Saturday, December 01, 2007

S in full rant mode


The following is an excerpt from a complaint letter I am sending to my apartment complex's coroprate office in Colorado. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. . . and the guilty. Considering that drafting this has consumed hours of my weekend, thought I'd share the love:

I have been a resident at the XY Apartments, in apartment 666, since July 28, 2007. I chose to live at the XY among the many other options in Phoenix and the surrounding metro area in large part because my research revealed that its residents were among the most satisfied with their customer service of any complex. When I first visited, the leasing agent informed me that some of the residents had lived in the complex for many years.

The complex itself is quite pretty, and the grounds are well-maintained. The location is ideal, and I love my apartment: it is spacious, with lots of closet space. My neighbors are friendly, and I feel safe living here.

However, in the past two weeks, I have experienced a situation here that was, to put it mildly, intolerable. On the evening of November 16th, a little before 6:00 p.m., I returned home to find scummy water backed up into both sides of my kitchen sink. When I had left my apartment that morning, the sink was completely empty, clean, and dry; it was therefore obvious even to me that the problem did not originate in my apartment.

After bailing some water out to keep the sink from overflowing, I called the main office number to leave a message that maintenance was needed. I initially left a “non-emergency” message because the water level seemed to have stabilized once I had bailed water out.

In the next ten minutes or so, I heard gurgling noises and rechecked the sink to find that the water level was rising. At that time, I called back and left a message on the “emergency” number for maintenance. The recording on that message asked for my apartment number, telephone number, and the maintenance problem. I left this information, along with the fact that I had a dog in the apartment who might attempt to escape if the door was left open.

I had an obligation outside my home at 6:30 p.m. By 6:20 p.m., no one had arrived to fix my plumbing, despite the fact that I placed the call for “emergency” maintenance at 6:06 p.m. I left at approximately 6:20 to keep my appointment, believing that when I returned, my maintenance issue would have been addressed.

When I returned home at approximately 8:30 p.m., not only had no one come to fix my plumbing problem, the water level in the sink had risen once again and overflowed the sink, onto the countertops and onto the floor. Two brand new paperback books that had been sitting on the counter were water-soaked and ruined; a stack of new clothing sitting next to them on the counter was also soaked with the dirty water.

Upon discovering this condition, I called the “emergency” number a second time. I received a call back a few minutes later from an “unidentified” number. The caller did not identify himself; however, I figured out that he must be the maintenance man because he told me that he had received my earlier “page,” come by, and would not enter my apartment because of the dog inside. When queried, he claimed that he could not call me to tell me this because I didn’t leave him my phone number in my message. He also left no note or anything else to indicate that he had been to my apartment, even though the management of the complex routinely communicates with its residents by posting notes just outside the front door. (Indeed, there is a clip attached to the outer wall expressly for that purpose.)

At the time of my initial call, the backed-up water in my sink was disgusting and inconvenient; now a flood had occurred, creating a huge mess and an unsanitary living condition. The smell was quite bad also. Prompt attention to my first call could have prevented the situation from progressing. To abbreviate the remainder of our conversation considerably, I was angry at the maintenance worker’s complete lack of response to a maintenance emergency and told him so. The then-anonymous maintenance worker apparently became angry also and ultimately hung up on me.

No one ever came to fix my plumbing that night. After mopping up the water on the counters and floor and (for the third time) bailing water out of my sink, I had to sleep the entire night wondering whether I would wake up to another flood. Additionally, the stench from the backed-up sink was foul.

Shortly after the office opened the following morning at 10:00, I went to once again report this plumbing problem, this time to someone other than the maintenance man. There was still a small amount of dirty, standing water in my sink at that time. Zelda, the leasing agent with whom I spoke, told me that someone would be up “within the next couple of hours” to assess the situation and fix the problem.

At 12:45 p.m., when no one had come by or called, I called Zelda to inquire on the status of my maintenance call. I was once again assured that someone would be up soon to fix the sink.

At 2:00 p.m., when no one had arrived, I called a second time. This time Zelda informed me that the maintenance man was busy “helping the manager move some furniture.” I reiterated that this was an emergency, due to the unsanitary and unlivable condition created in my home by this plumbing problem, and once again asked that someone be sent to fix it.

At 2:23 p.m., when still no one had come by, I called a third time. Five minutes after my third call on that Saturday, the self-same maintenance man who had hung up me on the night before (who I have since learned is named Satan) showed up with a bottle of drain cleaner. I explained to him, as I had on the phone the previous night, that the problem was not a clogged drain, but rather that water had flowed up into my sink from some other unit. Nonetheless, he tried (unsuccesfully) to clear the drain using the drain cleaner. A few minutes later, a plumber was called. The plumber was at my apartment and working on the problem by 4:00 p.m. I was gone from 2:45 to 4:00, so I cannot be certain exactly when the plumber arrived.

Because I had to leave before his work was complete, I do not know exactly how long the plumber worked on my kitchen sink. I do know that, when I left home shortly before 6:30 p.m., the plumber was still working.

