Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My rental nightmare

This is a lesson to anyone planning to move to Los Angeles any time soon.

Let me tell you about Wellman Properties.

Wellman Property Management, located at 1415 Stanford Street in Santa Monica, is hands down the worst rental agency I've ever dealt with. In short, only greedy douchefucks are allowed to work there.

Every time I've been in their office they've acted like I was a complete burden on their time. When I lost my roomate suddenly and had to pay rent three days late they showed me no sympathy whatsoever. When my car got broken into they implied that it was my fault for not expecting it to happen. And if you call them to ask a question or report a problem, they might consider getting back to you a month later.

When I moved into that place the carpet was filthy. I was surprised that it was not new since the previous resident had been there over two years, but I didn't really worry about it even thought it turned my feet black just to walk on it. It was the absolute cheapest carpet on the planet, the kind that's rough and ugly and sucks up dirt like a Dustbuster. But I'm not one to complain so I lived with it.

Once a guy came into my apartment and cut four square holes in the ceiling in various locations. He filled them in about two months later. I still have no idea why.

In January, after my car got broken into twice while it was in the garage and they refused to change the code to the gate to prevent future breakins, I decided to move out. On January First I got hit with a bill for an $80 increase in rent starting January First. I refused to pay it since they gave me no notice.

After I moved out two months ago I went back to clean on March 2. A Wellman employee was there and even though I had nothing in the apartment but cleaning supplies and he wasn't planning on doing anything to the apartment that day, he ripped into me for not being out sooner. I left without cleaning.

So I call up the company to ask where the hell my deposit is. I need this money desperately this week. I knew I had a couple of late fees and I knew they were going to have to replace the carpet in the living room, but it's cheap ass carpet and it wasn't new to begin with and the other rooms were fine. Plus I left these people my refrigerator and a water filter on the tap. And I've always been a model resident. I gave them 30 days notice even though I already had the apartment lined up, I didn't have wild parties or piss off my neighbors and I almost always paid rent on time.

My initial deposit, counting the pet deposit, was $1595. I got a bill today that says I owe them $77.88 above that.

I nearly had a heart attack. I was expecting a check for at least $800.

The carpet replacement bill alone was $1244. They charged me the extra $80, $100 for cleaning even though they refused to let me clean it myself, and an extra late fee for not paying the extra $80 in January.

The dumpster is spilling out into the garage, the lights are all busted or burned out outside, the gate latch rarely works and a leaky roof bubbled the paint and dripped dirty brown water onto the wall in my bedroom. But these people want more money from me.

So if there's nothing else I can do at least I can warn other people from dealing with them. Wellman Properties is a slumlord. If you are thinking about renting from them, don't.

UPDATE: I read the PDF James suggests in the comments and used what I learned to mail a letter demanding payment for violations from Wellman. I also demanded a copy of the receipt for the carpet cleaning. Turns out they had "accidentally" charged me for new tile as well and sent me a check for $354. It's not as much as I was asking for, but it's probably all I'll get so I'm leaving it there. At least I got something. I only got it because I demanded it.


  1. Have any lawyer friends? And maybe threaten them with small claims court otherwise.

  2. Anonymous7:47 PM

    No way you should just take this from them. Somebody has to stand up against a bully, you should be that somebody.

  3. Anonymous8:37 PM

    Sounds like a total rip-off. Sadly, I've seen this sort of thing happen a lot.

    I'd suggest you contact the Housing Rights Center (http://www.hrc-la.org). They'll give legal advice on tenant/landlord issues over the phone. If they can't help you, they might be able to refer you to someone who can.

    The California Tenants Handbook has lots of helpful info on landlord/tenant law (http://www.dca.ca.gov/legal/landlordbook/catenant.pdf). Some potential points that might be helpful in contesting some of the charges:

    - When a tenant moves out, the landlord can charge to clean the unit, but only "to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in" (it sounds like it might not have been that clean when you moved in). They cannot charge for cleaning a unit that was already as clean as it was when the tenant moved in.

    - The landlord has to provide 30 days notice before raising the rent.

    - The landlord can only charge you for replacing the carpet if the damage goes beyond "normal wear and tear."

    - The landlord must provide you with a receipt proving the cost of any repairs (in your case, replacing the carpet).

    - The landlord has 21 calendar days from the date of move out to send you a statement with an itemized list of the charges they're deducting from your deposit. If you gave them you're new address, they have to mail it there; otherwise, they have to mail it to your old address. If you can prove they didn't send you a statement within that 21 day deadline, then by law the landlord has to return your entire deposit.

    - When charging for things like carpet replacement, the landlord usually can't charge the full price of the new carpet. (This varies by state, I'm not sure of the CA law.) For example: if the carpet had an expected life of 10 years and you damaged it when it was only 6 years old, the the landlord can charge you 40% of the cost of the new carpet (you took 40% off the life of the carpet, but they got 6 good years out of it, so they can't hit you with the full cost). Also, the landlord can only charge you for the cost of a carpet of equal quality to the original (they can't put in fancier carpet and then hit you with the cost).

    Sorry, that's a lot of information, so I'll stop now. I hope you get your money back!

  4. Oh, thank you James.

    They sent me my itemized list two months after I moved out. I have the envelope with the canceled stamp. They actually backdated the form.

    But they sure as hell did charge me the full price for the new carpet.


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