Sunday, January 8th, 2017
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How to show your tenants that they are “the most vital part of your community”

Have you ever found yourself the owner of a multi-unit apartment building with less than a day’s notice?

A rough start

I bet that hasn’t happened to many people, but from the behavior of F&W Properties of Columbus last summer, you’d think they woke up on August 31, 2016 to find themselves owning Park Layne Apartments in Dayton without any advance notice.

The evening of August 31, I and the other Park Layne tenants returned home from our day’s activities to find a welcome letter from F&W Properties under our doors. Although most of us had heard through the grapevine that our building was being sold, this was our first formal notice about the new owners. Of course F&W knew beforehand that they were buying the building, but they didn’t care to arrange for any meetings before the changeover (or afterwards for that matter), and they certainly didn’t care to give even a full 24 hours’ notice of changes in the building’s services.

What made me think F&W had acquired ownership of Park Layne suddenly and without advance warning came the next day, September 1, with F&W’s handling of our September rent payments. I and many other Park Layne tenants had been paying our rent via automatically-scheduled payments, and F&W did not mention in their welcome letter that how we paid our rent would be changing. However, on September 1, we came home to find notices taped in the elevators asking those of us who paid rent via autopay to bring checks down to the leasing office.

Was Nate Fisher of F&W Properties sitting in his office on August 31 managing his business when he suddenly got a call saying that he now owned an apartment building in Dayton? “Whoops, I better figure out how to collect rent from my new tenants,” he might have thought to himself. It’s a challenge to set up collection of rent payments and even more difficult to communicate to the people who’ll be paying the rent if you have less than a day to prepare.

Now give Nate and F&W a break, you might well say. Sure, he knew more than a day in advance that his company was taking over Park Layne, but perhaps he had some personal challenges going on that prevented him from giving his new Dayton properties his full attention. Everyone faces family emergencies (sick kids, sick parents, etc.). And I did give Nate a break. I did tell friends about F&W’s interesting start at Park Layne, but I didn’t start complaining on September 1 to F&W about their start.

And my first communication to Nate Fisher, an email I sent on September 9, wasn’t technically a complaint. I said, “You’re off to a rough start at Park Layne Apartments, and I’m writing to suggest that you improve your communications with your tenants.” I suggested that he organize a “get to know F&W event” at Park Layne with some light refreshments and a chance for tenants to meet the new folks from F&W. I also pointed out that we had not yet been told the names of any of the F&W management nor given any email addresses. The names in the welcome letter were of existing Park Layne staff who F&W kept on, and the email addresses we had for them were at their old employer and no longer worked. “Please feel free to contact us via email,” said F&W in their welcome letter, but oops, no email address!

Mr. Fisher responded quickly, but he seemed a bit defensive. He said:

Considering that we are only 9 days into this acquisition, without a property manager, and in the middle of a new roof installation (that was to be completed by the seller prior to the sale) we are doing very well.

Oh, “only 9 days,” huh? I guess he really did find out about owning Park Layne only on August 31. He didn’t have any more time at all to plan on how to communicate with his tenants. Sorry to have suggested he’d had a rough start given the lack of notice he had.

Mr. Fisher went on to say:

We will have a “meet & greet” event in the coming weeks, where the residents can get a chance to interact with our team. Typically we like to do this in the first 2–3 weeks. Unfortunately we have been dealing with a very small group of residents over the past 9 days that have been very aggressive in their language and communications towards myself, my staff, and really interrupting our day to day operations at Park Layne. Due to their actions, we feel any meeting at this time would not be productive.

Fair enough. I knew people in the group he mentions, people who were upset by F&W’s decision to change the doorman service at Park Layne from 24 hours 7 days a week (a service provided at Park Layne for over thirty years) to just daytime service (7am–9pm Monday–Friday and 9am–6pm Saturday and Sunday). And again, given that Mr. Fisher must have found out he owned an apartment building in Dayton only the day before he got it, it’s understandable, I guess, that he would announce this change effective immediately instead of in advance of the change. Or is it?


