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The Day My Industry Let Me Down

I have a friend, Debbie, who's worked with me for over 10 years. Recently, she decided to make a lifestyle change and decided to leave her house and rent an apartment, a move that I wholeheartedly supported. She consulted me on area apartment communities - where should she live? What should she spend? She was uncertain - she hadn't rented for almost 30 years. 

She called, visited and toured several properties. She finally settled on one that was just about perfect. The model was lovely, the staff professional, the location was good and the price was right. Best of all, they could have it ready on the date she needed it. Unfortunately, the actual apartment she was to get was occupied; she'd have to settle with viewing the model and a 'walk by' of her actual apartment's location. But that was good enough for her. 

The first hint of trouble came when her Leasing Professional called her to ask her if she 'needed' it repainted. She (the LPro) said the apartment had been painted a lovely shade of red and perhaps Debbie would like the red? Deb asked my advice. "No," I explained. You haven't seen it, you don't know that you'll like it and you'll want new paint. She took my advice and turned them down. 

She proceeded to call the leasing office not once, but *twice* prior to her scheduled move in date to make sure the apartment was going to be ready. "No problem," they assured her, "It will be ready". 

Deb was super excited. Until move in day. Her enthusiasm began to wane during her walk-through with her Leasing Pro. And has since reduced considerably. I asked her to detail her list of concerns so I could help her to make the apartment 'right'. Here's her list:

  • Carpet stains and strong pet odor
  • Dirt in window and door tracks
  • Holes in all screens
  • Apartment entry door heavily chipped and in need of repaint
  • Shower in need of re-caulking
  • Dirty patio
  • Numerous light bulbs burned out
  • Smoke detector missing
  • No number on mailbox
  • Spider webs in upper corners of apartment
  • Cabinets and drawers in need of cleaning
  • Vestiges of red paint around light switches

I was disappointed, shocked, dismayed, saddened...you name it. A big name REIT and this is what happens! And the saddest part was that Debbie thought that's the way the apartment industry conducted business. Not having rented for so long, she felt that she was basically stuck with what she got for her $1200 per month. 

So, what do you think? Should I help Deb get things set to right? She's afraid that if she complains, they won't like her and they may retaliate and make her miserable while she lives there (remember, she hasn't rented in a L O N G time). She's very hesitant to do anything but simply let this all go, even though she's unhappy. What's your advice? How should she handle this?

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hello Lisa,

From what you outlined there is a problem in the property management itself and I do not see things getting better. First mistake is not seeing the apartment that she wanted in the first place and I would have advised her not to do a thing until the apartment she wanted was available and had been turned and all faults noted corrected.

I think that there should be photos taken and a good letter written. I think it would also be good for you to assist her in this as well. If this management company staff takes the low road, then for sure take it up higher. By keeping quiet things do not get corrected and that is some good money to be placing out there. Hell that is more than my mortgage payment on my house with a big yard.

This really makes the industry look bad and that team at her location would be in serious trouble if I were their boss. I am getting ripped just reading this!

The quality control and the quality assurance before the customer ever seen the place was not done, or the people doing it have become lazy and wait for the customer to point out the mistakes. I would really look deep into this process and make corrections whether that be more training, or replacing the violators. That laundry list was just too long to tolerate and 99.9% of those items should have been caught.
Then there is the look internally and see were there enough personnel for the jobs at hand. If they were using in house labor, maybe they had them stretched too thin, if it was outside contract, then I would slam them unless there was a poor statement of work requirement. If it was a poor statement of work requirement then get the expertise that will tighten that up for the future.
Last but not least the manager needs to get off their butt and be checking these turns before a customer comes to see a place to ensure that it is up to standards!

  Nate Thomas
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

while I cannot say for sure that you should step in and assist in this issue, I do think Debbie should take photos and take her Move-In Inspection sheet ith her to the Leasing Office. I think she should call prior to showing up and ask that she be able to meet with the Leasing Pro and his/her Manager to discuss her move in experience.

I think when she meets with the staff (I would not call them a team quite yet, in my opinion), she should even humble herself and say, "I want to discuss my move in experience, and PERHAPS I share in the blame for signing my lease without seeing the apartment I was renting, BUT here are the problems." Then she should insist that the problems be rectified on her schedule at their expense.

