The last time I went on a tangent like this it was because of a Carnival cruise gone wrong. I apologize if I lose you here. This all just needs to be put out on the interwebs and hopefully anyone who googles "Realty Executives" will find it.
We spent the last year renting a house from Realty Executives in St. Robert, Missouri.
Let's start with the fact that, on the day we moved in, I asked our property manager where the mailbox was and she didn't know. I had to drive around the neighborhood and look for it. (For the record, it was 1/2 mile away in a cluster of boxes that were all but falling off the contraption that held them up.)
Or we could start with the fact that I asked how many square feet the house was. She didn't know.
Or maybe when I asked about the best internet provider in the area. I got a shoulder shrug as a response.
All of this should have been a warning, right?
But actually, let's fast forward. In March, we got a call while we were out of town on a Saturday saying that they wanted to show our house to potential renters. Uhhh…okay? I mean, I guess? Sure? Maybe? We're not there, we own valuable things such as guns and army equipment and whatnot. To say we were uncomfortable with that scenario was an understatement. But, we said yes before we thought about it too much.
Think about this: It was a Saturday morning. We'd both worked all week. The house was a disaster. Dirty dishes, dirty laundry, unmade beds, dirty floors, all the stuff all over the place, etc. That, I suppose, was Realty Executives' loss. They never called with a request like that again. (We later found out they'd called friends of ours with the same request and they said, "Hell no. I've got guns in that house.")
Now, let's shoot forward to April. I posted about this incident here, but I can rehash it for any new readers. Long story short: A couple we are friends with moved out of their Realty Executives rental. They were expecting a package and, since they were still living in the area, they drove by the rental every day or so to check for it. It was unoccupied and a neighbor was also looking out for it. It had been backordered or something, so they didn't expect it to be sent to them after they'd already left the address. Finally, after checking with the company, my friend found out it'd been delivered a few days before. Before she had a chance to call Realty Executives, they called her and said they found a package on the porch and they were going to send it back to the company and send my friend a bill since they weren't going to pay the return shipping. Whoa, whoa, right? My friend said, "Hey, I'm still here…I'll come get it!" She went to pick it up.
They'd already opened it. They'd had it sitting in their offices for almost a week. THEY OPENED HER MAIL.
The theory is that they opened it, passed it around the office, decided no one wanted the set of coasters she'd ordered from Hautelook, and decided to call her.
But that's just a theory.
Their excuse was that they didn't read the label before opening it. What's more: They didn't apologize. Had it been an accident, you'd think they'd have called right away with, "Oh geez, I'm so sorry I accidentally opened this package that was mistakenly put on my desk…can you pick it up?" There was none of that. To Realty Executives, it was an inconvenience and no fault of theirs. (I get that it wasn't ideal, but they obviously had my friend's phone number…why not call her as soon as they got it?)
So, being the super helpful social media guru that I am (not really), I offered to mention this on the Ft. Leonard-Wood Spouses page on Facebook. The purpose of the group is "providing information to our military spouses". There's lots of questions about renting, buying, where to go to the dentist, where to get your car fixed, restaurants, shopping, etc. In other words, advice for those military spouses who are stationed at Ft. Leonard-Wood.
I got lots of responses from fellow spouses. Most were horrified that a rental company would open a tenant's mail. It is illegal and all. I posted about it on this blog and got the same reaction.
Realty Executives apparently saw my post on the Spouses' page. They called my friends. They threatened them with, "You better tell her to take that down right now". They worried it could be "misinterpreted" as a crime. Well, if you don't want something to be misinterpreted as a crime, you should first educate your employees on how to follow the law and then you should teach them what good customer service looks like. Then, there might not be a "misinterpretation".
After a few days, I did take it down. It served its purpose. The goal was only to spread the information. Plus, it'd been moved down so far on the feed that I doubt anyone was still able to see it. I know they couldn't claim slander on that one. The story was, unfortunately, the truth.