Really inexcusable

So why am I blogging about this now, in January, instead of having done so back in September? Well I didn’t really care personally about the change in doorman service, and although I was annoyed by how F&W was handling some things, it wasn’t enough to really worry about. But yesterday I opened my mailbox to find a unexpected bill, from Guardian Water & Power for $33.89—$10 for setup, $16.34 for gas, and $7.55 for trash. Had Mr. Fisher or F&W Properties been considerate enough to let me know that I’d be receiving such a bill? Nope. Hence this blog post.

F & W Properties logo The team at F&W Properties considers you the most vital part of our community. We are looking forward to continuing to build a relationship with you, the newest member of our F&W Properties family.

Considering that F&W Properties is over 120 days into its acquisition of Park Layne, and considering that F&W Properties had to have signed a contract for Guardian’s submetering utility services, there’s simply no excuse for F&W’s not having notified its tenants in advance. That F&W did not care whether its tenants were surprised by these bills shows that F&W in fact does not consider its tenants the “the most vital part of their community.” It’s a shitty business practice, and it shows exactly what kind of relationship F&W wants to build with us — a relationship in which F&W tries to maximize their profits while not communicating at all with their customers.

What’s even more stupid about this is that many of us who live at Park Layne have leases that specifically say, in paragraph 11, that heat and trash removal will be paid by the landlord and not the tenants. F&W could say that month-to-month renters will have to pay these new charges, and F&W can say they won’t issue new leases covering heat and trash, but they can’t make tenants who still have leases pay these charges.

And what’s really shitty about this is that the bills we’ve just received in January are for the period “10/17/2016–11/14/2016.” Even assuming that Park Layne tenants should be paying extra for gas and trash, such a change should require prior notification — in other words, if you want us to pay for services that start on 10/17, you have to tell us before 10/17.

Nate Fisher’s an asshole, or at least so I’ve come to believe judging by his actions. I’m sure his family loves him and that many people think he’s a great guy, but the folks at Park Layne think he’s someone who’s horrible at communication, who doesn’t follow through on his promises (four months later the meet and greet promised for within a few weeks still hasn’t happened), and who wants to nickel and dime us to death.

I pay $185 more per month for my two-bedroom unit on the eleventh floor than my neighbor across the hall pays for her three-bedroom unit. How do I know this? Because F&W stupidly put my neighbor’s rent confirmation letter under my door. But regardless of the specific amount, for what we’re paying to live at Park Layne, we should be getting much better service than F&W seems to want to provide. I don’t want to move, but if Nate Fisher is intent on proving that he is an asshole instead of trying to show that he’s not, I’ll move at the end of my lease and he can try to get someone else to pay what I paid or more.

Update: Mr. Fisher emailed me back to say:

Guardian Water and Power accidentally sent bills to the entire building, when they were only to send bills to residents that have moved in since we purchased the property or have resigned a new lease. The new lease we are using has all the proper provisions to implement these changes. I apologize for their error, We will honor all the existing leases, that our legal obligation.

He also admonished me, saying:

There is no reason to jump to conclusions without having all the facts.

I admonished him right back. Another tenant emailed him yesterday about the unexpected bill, so Mr. Fisher knew then about the problem. Did he send out an email to the Park Layne tenants for whom he has email addresses (which is at least everyone on auto pay)? Did he have the doorman who works on Sunday post a notice in the mailroom or by the elevators explaining the problem? No, he did not. In other words, he still sucks at communication.

And blaming this all on Guardian overlooks the fact that Guardian wouldn't even know my name if F&W hadn’t provided it to Guardian. The only reason that Guardian could mail a bill to D Lauri is because F&W told them my name and provided them with my address and apartment number. There was no need for F&W to give my information to Guardian until my lease expired.

Given the tone of Mr. Fisher’s reply to me, I suspect that he really dislikes when people call him out on his poor communication skills. You know what? If I’d blogged about this in September, perhaps I could understand his point of view. But I have less and less sympathy for him the more times he fails to take basic steps to communicate with his customers, the people he claims are “the most vital part of his community.”