We never want this kind of thing to happen, but what happens now is really the determining factor as to how good this company and community is. Does the Leasing Pro and Management follow up and ensure things are done to the resident's satisfaction? Do they own up to it? Do they apologize? Does the company want to make it right for your friend? Of course, now the trust Debbie had with her Leasing Pro and the community is right out the window! It will take the company the whole rest of the lease term to re-gain this trust. It can be done though, depending on how they handle themselves.

In my opinion, it doesn't matter if they were short-staffed or not. Their duty and obligation was to provide a nice, clean, functional apartment and make sure the new Resident was taken care of - and they blew it. If they DON'T make it right immediately, then, yes, it would be very nice of you to offer to help out your friend and intervene on her behalf.

  Mindy Sharp
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Lisa,

I have to agree with  Mindy. They made a big mistake. But maybe it was a one time fluke.  I say give them the opportunity to fix everything to Debbie's satisfaction and the ability   to go above and beyond her request to prove to her that they are committed to their residents and are capable and plan to provide excellent service from now on despite the rocky start. 

I recently  heard a very intelligent , very savvy  industry expert do a seminar on customer service where she gave a great piece of advice. Her advice was " If you view every potential 'problem' as an 'opportunity', you've placed a much more optimistic spin on whatever issue you have. Ask  yourself what kind of opportunity you had been presented with and whether it was an occasion to promote your business by providing excellent customer service to get the issue resolved. Sound familiar ? This very intelligent industry expert was you!  :) 

So what do you say? Are you going to allow this leasing team to have the ability to turn this "problem" in the a great customer service "opportunity " ?

great topic! Thanks for posting!;D;D:P:-*

  Emily Goodman, CPM,ARM,CAPS
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

We're only as strong as our weakest link, right? This is certainly a very disappointing situation, and I hope your friend won't just let it go. I don't know that I would recommend you actively step in, but your counsel to her on how to most effectively proceed so that her concerns are handled would be invaluable.

  Judy Bellack
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I do not know, I can see where if there were a couple of things OK, but this list:
•Carpet stains and strong pet odor
•Dirt in window and door tracks
•Holes in all screens
•Apartment entry door heavily chipped and in need of repaint
•Shower in need of re-caulking
•Dirty patio
•Numerous light bulbs burned out
•Smoke detector missing
•No number on mailbox
•Spider webs in upper corners of apartment
•Cabinets and drawers in need of cleaning
•Vestiges of red paint around light switches

The above is a hard to get over for me. Sure, I agree with the different approaches, but when you have a list this big we have a problem somewhere that needs to be fixed. Cleaning and maintenance seem to be the two areas where there was a problem from what I read and the other is whoever does the quality assurance on the property side and the quality control on the service side were really not on the job at hand.

I brought up the staffing and personnel issue because sometimes the management does not take care to ensure they program for peak times and rush in-house personnel. Sounds to me as though the turn was done 100% in-house, but I could be wrong and if it is in-house, then for sure the personnel are given a salary and maybe rushed to do jobs. How much time was it between move outs and move ins? Mindy is right on with the approach as you get more a lot of times with sugar, but if it were me, I may start off nice, jus to ensure it was an honest mistake or something that was out of the managers control, but I would be ready to be that bull in a china shop too!

Forgive me, but this is something when someone comes into a property, it is you put your best foot forward every time and if there is a slip, do not wait for them to come to you, go to them and make it right. In this case I would have taken only half of the rent.

My mother rents and I treated all customers like this was my mother being taken care of. My Mom always talks about how nice the management is to her. I...

I do not know, I can see where if there were a couple of things OK, but this list:
•Carpet stains and strong pet odor
•Dirt in window and door tracks
•Holes in all screens
•Apartment entry door heavily chipped and in need of repaint
•Shower in need of re-caulking
•Dirty patio
•Numerous light bulbs burned out
•Smoke detector missing
•No number on mailbox
•Spider webs in upper corners of apartment
•Cabinets and drawers in need of cleaning
•Vestiges of red paint around light switches

The above is a hard to get over for me. Sure, I agree with the different approaches, but when you have a list this big we have a problem somewhere that needs to be fixed. Cleaning and maintenance seem to be the two areas where there was a problem from what I read and the other is whoever does the quality assurance on the property side and the quality control on the service side were really not on the job at hand.

