me a member so I should have sway with them, right?
posted by slow graffiti at 4:23 PM on March 2, 2007

My rent goes partly towards HOA dues paid by my landlady, which makes me a member so I should have sway with them, right?

No, you aren't a member, your landlady is.
posted by grouse at 4:20 AM on March 3, 2007

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