You’re the person making a profit based on my being your customer, Mr. Fisher. You might want to be the bigger person, you might want to simply apologize when mistakes happen, and you might want to show your customers that you value us.

Or not. But then don’t be upset when people come to conclusions based on your actions or lack thereof.

Friday, August 3rd, 2007
This evening was my church council’s summer potluck. Food, of course, is important at churches, and our church is no exception. In fact, food’s so important that we’re putting together a 10th anniversary cookbook to collect recipes for the various good things we’ve had to eat over the life of the church. Since the council was gathering this evening to eat together, our cookbook coordinator had us prepare items from submitted recipes for testing and for photographing. I made Mexican deviled eggs.
My apartment building's little convenience store
Older expensive eggs
Newer cheaper eggs
Peeled eggs
Egg whites ready for filling
Egg yolks ready for mashing
Mexican deviled eggs

Texas sheet cake
The first thing to know about making deviled eggs, Mexican or otherwise, is how to make hard boiled eggs, and the first thing to know about making hard boiled eggs is not to use extremely fresh eggs because if you do, you’ll have a devil of a time peeling them. You want eggs that are at least a week old.

So you have to plan ahead a bit to make deviled eggs, and not having done so, I had no eggs on hand, week old or otherwise. But a great thing about the apartment building in which I live is that they have a little convenience store, and so yesterday (I did plan ahead a little) I was able to buy some old expensive eggs, $0.99 per half dozen, expiration date 8/3. Perfect age-wise, if not price-wise, because they were still fairly fresh but old enough to be easy to peel. I boiled them yesterday evening, gave them a quick cooldown afterwards under running cold water and then stuck them in the fridge to peel today.

I stopped by Krogers later yesterday evening to get some more eggs, not for this recipe but to have some more on hand and out of curiosity as to how old the other eggs were. The eggs I bought at Kroger had an expiration date of 8/21, about 2 1/2 weeks out, which means the eggs I bought at my building’s store had been sitting around about that long. Also, the Kroger eggs cost $0.99 per dozen, meaning my building’s store’s markup is 100%. Ah, well, you do have to pay for convenience.

Though I took some pics today at various stages in the preparation of my deviled eggs, I’m not going to give you the recipe — if you want that or the recipe for anything else you see, you’ll have to buy the cookbook. I will tell you that Mexican deviled eggs have salsa, mayonnaise, sour cream and cheddar cheese in them.
Tomatoes Southern-style
Macaroni of some sort
Spaghetti of some sort
Bean salad
Potatoes of some sort
Potatoes of another sort
Zuchini bread and two cooks

Sitting around talking after supperCatching bubblesBlowing bubbles
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

"2" movies
Something fun about the apartment building I live in is that they have movie nights and games nights (ever play Pokeno?). Tonight was a movie night, featuring, as you can see from the flyer to the right, "2" movies, Bridge to Terebithia and Daddy's Little Girls. All the announcements at Park Layne are in this style, with creative uses of quotation marks and punctuation.

I don't usually participate in these group activities, but I did want to see Bridge to Terebithia, since I'd become familiar with the book when I took Adolescent Literature a few years ago. The movie's not typical Disney, staying fairly true to the book including a tragic event that was the point of the book's being written. A great story for helping kids learn that tragedy's part of life and that they can deal with it. Also a great story for teaching about foreshadowing. Disney even leaves in (somewhat shortened) a little lesson about Jesus and Biblical literalism, which I think would make this a great film for a youth group to watch and discuss.

I can't tell you whether "2" movies were actually screened (or if that "2" meant something else) because I didn't stay for the second one. Sorry.

While I'm on the subject of fun things about Park Layne, here's another, namely that the basement garages flood whenever there's any rain outside. Usually I just see the aftermath, but yesterday there was a downpour outside as I was leaving, and so I got to see that my garage floods not just because of seepage from the walls but even more so because of a big leak in the ceiling. You can't see the leak so well in these photos, but you can see the effect of the drips hitting the pond below the leak:
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