I brought up the staffing and personnel issue because sometimes the management does not take care to ensure they program for peak times and rush in-house personnel. Sounds to me as though the turn was done 100% in-house, but I could be wrong and if it is in-house, then for sure the personnel are given a salary and maybe rushed to do jobs. How much time was it between move outs and move ins? Mindy is right on with the approach as you get more a lot of times with sugar, but if it were me, I may start off nice, jus to ensure it was an honest mistake or something that was out of the managers control, but I would be ready to be that bull in a china shop too!

Forgive me, but this is something when someone comes into a property, it is you put your best foot forward every time and if there is a slip, do not wait for them to come to you, go to them and make it right. In this case I would have taken only half of the rent.

My mother rents and I treated all customers like this was my mother being taken care of. My Mom always talks about how nice the management is to her. I do not tell her that the management and me have had some real nice talks about what their responsibility is. They get their rent on time every month, they have a trouble free tenant who only calls if there is something wrong. My brothers have even gone by to fix things rather than bother them, so if she calls it is important!

I get cross eyed just going back over this as it touches and emotional part of me. You see this industry is not just a job with me. It is a profession that I hold dear as it touches peoples' lives. They deserve only the best and if we make a mistake, they deserve nothing less than the best corrective actions!

Sorry if I am coming off as a radical, but it is what it is with me on this subject when dealing with our customers.

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  Nate Thomas
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

You are right, Nate, it sounds like no one bothered to check the unit prior to scheduling the move in and while I understand the first reaction might be to shout, "Off with your heads!" it won't do the new resident any good in this moment.
For some reason, when I arrive on site somewhere it is always on a day when there are at least one or two move ins scheduled. I have to jump right in there and most of the time, it means the new people are walking in to sign their leases and pick up keys before I have had a chance to put my purse down, let alone check the units. So, I have quite a bit of experience with challenging circumstances. The thing is, before I allow someone to sign the lease, I show them the apartment prior. I have a few people who insist it is okay and they don't need to see the apartment, but I still like to do a walk through with those people, too.

Had a walk through been completed prior, Lisa's friend would have seen right away the condition of the carpet and the rest of the unit. As a Leasing Professional and as a Manager and Supervisor, I would have been mortified, much less waiting to see my Resident's initial reaction.

I think if I were the Manager there, I would have to meet with the Leasing Pro (who was not professionl, in this case) and try to ascertain what went wrong. I believe the Leasing Pro did not listen attentively enough to Debbie, her customer, in the first place. To call someone and ask if she is okay if "they don't paint the apartment" is ridiculous! What? WHY would a leasing person ask this anyway of the new Resident? Our job as leasing professionals is to ensure our clients that we will take care of them from the day they walk in the door as Prospects until the day they move from our community.

Here is what needs to occur NOW:
Since Debbie is now questioning her decision to move into this community, all team members need to get into high gear to rectify the situation - and the Manager had better be leading the charge.
1....

You are right, Nate, it sounds like no one bothered to check the unit prior to scheduling the move in and while I understand the first reaction might be to shout, "Off with your heads!" it won't do the new resident any good in this moment.
For some reason, when I arrive on site somewhere it is always on a day when there are at least one or two move ins scheduled. I have to jump right in there and most of the time, it means the new people are walking in to sign their leases and pick up keys before I have had a chance to put my purse down, let alone check the units. So, I have quite a bit of experience with challenging circumstances. The thing is, before I allow someone to sign the lease, I show them the apartment prior. I have a few people who insist it is okay and they don't need to see the apartment, but I still like to do a walk through with those people, too.

Had a walk through been completed prior, Lisa's friend would have seen right away the condition of the carpet and the rest of the unit. As a Leasing Professional and as a Manager and Supervisor, I would have been mortified, much less waiting to see my Resident's initial reaction.

