Sep 17, 2012

Apartment Living - Part IV

This is the 4th part the Apartment Living series. Part I was about what a person should decide when looking for an apartment, Part II was my sharing my experiences in several different places, and Part III was a strong recommendation that you closely read the lease signed, and communicate with the property manager. This entry is about dealing with a eviction notice, and how to move forward. Getting an eviction notice can scare the bejeebies out of you, but it can be dealt with if you take a deep breath, and follow these suggestions.

First, after you took a deep breath, read the notice you received completely. The details of it were the issue, how long allowed to take action, and what options exist. This may vary depending on what community you moved into, so read it.

The most common reason for an eviction notice, is for Past Due Rent. Typically there is a period of time to stop the eviction by paying the past due rent.  This time period is short, it can be a few days or a week, but not typically longer, so pay attention to the allotted time on the notice. Most often, the eviction is turned over to the court system if no action to remedy it by the date on the notice. Make sure to read all of the terms carefully.

If it is for Past Due Rent, compare your records with the information in the notice.  It’s not often that the office misapplies a payment, but it happens in today's dependence on computers. Get the bank records and statements together and find out if maybe something happened on your side or theirs. If you pay with a money order, make a copy of it before submitting it. My neighbor got an eviction notice for Past Due Rent, took his bank statement in for a discussion with the manager, and it turned out that someone transposed his apartment number when typing it into the accounting software. Showing his bank statement got his eviction notice immediately shredded, and the adjustment was made.

Other reasons that notices are issued: other residents have complained about excessive noise, bad odors, insects, pets, and they all come from your suite. Remember what was mentioned in the other parts of this series? Eyes are everywhere. If you have pets, they are always loud, aggressive when walked, or a violation of the pet addendum; other residents will let the office know what they saw. When the office has enough complaints filed about a particular resident, they can be evicted for violation of the lease. For violating the pet addendum, they may not evict you, but can evict the pet. That is why you need to read the entire lease and addendum, to know what is not allowed.

Okay, you've taken a deep breath, read the details of the notice, gathered your records, what next? As explained in the other parts of this series, communication with the office as soon as possible. No, midnight is not the right time, call the next morning if you can't have a face-to-face conversation. The notice gives a short time to reconcile, but that won't happen if it is just ignored. Most managers are willing to "work" with residents about the notice, if the situation that caused it is explained.

Whether on the phone or in a face-to-face conversation, keep things civil. Sure, there will be tension on both sides of the table, but being accusatory or nasty with the office people can come back with a bite. Managers are less likely to work things out if they feel attacked. Remember, there is a reason the notice was delivered by the maintenance specialist. Discuss it, don't argue. It could come back as a haunting if you apply to another apartment community, and they call the current one as a reference. Just like the fact that there are eyes everywhere, the grapevine is still alive and strong, especially with computers and cell phones.

Hopefully by communicating, the resident and manager can come to a resolution to an eviction notice. But, once in a while, it has to go to the court system, especially if the resident does NOTHING. Key thing if it is going to court, show up and have records to prove the case against it. State and local laws may allow some extra time to move out, set up a payment plan that saves paychecks from being garnished, or even the items in the suite from being seized.

Example of failing to comply for Dozer
(no leash)
Instead of writing a part about my experience with notices, they are included here. First, a warning notice about voiding the pet addendum. While I feel that I have one of the most loving, best trained, always smiling, people-friendly dog, I neglected to follow the leash law in my community. Neighbors saw (out their windows and while at the mailbox) that he wasn't on a leash, and complained to the office. Dozer was almost evicted because of it. I had a discussion with the manager over a cup of coffee, and we straightened it all out. It doesn't matter how wonderful I feel my pets are, if other residents feel "threatened," they register complaints with the office. Enough were collected that I got a notice. But, we reviewed the pet addendum, and I comply with it completely now. It isn't always about how you feel, but how neighbors feel in the community.

A 3-day eviction notice for Past Rent Due (that is what they call it here) because I took Dozer for a walk over to the office to pay my rent, he decided to do his business on the front lawn, and I forgot to submit my rent check into the mail box. I was distracted by picking up after him, and forgot the check in my pocket. It ended up in the washing machine, and I was late on my rent. I again went to the office the next morning with the washed check and a new blank one. Within seconds, my eviction was shredded, and my account updated.

Approaching the notice in a civil way, carries a lot of weight. Reading the entire lease and complying with it helps. Reading the notice in detail and being able to present a case preventing it, helps. Being willing to have a conversation with the office helps. When moving into an apartment community, the residents need to make sure they know what the boundaries are. The managers know what the policies are, and they have to enforce it.

And please, don't bite the head off of the maintenance tech that delivers a notice from the office to you, they are just performing a task, and can't rewrite lease policy...

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