A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Home is Where the Heart Is

Edit: new developments at the bottom!

This is a "Dear Diary" sort of moment, where I'm going to write a post just to commit it for posterity, so bear with me. Exactly zero of the names of the other people involved in this saga have been changed in the interest of journalism.

Right before Christmas, I went to Chicago for a two day vacation/apartment finding spree with my girlfriend, in light of my new job that will be starting there at the end of January. This involved two multi-hour appointments with apartment finding services, as well as a number of individual appointments I had made on my own, mainly by contacting management outfits that had listed on rent.com, apartments.com, etc. There were some total disasters, but I ended up liking a high-rise unit in Lakeview, within walking distance of both the Lake and the Zoo. I applied, was accepted, and gave Apartment People (the finding service) a deposit of one month's rent + a $50 dollar credit check fee ($1260 in all). Excellent, I have good condition housing in a nice neighborhood with easy access to public transporation.

PS, I don't bring up the dollar figure just to show off what a baller I am--I just want to underscore that these are non-trivial amounts of money we're talking about, which is why I end up being so particular about the leasing terms. At any rate-- hey, excellent, I've found a place, and now I can have a holly, jolly Christmas/New Year's season.

BZZZZ! Try again, sucker. Two days later the processing department at Apartment People forwards me a lease rider from the company that's actually in charge of the building, Kass Management. The rider says that either party can terminate the lease agreement with 60 days' notice. That's a little odd, but also helps me in case I decide I hate the neighborhood, find a better place, and so on. I sign it and fax it back to them.

Much later--the week of January 1st--I make contact with Kass, since all of the nuts and bolts of signing the lease (which I haven't seen yet at this point) are handled directly between the tenant and the management company, not the finding service (Apartment People, in this case). Keep in mind I've already signed the rider at this point. Ross LeBeau, property manager at 3033 N. Sheridan Rd, says he'll overnight the lease documentation to me for signing.

I don't actually see the lease until this past Monday night, January 8, both because "overnight" actually turned out to be "2nd Day" and because I was in Ann Arbor visiting said girlfriend over the weekend. In the flesh (paper?), the lease has several important contradictions that anyone with even a cursory familiarity with English would have been able to spot. MOST importantly, it contains an addendum that says the lessor can cancel the lease with 30 days' notice.

Which wins out in a pit fight between an Addendum and a Rider? Beats the hell out of me--I might know all sorts of interesting math that describes contracting arrangements, but not the legal scholarship that gets involved with moving from the general to the specific. So I call Ross, who has no idea that that addendum clause exists, and says he'll get back to me once he talks to someone higher-up.

You can probably see where this is going.

Since Ross doesn't call me back like I asked him to, I check in the next afternoon (yesterday). He says, without any elucidation, "Yeah, it's in there." Naive-ly caught offguard, I thank him for this time and give it some thought. There are a number of high-rises that seem to be converting to condos, particularly closer to the city, including units that I saw and rejected for that reason (ie, units where an early, one-sided termination clause was actually known to the finding-agent I was working with, Bobby Talamine. Straight shooter--I'd recommend him).

At this point, I check back with the processing department at the Apartment People. A very nice woman, Anna, suggests that I call Ross back the next day, tell him flat-out that I'm not goign to sign off on this one-sided termination clause, and that if it doesn't work out, I'm to call her back and they'll get involved on their end.

This morning, Ross--only God knows what sort of culpability he has in this disaster at this point--refers me to Gaby, someone else at Kass who's actually responsible for leasing. She doesn't work on Thursdays. I leave her a voice mail, and check back with Anna. She's of the opinion that we ought to wait to hear back from Gaby before making a next move. That's reasonable, except for the idea that I have a truck reservation to move a week from tomorrow. Needless to say, if this building (3033 N. Sheridan--if Google indexes this page, I'd like to put the worde out there) isn't going to work out, I'll need to get back on the horse mighty quick. She puts me back in touch with Bobby, my original apartment-finding agent, who says he'll call Ross himself and try to get to the bottom of this, and call me back later this afternoon.

Wrinkle #1: Ross calls me about 30 minutes later and asks if I'd be amenable to just cancelling the agreement outright, because he "doesn't want to hold it off the market any longer." I tell him that since I still don't even know *why* this has even become an issue, that I'll need to hold off on that one until I find out more. For the historical record, I didn't like his tone at all. This isn't my fault, you twat.

Edited portion start:
Wrinkle #2: Ross called again to reiterate his desire to re-market the apartment. When I asked if that would involve a full refund, he said that they were entitled to damages per the application agreement I signed with the Apartment People. I pointed out to him that every delay in this process has been the result of Kass' unwillingness to disclose information and that it was his idea to cancel in the first place, he said that he would "consult with the laywers." You do that.

Wrinkle #3: Gaby the Leasing Woman left a voicemail saying that the lease rider (60-day termination agreement) was void and that I needed to sign the addendum. Never mind that I already signed and returned the rider to them (via the Apartment People) on December 22nd, or that their addendum is actually illegal and unenforcable according to section 5-12-140 of the Chicago City Tenant Ordinance. I'm currently waiting to hear back from Anna of the Apartment People processing office about a conference call between her, Ross and Gaby.

So where do we stand?

1- Kass Management is obviously trying to condo-fy the building, and either Ross is trying to keep that on the down-low in order to get some sucker to rent the place for a month or two until a buyer moves into the unit, or he wasn't informed. Is it better for your landlord to either lie to you outright or to be grossly incompetent and uninformed?

1A- Perhaps needless to say, the economics of buying a condo in a high-rise are disasterous for the buyer. You're going to take out a 35 year mortgage to build equity in a room in a building that you don't own, on property you don't own either? You're going to be responsible for all repairs and improvements for an apartment that's also exposing you to who knows what externalities from the other 100+ yahoos who live in the tower? Are you out of your fucking mind?

2- It pays to ask questions. Although I still have trust in the Apartment People that they didn't know about this change in leasing terms from Kass--especially since my agent already warned me about an identical clause at a different building, and particularly since the agent's own livelihood really gets enhanced by repeat customers who don't get burned at a later point in the process. That doesn't mean I should have insisted harder that Kass show me a lease earlier.

2A- "Parking is available here for $X uncovered, $(X + delta) covered" isn't the same thing as "parking is actually available once you move in here." I also chose this place because it had reasonably priced parking, which made up for not being in walking distance of a major grocery store. It turns out that the reason it's reasonably priced is that its nominal price is way south of what the market price for parking in that neighborhood is; the waiting list is 6-8 months. Not a grossly unfair leasing term, and not something I would be comfortable going to war about (since it was at least partially my fault for not double-checking on that when I called Bobby back to say I'd take the apartment to begin with), but it warrants mentioning.

3- This is trite, but I suppose it bears mentioning: if it's too good to be true... the unit I was/am interested in was something like $70 dollars a month cheaper than places I saw in Lincoln Park proper, included a free month's rent and free cable TV, and was north of 800 sq ft. C'est la vie.

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Blogger steve said...

Ouch. So what's your next move here?

1:12 PM

Blogger neill said...

The people who I've been working with at the apartment-finding agency are going to talk to the leasing woman directly and try to get her to remove the 30 day clause. If that fails and they've got time to do it, I might go back and look at more places with them on Fri or Sat. If not, I had a #2 choice from the first round of searching that's still available, so I'll have to try to get my deposit back. Which shouldn't be hard since there's a valid legal reason to not want to go through with the deal, but we'll see.

2:38 PM

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