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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bruns, CPA

Tenant 'Quality of Life' Issues

As listed in the 'Our Resume' section of my website, I've been a tenant. When I left my parent's home for good, I started out as a tenant and then eventually became a homeowner. Upon leaving NJ and being a relative newcomer to NC, I am back to being a tenant (for now at least).

I had forgotten just how annoying it can be to be a tenant, and especially one in a complex where I have neighbors above and below me. The biggest problem the community faces, and it's an issue in ALL communities, is the refusal of certain dog owners to curb their dogs. Walking my own dog as become a challenge in avoiding the minefield of poop. Several times I, or my dog, have unknowingly tracked some fresh poop into our home. One time, I even brought it into my office ! The office owner and I then had to spend time steam cleaning and sanitizing the affected areas of the building. This is one thing I certainly won't miss dealing with if and when I move out of there.

As annoying as this issue is to deal with, I don't have any recourse or solution in having it fixed. Despite the complex's rules and regulations stating that dog owners must clean up after their pets, there's no way to ensure it is enforced. Therefore, complaining to management or taking action against the property owners would be futile, irrational, a waste of time, and do nothing useful while alienating the property managers. I have had to learn to just suck it up, but there ARE some problems where a tenant CAN and SHOULD take action, as I will get into shortly using a story about myself as an example.

An apartment complex with hundreds of units that is owned by a large corporation is not materially impacted every time a tenant moves in or out due to dissatisfaction. Therefore, they are going to be pretty apathetic in caring about their tenant's quality of life complaints. The corporate owner also leaves their management company to do all the dirty work in dealing with tenant complaints, but the management company can only do so much and often their hands are tied. As a result, there can be a battle between the corporation's interests and the tenant's interests: Corporation cares most (dare I say only) about money, and tenant cares most about their quality of life and getting what they paid for. When a tenant has a grievance, he/she must weigh the the cost and time they would need to put in to address the issue, versus the probable outcome. When you're dealing with a corporation, your outcome will only be a good one if you demonstrate you can "hit them where it hurts" which, you guessed it, is in the pockets. I decided it was worth my effort to have another issue addressed, whereas unlike the dog poop issue, the corporation DOES have the power to fix it.

The apartment directly beneath me has been rented out to a construction company, who in turn, has temporary groups of construction crews staying in the apartment while they are assigned to work on certain construction projects in the area. It became very obvious to me that the crews loved to party a lot and late into the night. To each his own and I am not judging the lifestyle of people; however, I WILL make an issue of it if the activities affect my family's quality of life while breaking rules and regulations. The problem with their partying is that it was taking place on their balcony with loud voices and music after the stated quiet hours listed in the complex's rules and regulations. The other issue with the crews is that they would leave loose garbage (including half eaten food) in my garbage can, leaving me with the unpleasant task of bagging it up for proper disposal myself. Again, this is against rules and regulations.

When I complained to management about these things, they were sympathetic, but in their view, there was nothing they could do except issue them warnings. Fair enough, but the warnings didn't work. I decided I needed to take the issue to the next level, to the corporate owner. I sent them a certified letter to their "registered agent" and I knew the letter would make it to their legal team. Why? In the letter, I made sure they knew that the consequence to them for ignoring me would cost them money. My letter was filled with lamentations on how my daughter and I can't fall asleep due to the noise, it's affecting our health, etc. I wanted them to start thinking about possible lawsuits due to their negligence in enforcing community rules. Another strategy in my letter (because complaining and threats aren't enough) was to provide them with a solution, one that if they implement, we can all be happy and move on, no harm done. I asked that they simply move these transient crew tenants to another apartment, one where their neighbors were other crews or otherwise people that would not mind the loud, late night partying.

I am happy to report that currently, the apartment beneath me is silent. I believe it is currently vacant. I am hoping that means that the corporation took my advice, moved them, and is now seeking to fill the apartment with a permanent resident that respects rules, regulations, and their neighbors' quality of life. If not, and yet another crew moves in and the problems continue, at least I have it on record that I reported the issue and tried to work it out with them reasonably. Accordingly, I may feel justified in finding another solution, one they won't like, such as refusing to pay my rent until they permanently fix the situation once and for all. "What if they threaten to sue you or evict you?" you may ask. I have no fear in calling their bluff. Remember, corporations love money, and hate to lose it. All things considered, I'm not worried about their doing that, and I have never been wrong about this kind of thing.

If you are a tenant and are struggling with an issue where you feel like you aren't getting what you deserve, please call me. You don't always need a lawyer for these types of things, especially not initially, and hopefully, not at all. Getting the problem solved with less cost. A win in my book. How about yours ?

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