MISTAKES AND INCIDENTS
There will invariably come a time when a manager simply makes an honest mistake. How the manager handles the mistake can have a great effect on the outcome and resolution of the matter. The resident is the consumer, and consumers often feel that they are entitled to some sort of compensation from the manager. Whether they truly are entitled to compensation is really not the issue; the bottom line is that they feel that they are. Making the wrong statements or taking the wrong actions can turn a small problem into a tremendous time consuming and expensive proposition. This article will examine some of the common mistakes made by managers and some suggested courses of action.
You Thought The Resident Vacated
This is a common mistake. The lease is up or almost up, the manager checks the unit, the electricity is off, and all appearances seem to indicate that the resident is indeed gone. There are a few items left behind, but the manager does not feel they are of any value, and the manager throws the items away and changes the locks. The resident returns furious and is demanding the items back, and then compensation when he realizes they are gone.
Recommendation :Keep the resident as calm as possible, make him understand that you were under the impression that he had vacated, and give him an “Incident Report” to fill out. Once this is filled out and firmly in your control, you can decide to come to an agreement with the resident for compensation. It is crucial that you do not act excited or scared, as the goal is to have the resident tell the truth and to accept a fair settlement. Once you agree on an amount, we recommend strongly that you have the resident sign a release if money exchanges hands.
You Served a Three Day Notice But the Resident Had Already Paid the Rent
This seemingly innocent mistake can enrage a resident and potentially have legal ramifications, especially if you served the notice in a fashion where neighbors could see the notice. The resident is embarrassed and enraged.
Recommendation: Keep the resident as calm as possible, downplay the notice, and tell her it simply was a mistake. Profuse apology is not necessary. Use the opportunity to change the subject, and ask her if there are any maintenance requests or problems.
You Accidentally Filed An Eviction But the Resident Had Paid the Rent
You would be amazed how often this occurs. An accounting error results in an eviction being accidentally filed, or you forget to cancel the eviction with your attorney. The resident will most assuredly call you or storm into the office with eviction papers in hand.
Recommendation: Call your attorney immediately, have him or her prepare and file a Voluntary Dismissal immediately, and give a copy to the resident. Your attorney can do this immediately while the resident is fuming in your office. If the resident asks whether this will show up on the credit record, you may have to admit that the eviction filing will be a matter of public record, and you will be happy to provide a letter that the resident can use showing that the eviction was simply filed in error. If you don’t immediately dismiss the case, or the resident gets an attorney, you could end up paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees. Take action fast, and again downplay the situation
You Engaged In Some Sort of Self-Help Personal Property Removal
Your resident has an old couch in the yard, a rusty bike and a car transmission on the front lawn. Code enforcement is citing the property, and you send your maintenance staff to remove the items and take them to the trash heap. The resident is furious at you and now wants you to pay for his valuable items.
Recommendation: Keep the resident calm, do not let the resident know you may have committed a crime, or at the bare minimum, civil theft, have the resident fill out an “Incident Report”, and try to settle. As with any settlement, use a General Release. You do not want to involve police or lawyers in this matter.
You Told the Resident “You Should Have Purchased “Renters Insurance”
Many casualties can occur in a rental unit that are through no fault of the resident. A few examples are pipe breaks, water heater breaks, water intrusion due to a roof leak, and power surges due to a faulty wire. Are these the resident’s responsibility or the owner’s responsibility? No one is sure. Many managers rely on the clause in the lease that states that the manager is not responsible for the resident’s personal property. Will this clause be upheld in court? Maybe not, if a judge believes the resident receives an implied warranty of habitability, or if the disclaimer clause is overreaching. One of the worst things a manager can say when the resident asks for reimbursement for a damaged item is, “You should have renter’s insurance.” This infuriates the resident, and instead of the resident wanting $500.00, the resident goes to an attorney, and the amount now goes up to $5000.00.
Recommendation: The next time casualty occurs to a resident’s personal property, get them to fill out an “Incident Report” immediately, and DO NOT immediately tell them that you are not going to pay for the damage. You may later refuse to pay or you may settle, but in the meantime, you want the resident to memorialize the amount in writing to avoid future problems.
The “Incident Report”
Below is the Incident Report we recommend you use.
TO BE FILLED OUT BY RESIDENT
Resident Name _____________________________________
Apartment number ________________ Date: _______/_______/______
Date of incident____/____/_____
_____PERSONAL PROPERTY DAMAGE OR LOSS
_____INJURY TO PERSON(S)
Detailed description of event, loss etc: BR>
Cost estimate of damage/loss $________________
Witnesses to damage/loss:
Name: ________________________ Phone_____________________
I hereby swear that the statement I have made regarding the aforementioned incident is true.
SIGNATURE OF RESIDENT
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW