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Ever been scammed by a landlord or property manager?

April 1, 2009

If you have, believe me, I feel your pain. This morning I took Arbor Property Management, Inc of Garden Grove or Westminster or some such Southern California city (They don’t have a physical address. May I say more?) to small claims court over our deposit. Not only did we never receive it — and it’s been oh, four months since we moved out — but now they’re claiming deductions of $1300 for items which the judge argued could be considered “wear and tear” and a few other fees she thought verged on “usury”. Well, at the end of our lengthy dispute, she promised to think about the case and mail us her decision, which I welcome.

What I learned from this fiasco is this:

  • If your gut tells you to run out the minute you walk into a property manager’s office, do it and don’t look back! My bad. These guys had crooked written all over them, but I was in a bind – had just moved to the area and was desperately looking for a place my family could pull our moving truck into after their 2400 mile trek. I guess you can understand the urgency.
  • Never pay for any “miscellaneous” fees. They don’t exist. It’s either a pet fee, a finder’s fee (wouldn’t do that, either), or something else that has an actual name.
  • Always, always, always do an initial and a final walk-through with the property manager. And don’t sign it if it doesn’t feel right. These guys went back and padded the document which they then forgot to mail me. I wonder why?
  • Document EVERYTHING that needs repair, even if it’s just a cracked wall plate, a cracked toilet seat, furniture or the Jehovah’s Witnesses encyclopedia someone left behind.
  • Call and write the property manager every time something needs fixing and get it fixed! Otherwise, document that, as well.
  • Make sure your property manager has a phone number that doesn’t show up as restricted on your Caller ID. I wonder what they’re trying to hide? Hmmm.
  • Make sure you know the correct last name of your property manager, or at least the one he goes by, usually, or the one he uses in court.
  • Make sure your property manager’s rating with the BBB is not an F. Dead giveaway, no? Too bad I only found this out after we had moved.
  • When in doubt, get the landlords involved. Serve them. This was the only way we got these nice folks to show up in court. Oh yeah, we tried serving them, but with no physical address and a refusal to accept certified mail at their p.o. box, what’s a gal to do?
  • Finally, well you should know by now. If you live in the OC/LA area, DON’T rent from Arbor Property Management, Inc. You’re likely to get swindled.

 Do you have any property management/landlord horror stories? I’d love to hear them. Heck, I’m sure we’d all like to hear them. Don’t be shy. Share them with us.

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