I think if I were the Manager there, I would have to meet with the Leasing Pro (who was not professionl, in this case) and try to ascertain what went wrong. I believe the Leasing Pro did not listen attentively enough to Debbie, her customer, in the first place. To call someone and ask if she is okay if "they don't paint the apartment" is ridiculous! What? WHY would a leasing person ask this anyway of the new Resident? Our job as leasing professionals is to ensure our clients that we will take care of them from the day they walk in the door as Prospects until the day they move from our community.

Here is what needs to occur NOW:
Since Debbie is now questioning her decision to move into this community, all team members need to get into high gear to rectify the situation - and the Manager had better be leading the charge.
1. Get the cleaners in to clean all surfaces, including getting rid of cob webs - at the convenience of Debbie;
2. Maintenance needs to get in there and recaulk, re-bulb lights, etc. and ensure everything is working to Debbie's satisfaction;
3. Then the Manager and Leasing Pro should meet with Debbie and find out when she would like to have new carpet and padding installed. This should not be an option. If they need to hire movers to move Debbie's furniture because now the unit is "occupied" then this should be at the company's expense.
4. The Regional Manager should be informed of all of this and what the team is doing to assist in completing a good experience for this resident before the resident calls Corporate to complain. Management should write a personal letter of apology; the leasin pro should write a personal letter of apology and include a gift (or have flowers/plant delivered, too.)I would also have my Maintenance techs write a note, too.

Once Debbie is happy in her new little nest, the Leasing Pro should periodically call her (and really, all new move ins) within a couple weeks to make sure everyone is still happy. That is how my training manual is ... and the Manager should be calling residents, a few each month, to ask the same thing.

In addition, a Team meeting is needed (desperately) to discuss what went wrong. I mean it is one thing to say this or that about procedures, but there was something horribly wrong for this move in to go so badly. Every person plays a role in this and should be held accountable. Nate, I don't think anyone would not agree to this. In reality, this type of problem happens a lot in our industry; I see it all the time when I am there, but I note the problems and move to train to correct them. I think some trainers bury their heads over the issue because some people refuse to say, "The buck stops here." I OWN a property the minute I arrive on site. Honestly, the residents all know this, too. When I am here, I am the One In Charge and I shoulder that, too. Even if the blame can be traced to the leasing person not communicating the move in dates, etc. with the maintenance team, or the maintenance team got busy with some emergency and forgot about the turn, the Manager is the one who should suck it up and make it right. This includes getting the procedure right so the process is completed on time, correctly, and without this kind of thing happening again. Reoccurring problems mean someone needs to be encouraged to seek othr opportunities elsewhere.

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  Mindy Sharp
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

As a property manager who is not always able to show a prospective resident the exact unti someone will rent, I know how difficult it can be. The bigger the property the more things can get missed, but it's not about size; it is about people. As an example, a detailed list of anything and EVERYTHING that's NOT right for the resident to fill out at their time of move in coems Standard in our Lease. If I wouldn't rent it to MY Mother, then it's not good enough for anyone else.

  Jessica Tinker
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I think that she needs to bring it up to the Community Manager and allow the them opportunity to make it right. She should not have to live with that list, for sure. If that happened at one of my communities and Lisa Trosien brought it to my attention, I would want the ground beneath me to open and swallow me up. The onsite team should be following up to make sure her move in is perfect, but it doesn't sound like that have that system in place. If they do, miraculously, contact her - she should tell them! I'm happy you posted, this, though. It could happen (and probably has) to any of us!

  Carrie
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have been in this exact situation but I was the manager. It is sad that companies limit the managers options of replacing carpet & vinyl. I worked (probably for the same REIT) and we had to give out certificates for local Home Depot or Bed, Bath and Beyond so the resident could buy a rug if the carpet was stained. If they wanted new carpet we gave them them the option to increase their rent by $100 for one year. I used to work on a property that was in a heavily wooded area that ALWAYS had spider webs on the outside of 27 buildings-3 floors. We tried everything to prevent this and with a maintenance staff of 3, it was impossible. The other things are easily fixed and should never have been overlooked. Problem is, once the management company refuses the BIG things, the employees learn to overlook the SMALL things. During the end of the year..this company made managers borrow supplies from their other properties...absolutely NO purchases IF you were in the RED. Thank God I dont work for them anymore! Sad but true

  previous REIT manager
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Lisa, oh do tattle on the management company where this occurred!!

  Chuck Mallory
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