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Your Guide to Overcoming Issues With Your Apartment Complex

I am a property manager at a complex in Little Rock. I have been doing this for 3 years and love it very much.


How to Get Issues Fixed in Your Apartment

So you've just moved into your new apartment. Everything is great. Almost. Maybe your neighbor is loud during all hours of the night. Maybe there's a leak coming from your ceiling that you need to be fixed.

You probably assume that these issues will all be fixed right away, but unfortunately, it is not always the case. I am going to give you advice from my experience as a property manager to try and get your issues taken care of correctly and quickly.

Are your neighbors too loud?

Are your neighbors too loud?

Loud Neighbors

One of the problems when getting a new apartment is that you have no idea who your neighbors will be. While we all hope that they will be quiet and friendly people who keep to themselves, it is very possible that will not be the case.

So how can you deal with noisy neighbors? Isn't that all a part of apartment living? Well, yes, it is—but to an extent. You are a paying resident and should be able to enjoy your home.

If the problem is with your neighbor's noisy kids, that is a harder problem to solve. Children are going to be children, and so there is very little a manager can do if they are the ones causing all the problems except repeatedly calling the tenant.

The first time you have a noise complaint, call the manager and let them know or, if you're brave, go talk to your neighbor yourself. Some people will respect that you talked to them first, while others will just get defensive, so that's your call.

The second time it happens, start documenting it. Email your complaint to the manager. That way, there is a paper trail if it ever becomes a bigger issue. The manager will probably ask that you call the police. The only way a person can be evicted for a noise complaint is if they have received several noise violations, and typically for that to happen, the police have to come out to hear it for themselves.

Another idea would be to record it. Take out your cell phone and see if it will pick up any of the sounds that you are hearing. Most noise complaints are at night when the manager isn't around, so having evidence will make it much easier for him or her to do something about it.

Do you have a leaky sink in your new place?

Do you have a leaky sink in your new place?

Maintenance Issues

Every home regardless of whether it is an apartment or not is bound to have maintenance issues. The good thing about apartment living is that you most likely have a maintenance technician that is paid to fix everything for you. However, you are not the only person living in your complex.

Sometimes there are hundreds of other residents in your complex, and there is only so much that one maintenance team can do in a day. So, what if you are being ignored? What if they are not handling the issue in a timely manner? These are my tips to hopefully help get your issues resolved.

Be Patient

First off, know that you are not the only person with something broken in your apartment. So, if your issue is that you have a cabinet handle broken, you may not be first priority—especially if there are people with plumbing or AC issues. Those are considered to be "more important." So, please understand that if they do not immediately drop what they're doing and come to you, it doesn't necessarily mean that they forgot or that they don't care. They are most likely prioritizing as best they can.

A lot of complexes now offer the option to submit online work orders, which is great for residents. Not only is it more convenient, but it also once again leaves a paper trail which is always good to have. If your issue is something minor like a broken handle or a missing vertical slat, just putting the request online or emailing it to the manager should suffice.

However, if you have a leak, gas odor, or no heat, call the manager first and then email/put the order online. Managers are very busy, so we aren't constantly checking our computers. Never just ASSUME that we got your work order. Call us first and then send it to us online so you have a record of telling us.

What Constitutes an Emergency?

So, what if your issues are something more serious, and they still aren't doing anything about it? Unfortunately, if you were to read your lease, there are only a couple of things that, legally, your complex must fix. This, of course, would be no heat or AC (depending on the temperature) and, of course, health hazards such as mold, pests, or gas leaks.

Typically, though, your complex wants to keep you happy. Especially if you are a good resident. So, assuming you have already called and contacted them online, follow up with them and see what the status is. It is possible that no one has come to your apartment, but maybe they already have a plumber or electrician on the way.

I'll admit it: Sometimes, even I am bad about not letting residents know that I'll have it taken care of. So, give them the benefit of the doubt and ask. If they don't seem like it is going to be taken care of, you have a couple of different options that should speed the process up.

The first step would be to call the owner or management company. Sometimes your apartment staff will not give you the phone number because we are told not to, but if you do some research by googling or going to your apartment website, you should be able to find the name of the company and be able to contact them.

When you do, tell them the times and dates that you reported your issue or if you have it, forward the emails or print-offs of the work order. If you have no proof and the manager denies having knowledge of the problem, a lot of times, they will just take the manager's side.

If you call, have spoken with the manager and the management company, and still, no one has done anything about it, your final step would be to call code enforcement. Depending on what state you live in, only certain things will be considered violations, so do some research first, but if you find that your complex is, in fact, in violation, go ahead and call them.

