I’ve never been opposed to businesses making money. Whether the company be large or small, if there were no businesses, we would be forced to deal with a seriously impaired economy. Still, I’ve always been of the mindset that there is a right way to make money, just like there is a wrong way to make money; and if you are a large company, just as much emphasis should be placed on the customer relations aspect of the services you provide as well as the money that you make from providing those services.
We all know that real estate has proven itself to be lucrative; and indeed, corporations who provide housing are in the business of not only providing much needed shelter to many Americans across the country. We also know that when dealing with the representatives of these corporations, there is a certain trust factor that is assumed when you sign your lease and any subsequent addendums. You, as a tenant, expect to have the paperwork explained to you in detail so that there are no misunderstandings when it’s time to end your lease and relocate.
With all of that being said, we are now in an era where even with explanations of contracts, you cannot assume that everything is being presented in the manner that it should. No longer can you expect to have your best interest at heart when you sign a lease or addendum. Corporations that are responsible for the maintenance of rental communities across the country are now stacking the deck in their favor, and at times, they are doing this at your expense.
Metropolitan Management Corporation is responsible for multiple properties in the Philadelphia, Main Line, Bucks County, Chester County and New Jersey areas. Rents for the units housed in the properties can range from $900 to $1500 per month. That isn’t the issue nor is it the problem. The problem is when the corporate representatives make decisions that sends a clear message that the only thing that matters is how to generate additional income from their tenants while simultaneously placing the interests of the tenants as secondary. As I’ve stated previously, there is a right way to make money and a wrong way to make money.
After residing at the Riverview at Collingswood Apartment Complex for two years with no incidence of delayed rent, it was decided that at the end of the lease, instead of renewing for another year or six months, we would extend our lease to go on a month to month basis. The reasoning was that the apartment was just too small. After conveying this information to the manager of the complex, options were outlined, one of which was to go on the month to month basis, but the stipulation was that you would have to give sixty days’ notice before you vacated the property and that there would be a one hundred dollar increase in the monthly rent. At no time had a “Blackout Clause” been discussed. Still, at the time, that seemed reasonable. The manager agreed to send the paperwork that would reflect the terms of this agreement, but after several days without receiving this addendum, we reached out to her to remind her that we still required this documentation since the end of August was rapidly approaching.
A form was slid under the door and it was promptly signed and returned to the office. A few weeks later, I went to the office to report a problem and was reminded of a clause that was included in the lease extension. It was called a “Blackout Clause” that would prevent me from moving between the months of November and January. I thought that this was absurd because you can’t be on a month to month lease paying an additional one hundred dollars in rent to accommodate this request and tell the tenant when they can and cannot move.
I found out later that my other half had signed the addendum which outlined the “Blackout Clause” at the bottom of the documentation. And immediately, I began making calls. You see, I realized that if I had to give you sixty days notice to vacate your property, most homeowners and rental properties will not hold a place for more than thirty days. I did some research and realized that when you are on a month to month lease, you are only required to give thirty days’ notice, not sixty. There is also no such thing as a “Blackout Clause.”
A different manager had assumed this role by the time I reached out to the office in September and I presented this problem to him. He assured me that this would not be a issue. He stated that he would reach out to the Director of Leasing and Marketing…Robin Grzadzielewski. He stated that we were good tenants and that this should not be a problem. Well, by the time we found a house to purchase, it turned out to be the biggest problem that we could have encountered.
I actually spoke to Robin Grzadzielewski. on one occasion and was told that we had signed a form stating that we would adhere to the “Blackout Clause” and that was the end of the discussion. It didn’t matter how good we were as tenants. It didn’t matter that this was a direct violation of our tenant rights as listed with the State of New Jersey. I later found out that it didn’t matter what the law dictated because it was all about what was in the agreement that you sign. That if you sign an agreement that you in essence forfeit your right as a tenant as dictated by the state you reside, it doesn’t matter…and this is what happened.
I found out later that an email had been sent to Robin Grzadzielewski. by the first property manager. It could be assumed that the decision was made by this corporate officer that our rights as tenants should be compromised. Was it illegal? No. Was it immoral? Absolutely. Because even after speaking to every single manager (and there have been three managers occupying this role at Riverview between July and November of 2012), everyone knew that our rights were compromised.
When I reached out to the corporate office once again, I spoke with someone who told me that Ms. Grzadzielewski. would not change her mind about paying rent for an apartment that we no longer resided in. She told me that this was the reason why they got things in writing. She told me that if she made an exception for me that she would have to make exceptions for everyone. But the only problem with that is that most people don’t move during winter months. They move in the spring and the fall. So exactly how many people would you really be making exceptions for?
In short, we moved out of the property in December right after we made settlement on our new home. However, we were obligated to pay the rent for an apartment that we no longer resided in for the month of January. $1285 to be exact. With no other recourse, we paid it, cleaned out the apartment and put the event behind us. Since we paid for January’s rent, we took our time in moving and was out by the first week of the month.
But here are words of wisdom. Know the laws of your state. Read your rental contracts carefully. Read any subsequent addendum's with interest and don’t assume that the manager of your rental community has your best interest at heart. Assume that this is a business and that their job is to get as much money from you as possible. If there is something that you don’t like in the contract, bring it up and request to have it re-written. It is your right. If you are going on a month to month lease, make sure that the contract says that. Make sure that the contract outlines exactly what you want. Know that what is in that contract supersedes the laws that are dictated by your state. This information comes too late for me, but you don’t have to experience what I experienced. There was a time when you could trust your rental office. This was a bitter lesson to learn, but the bright spot in all of this is that I am no longer a renter.
As for Robin Grzadzielewski, she did let her humanity show at one point in my conversation with her. She congratulated me on the purchase of my home.