Despite the fact that I was—and am—extremely dissatisfied at the shoddy customer service I had received and at having to tolerate a disgusting and unsanitary condition in my home for nearly 20 hours, I waited to be contacted by the complex manager to discuss this issue. On Saturday, during my last two phone conversations with Zelda, she had assured me that the manager would call me on Monday.

As of November 29, no one had called me. (I have since learned that no one called because apparently the manager left that weekend, and the complex is currently without an on-site manager.) The issue was not uppermost in my mind : I was out of town for six days for the Thanksgiving holiday and returned to a busy week at work. I did not wish to take the time or energy at that time to resolve what I believe to be a significant issue.

Upon returning home on the evening of November 29 just before 5:30 p.m., I discovered that my kitchen sink was once again backed up with dirty water from another unit. As with the past occurrence, I had left my sink empty and dry at 8:30 that morning. This time, though, there was no “warning”: the water had already overflowed the sink, onto the counters, into the kitchen drawers and cabinets, and onto the floor. I can only assume that the water must have been standing for some time, as the pressboard drawers and cabinet shelves had swelled and are now deformed from the water damage. Luckily for me, this time none of my belongings were on the counters, and therefore nothing belonging to me was damaged.

To give credit where credit is due, this time my maintenance issue was attended to promptly. I called the office and spoke to Chantal, who immediately called out a plumber to fix the problem. By 9:30 p.m. when I returned home (I was gone from 5:45 to 9:30), both sides of the sink were empty and the sink appeared to be in working order. Of course, I still had to clean up the mess made by the foul water and, as I mentioned above, the water had damaged the kitchen drawers and cabinet shelves.

Having been a renter for the past eighteen years, I am well aware that maintenance issues do arise and that they are not completely unavoidable. This simple fact is the primary reason that apartment complexes employ maintenance workers and give residents a way to reach someone on call 24 hours a day in case of an emergency. However, I have never before, in any of the complexes where I have lived—at least 15 at last count—received the complete lack of customer service and inattention to basic needs that I received in the handling of my plumbing problem on November 16-17, 2007.

By any definition, the situation that existed in my apartment on November 16-17 was an emergency. Waste water ,which was obviously from another unit other than mine, had overflowed my kitchen sink and flooded my kitchen. In addition to the destruction of my books and the inconvenience of having to clean up the stinking mess, the situation created was downright unsanitary and unlivable. I also could not use my kitchen sink for over 24 hours.
Yet, in spite of this emergency situation, maintenance worker Satan elected not to respond to my maintenance call: first, ostensibly because of the dog in my apartment, and later, I suppose, because he didn’t like my attitude toward him. (As a side note: the fact that a dog lives in my apartment is obviously no secret: the pet is listed in my lease, and I pay a montly pet rent fee.)

I do not believe that handling a serious maintenance issue in this manner is appropriate under any circumstances, but particularly not in a community that bills itself as a “luxury apartment complex.” I pay a not inconsiderable amount of rent to live at the XY and do not believe that it is unreasonable to expect that any maintenance problem will be addressed promptly, with a minimum of excuses from the complex’s employees.

Upon speaking to Zelda again on the evening of November 30, two suggestions were made to remedy this situation: that I be transferred to another unit, where my rent would be increased by $100/month (due to recent refurbishment of that unit), or that I receive a $50 credit to my account. I do not find either of these proposed resolutions appropriate or sufficient.

I have no desire to transfer to another unit. If I must be inconvenienced more than I already have been by having to move, I might as well move to another apartment complex as to another unit. Also, the suggestion that in doing so I would agree to increase my monthly rent by $100 is simply ludicrous. Given the low level of customer service I have received here, I now feel that the rent I am already paying is excessive. Paying an additional $100/month is out of the question.

A $50 credit to my account is insulting. $50 does not even begin to compensate me for the rudeness, neglect,propery damage, inconvenience, and even health risk that I endured because of this situation. In addition to what I have already experienced, I know that I will now come home each day with a concern that I will once again encounter a kitchen flooded with filthy, stinking water. My wasted time due to this situation alone is far more valuable than $50.

Even worse than the wasted time and frustration is the fact that I am no longer fully at peace in my own home. I know that, inevitably, I will need to call for maintenance at some time, and I now have absolutely no confidence that any problem will be addressed timely, or in fact at all, by the XY staff. In fact, it seems fairly certain that if I have any future maintenance needs, I will have a rude, disrespectful, and dishonest “worker”—someone who already has demonstrated his retribution for our previous unpleasant encounters by deliberately ignoring my emergency calls, refusing to come to my apartment in a timely fashion, and attempting to slander me to other complex staff—entering my home in my absence. That is unsettling at best.

In consideration for the rude and inattentive treatment I have endured from your staff, I propose one of the following options: 1) one month’s free rent; or 2) transfer to a remodeled unit at my current rent until the end of February, when my current lease expires, moving expenses to be paid by you.

I am fully aware of my rights under Arizona landlord-tenant law and have no qualms about pursuing alternative methods of settling this issue if we cannot arrive at an equitable resolution. I await your response.