In hindsight, what I did was a bad idea. I truly was just trying to be helpful, but what I actually did was put a target on my back because we were still in a lease with Realty Executives. I'd let my emotions guide that one. Kind of a fail on my part. Regardless, they never contacted me and I don't even know that they made the connection that I (the person in a lease with them) posted that. I never told anyone I took it down. I just let it go away.
Soon after, Scott was in the Housing Office for something or other, and he mentioned this to them. The Housing Office said, "Yeah, I bet they have a target on you now." Comforting. There is something wrong with the world when you feel that your rental agency is out to get you. They also said that they've had so many complaints about them that Realty Executives (who really has the monopoly at Ft. Leonard-Wood) was getting close to being blacklisted.
On June 6, our lease was up. We paid $500 to have the house and the carpets professionally cleaned in hopes of getting our entire $1,000 security deposit back. Inspection time arrived. After the property manager was finished, she handed me the report to look over. There was a question over curtain rods. She thought they were mine. No, I know my own curtain rods. Something about scuff marks and a loose towel rack. She said she would take a video of the house and compare it to the video she made when we moved in and look for discrepancies. She would do this after I left because "no one usually sticks around for that". I had to fight the urge to cement my feet to the ground. Unfortunately, I had a timeline to keep and couldn't stay. Her inspection took over an hour in just the time I was there.
Also, though we'd puttied all of the nail holes in the wall (even ones that were there when we moved in), we hadn't painted because we didn't choose to chip paint off the wall, go to Lowe's, and have them match it. Maybe this was something we really should have done. Maybe that's my fault. Previous rentals we've been in have had paint in the basement from the last time the walls were painted, so it's always been quite easy to putty and paint on our way out the door. Perhaps this was short-sighted on our part.
But what really bothered me was the timeline. As I looked over the inspection report on Friday, June 6th, I asked for a copy of it. That wasn't possible because the property manager had somewhere to be and couldn't go back to the office. She said, "You can sign it if you want". I asked what that meant (thinking about the curtain rod thing). She said it didn't matter if I signed it or not; she'd hand it to her boss regardless. I was confused. Since comparisons had not been made yet (as per the "videos"), I didn't feel comfortable signing anything. I took pictures of the report with my phone.
I asked when I could turn off the utilities. She said to call the office on Monday and see if they were done with the report.
I called on Monday. It wasn't ready. "Call back tomorrow" I was told. I was also told they had 30 days to get the deposit to us. Since I'm a college educated individual, I understood that. I can read verbatim from a lease too, Realty Executives. I just wanted to know if I could turn my utilities off. She hung up before I could voice my concerns.
I gave them the benefit of the doubt and called back on Wednesday.
This time I was told my property manager was out of the office but would call me back. She did call about 2 hours later. She said to go ahead and turn the utilities off and they were still waiting on a receipt from maintenance on how much the putty patches would cost to repaint.
30 days would be July 6th, so I wrote that down to remind myself.
They sent our security deposit back on June 24th, which was sooner than I'd expected. They took out $50 to replace a broken doorstopper and paint over the patches we'd put putty on. While $50 is far less than we'd expected them to take, it's an awfully even number. Whatever, I guess. It's over. Finally.
This is why the whole Realty Executives debacle bothers me:
I like to think that my husband and I are good people. He's an officer in the army. I'm an elementary school teacher. We like to think that we're upstanding citizens. We donate to charity. We have good credit scores. We pay our taxes. Scott once walked out of Cracker Barrel and forgot to pay the bill. He remembered, hours later, and went back to pay it. We're those kind of people.
The fact that Realty Executives made us feel like bad people makes me mad. They made us feel like they were always holding one over on us. They made us feel victimized. No one, especially not military families, should feel victimized by their rental agency.
(If you made it to the end of this, I wish I could give you dessert. Send me your address and it'll be on the way.)