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?
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.
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.