First, let me introduce you to the major players in this story. There’s my landlord – we’ll call him Pete because that’s his first name. (Heads up: You know it’s about to hit the fan when I’m not using monikers like “Landlord” and I’m actually using real names.) There’s the property management company, Real Property Management Midwest (RPM), who are sometimes nice and efficient and sometimes just bloody awful. And there’s me (you know me, we’ve met).
I’ve lived in this apartment for two years. I’ve never met Pete – I think he lives in Boston. He uses RPM to handle things. Sometimes this works fine (getting the exterminator to take care of carpenter ants). Sometimes it takes two months to get someone to fix my leaking roof. RPM tells me they often have trouble getting in touch with Pete to authorize maintenance and repairs. Pete has been wanting to sell this place for a while, but won’t bother to do some major fixes on the place that would warrant his asking price, then wonders why nobody will even put an offer on it. I got his email address from the realtor (who also has issues contacting him).
Several times the City of Cincinnati has taped a note to our building stating that the water bill was due last month, and if it’s not paid the water will be shut off. The very first time this happened, I contacted RPM immediately – they informed me that it was not their responsibility to pay the water bill, but Pete’s, and they would contact him. I did this each of the 3 or 4 times (!) it’s happened. The water’s never been shut off – until July 1 this year.
July 1, I wake up to find the water’s off. No hot, cold, muddy, nothing. Just air. So I contact RPM and they put me on hold. Something nagging in the back of my mind tells me I should contact the Greater Cincinnati Water Works instead, given all those past notifications. I call them. I ask the woman why the water’s off – is there maintenance in the area, or did the landlord not pay the bill? She informed me that there was an outstanding bill from April to the tune of $383, so they shut off service. APRIL! I am afraid the poor woman on the other end heard me say some choice words about Pete. I then asked what my options were. She gave me one: the outstanding balance had to be paid before 3pm to get the water turned back on that day. And it would not be turned back on until it did. So I paid the bill on my credit card, because what choice did I have, and got a copy of the bill emailed to me. I then let my neighbor know what was up, told her the water would be back on that afternoon, and emailed Pete:
This morning our water was turned off for an outstanding bill from APRIL. I just paid the outstanding amount of $383.35 plus $4.69 processing to get it turned back on this afternoon. As soon as I get the email receipt, I will forward it to you. I will expect a refund or a credit to my rent.
There is an upcoming bill for $370.47 due July 16, Thought I’d mention it.
I’m sure I don’t need to say how irresponsible this is of you, and how livid I am. Not to mention paying money that I don’t have for something that’s your responsibility.
Please see to it this doesn’t happen again.”
JULY 7 (July 7! Six days later!!) he finally responded:
I called them as soon as I saw this & paid July. This won’t happen again. It may be easier for me to send you a check for April, rather than you reducing your rent payment (I think RPM may struggle with that scenario). Please confirm you have not already sent a reduced rent check & I will send a check tonight.
I responded with a single line: “Thank you. I paid rent in full for this month, so a check would be fine.” I didn’t see how he was in any position to question RPM’s bookkeeping and processing abilities given the current situation. I waited for a check for two weeks. I emailed him again on July 23:
As of today I have not received any check. Should I be expecting one before 8/1, or should I arrange reduced rent payment with RPM for August?”
Six days later (today), no reply. Seeing as rent is due in three days, I called RPM this morning. Here’s how that went:
RPM rep: Hi, how can I help you?
Me: Yeah, hi, I live at [address]. I paid our water bill last month, and the landlord was supposed to cut me a check for that amount, but he hasn’t yet. I’m calling to get my rent reduced by that amount, as per Ohio law.
RPM: Okay, let me get your name and address. … Okay, that would be Pete as your landlord?
RPM: Okay, we’ll contact him, (me thinking: good luck with that) and get it authorized, because it has to come out of his account.
Me: I already paid the bill.
RPM: Sure, but it takes 30 days to close the account, then cut you the check…
Me: What closing the account?
RPM: Closing the account and squaring everything away so we can cut you the check from the balance.
Me: WHAT CLOSING THE ACCOUNT? NOBODY’S MOVING. I JUST NEED MY RENT CREDITED.
RPM: Wait, what is your address again? … OH I was looking at a different file! I’m so sorry!
Me: … [fuming]…
RPM: So okay I have your account open now. Yeah, we’ll contact him and cut you a check…
Me: Wait wait wait hold up. I don’t need you to cut me a check. This was an outstanding bill from April that I ALREADY PAID to get the water turned back on. I need this month’s rent to be reduced by that amount. (is this really that difficult to understand?)
RPM: OH! Okay… um…
(literally 20 seconds of silence)
Me: Would it be easier if I just came in to your office with the water bill this afternoon?
RPM: Yes, that would work fine I think…
Me: Okay. Thank you. [end call]
Deep breaths. Deeep breaths.
So I went in this afternoon. I presented the lady at the desk with the water bill. I explained to her that I paid the overdue portion of the bill and he paid the rest for July. And could I please have what I paid credited to my rent for this month, because that’s Ohio law. So she went back to talk to her supervisor. After ten minutes she came back and said, yes, we’ll contact Pete and see if he’s okay with that arrangement.
At this point I was about to lose it. Apparently it IS that difficult to understand.
“No, see, I paid this water bill from APRIL. Our water got turned off because he. never. paid. it. I paid the overdue amount in full, on July 1, to get the water turned back on. He said he would cut me a check for the amount I paid. He never did. I’m coming to YOU now because BY OHIO LAW, my rent now gets reduced by that amount.”
“Ah! I’m sorry. I get it. Okay. One second.”
Goes to talk to the supervisor again.
“Okay, sorry about that. My supervisor will take care of this. She’s going to contact GCWW to confirm that you did pay the bill, and you will hear from her no later than tomorrow evening letting you know what’s going on. And in the meantime, here’s the email for our support staff, for when stuff like this comes up again, just contact them.”
Good. Glad after two years I finally know how to contact the people who get paid to deal with this shit. I also know that I need to use words of one syllable, because otherwise nobody gets it. Then I had her print off a copy of my original lease agreement for me. In the event I need to reference it again. Which I will. No doubt.