My advice would be to let the complex know you're calling first and see if that doesn't speed them up, but either way, calling code enforcement should be your last step. If you can prove to them that you have made multiple attempts to get the issue taken care of, they should be able to help you.

You want to get what you paid for!

You want to get what you paid for!

Issues With Rent

Maybe a time comes where you aren't able to pay rent on time. It happens. Perhaps your rent was lost. I'm going to give you the same advice that I've been giving you. Keep records!

If you know that you are going to be late on rent, always communicate with the manager and tell them what's going on. You may still get the eviction notice on your door, but oftentimes, they will work with you if you are upfront and honest. I have seen cases where a manager says it's ok for someone to pay rent on a later day, but then they end up getting evicted anyway.

Sometimes it could be because they forgot. It's also possible that their boss told them they could not wait any longer. Having a written agreement with your manager will certainly help you if, in fact, an eviction takes place. Anytime a manager agrees to let you do something that you know for a fact is against your lease, do not do it unless you have their permission in writing.

Let's say you paid your rent on time, but the manager loses it. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Unfortunately for the tenant, a lot of times, managers are more likely to believe that you actually never paid than to believe that they were the ones who lost it. That is because people really do lie to us constantly. It is your burden to prove that rent was paid. Not ours.

If you have online payment or automatic withdrawal, hopefully, you won't have to deal with these issues. If you pay with check or money order, it is more likely to happen. If you do pay with a cashier’s check or money order, keep your receipt. It is the part attached to it that can be removed. A lot of people don't know that money orders can be stopped and/or refunded if needed.

As long as you kept the receipt. Unfortunately, if you paid with a money order and it was lost, just because you have the receipt, it doesn't show proof that you gave it to your complex. So, you may still be responsible for late fees, but at least you can stop the payment and get refunded.

The best way to avoid late fees if your rent payment was lost is to have the receipt that the complex did, in fact, get it. Some complexes are not allowed to give you one. That is because your check could bounce, so your rent isn't technically paid until it has cleared the bank.

Typically they can at least give you something saying it was received. A lot of my residents will just ask for a copy of their ledger each month. That's your record that you are at a balance of $0. Get that. File it away. It can only help you in the future!

Security Deposit

Getting your security deposit back is the number one issue that renters deal with. The security deposit is what you pay upon moving in and is used to cover any damages that are in the apartment after moving out. Usually, the deposit can range anywhere from $300 up to a fee equal to one month's rent. A lot of times, part of that is automatically kept. Make sure you ask how much of the deposit is refundable before moving in.

When you move in, typically, you will receive a move-in inspection sheet. I will attach an example at the bottom. When you receive that, on the day that you sign your lease, you need to walk through your apartment and look for any obvious damages.

You are looking for things that you don't want to be charged for when you move out. You will want to note things such as carpet stains, scratches on the counter, holes, etc. Be as detailed as possible. When you move out, the manager will take this form and walk your apartment with it. Any damages that were not written down on that sheet that they find will be charged to you.

I strongly recommend taking pictures the day you move in and when you move out. Keep these in case there is ever a dispute. When you turn your inspection sheet in, have your manager sign it and give you a copy to keep for your records. This is very important.

An example of move-in check list

An example of move-in check list

Move Out Instructions: How to Get Your Deposit Back

  1. Place caps on the water supply line in the laundry room. If not, you could flood your apartment.
  2. Clean your apartment and remove all of your belongings including trash.
  3. Clean stove: Remove all debris and dirt of the entire range hood. Remove and clean the pans under the burners. Clean surface under burners (inside the top of the range. Bruner pans must not be charred or have holes in them). Clean debris between range and counter.
  4. Clean Oven: All debris, grease, and stains must be removed from oven.
  5. Clean Refrigerator: All debris and stains must be removed from inside, outside and under the refrigerator/freezer. Remember to leave the refrigerator on.
  6. Clean Cabinets, Drawers, Closets, and Doors. Remove any shelf paper that you installed.
  7. Clean Toilet(s), Tub(s), Cabinets and Sinks.
  8. Clean vinyl and vacuum carpet.
  9. Damaged or dirty blinds on windows and doors will be replaced and charged back to your account.
  10. Damaged carpet/vinyl: All cost incurred to repairs of tears or stains will be charged to your account.
  11. Make sure all bulbs are working.
  12. Return all keys. Include mailbox keys and pool passes.
  13. Return all keys. Include mailbox keys and pool passes.
  14. Make sure you give the office your new address so that your deposit can be mailed to you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Sarah Spradlin