Carmel Partners Sticks Flood Bill to Tenant

“Though I have doubts about whether or not this will appear as anything of importance to anyone but myself, I still feel inclined to at least attempt to get this information out there. “

That’s the way Keith V.’s letter starts out to us. But we do care! Especially when a tipster is as fiery, eloquent and so clearly in-the-right as Keith is. And a company is as clearly sleazy and double-handed as Carmel Partners.

With the explosion of a sink and the searing of flesh in a spray of scalding hot water, Keith’s apartment was flooded. Upon calling his landlord, a maintenance crew moseyed on down from the apartment upstairs within a couple of hours to turn off the water. The culprit? A cracked bolt. But Carmel Partners claims that Keith broke that bolt himself when trying some extracurricular plumbing. Now they’re sticking him for $2 grand, baselessly claiming it’s his fault.

Let’s get behind Keith on this one. He’s got a newborn daughter to keep swaddled and can ill-afford $2 grand. Plus, he’s got spunk. Read his email, then jump in the comments and help him out with some advice.

Dear Consumerist,

Though I have doubts about whether or not this will appear as anything of importance to anyone but myself, I still feel inclined to at least attempt to get this information out there. Recently my apartment flooded. At the time of the occurrence we had called the emergency maintenance crew who took an entire two hours to show up and shut off the water; but if I may, let me start from the beginning. One Saturday evening as I was making my wife some hot tea I had noticed water leaking from what seemed to be underneath the dishwasher. I assume that I overloaded it and promptly opened the item to discharge the problem. I then found that it was actually leaking from underneath the sink after scrutinizing the situation. After using the shut off valve, the problem seemed to be taken care of. A few seconds later, my sink exploded in a giant splash of scalding hot water, which splattered all over my chest. Immediately after this occurrence my wife contacted the emergency maintenance phone number given to us by the management. Two hours later, and after a great deal of water damage, the water was turned off. This may not seem at all surprising to some but considering that the emergency maintenance man lives literally right above me it puzzles me as to why it took him two hours to turn off the water. He had told me that the flood was caused by a cracked bolt. They had called an extraction crew to get the water out and fix the carpets. On that following Monday, as my wife attempted to contact management on an unrelated issue, they told her that we would be billed for the damage. They also told her that they would be altering our rental agreement, with or without our signature/consent to reflect what we “owed” them.

They fabricated a statement from their maintenance man which said that I had been working on the pipes and broke the bolt which caused the flood. This is an out and out lie, as I have absolutely no desire to do any plumbing especially considering that it’s not my job to do so. Now they’re attempting to charge me over $2000 in regards to the damage. They have absolutely no proof whatsoever that I’m guilty of any wrongdoing which leads me to believe that the only reason they’re charging me is because they assume that I’m just a poor Mexican incapable of fighting back. I will not allow them to push me and my family around. The plain and simple fact remains that I’m not responsible for their shoddy plumbing work, not to mention the fact that had they properly assessed that situation and many others prior to my having moved in it would never have been an issue. On top of which we are on an extremely limited budget, by way that food is literally the only luxury we can currently afford.

I have a very difficult time scrounging up enough money to feed my daughter and ensure that she has clean diapers, let alone be maliciously forced by a large corporation (in this case Carmel Partners) to pay for damage that is legally their fault. I have very little recourse, aside from hoping to find an attorney who might be willing to take on my case as I will not back down from this. I will literally stop at nothing to ensure that these people do not steal a red cent for my pocket, I mean nothing! I even have witnesses who have told me that they are willing to testify in a court of law if necessary to ensure that this company doesn’t get away with this. I promised them that not only would I searched the world for a lawyer to take on my case but that I would also contact any media outlets willing to listen to show the country exactly what kind of company Carmel Partners is. Up until that point I had assumed that they were a good company. I had come to find out after it had occurred that this sort of thing happens often, as I was told by a number of other residents living below me who were also affected by the flood my apartment. One lady who had been living there for many years told me that this thing happens all the time; and they constantly forced the bill upon the residents because most of them are non-English speaking foreign nationals who don’t understand that they are not obligated to pay for mistakes made by the management company. I am absolutely furious at the audacity. I have up to this point only heard horror stories about people who have dealt with situations such as this, only to find at this time that I myself am now dealing with such a horror story. I am so angry right now that I could (and more importantly feel as though I should) promptly head over to the manager’s office this instant, give her an ear to ear paper cut with the bill that they have served me, and then head out to their headquarters to find the various owners of the company to force a bill of my own upon them. Unfortunately for them, I may actually be unstable enough to follow through with that… well, only time will tell and should my rage get the better of me, consumerist.com will be the first to have the scoop. I thank you if you have made it to this point in the letter and I hope that it wasn’t all-for-not.

Comments

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  1. KevinQ says:

    Keith, best of luck to you. Here’s a suggestion. Is there a lawschool or university in the city you live in? If so, give them a call and see if they have a rental legal clinic. This is usually a free (or dirt cheap) service provided to give their students some legal experience. They can let you know what your options are, and what laws apply.

    If there’s no university or law school program, then the local legal aid society might have a similar program. Or call the local bar association (your city should have an organization for lawyers) and ask if they have a referral program. (Don’t call a lawyer you saw on TV. They’ve got to pay for those ads somehow.) If you find a lawyer well-versed in landlord/tenant law, he might even be willing to write you a letter for no charge.

    What you want to know is what you can recover if you sue your landlord. In many areas (but not all), local laws allow a tenant who sues a landlord to collect much more than just their damages. Sometimes 2 or 3 times what you would otherwise deserve. (It’s an attempt to encourage tenants to sue, when otherwise they might just move out or pay.)

    Best-case scenario: you find a student or lawyer who knows the law and can write your landlord a letter, and that makes the problem go away. Otherwise, if you can get the information you need, you can explain the situation to the landlord. But before you take any drastic action (like suing) make sure you know what law applies in your area.

    Best of luck.

    K

  2. WMeredith says:

    I would also definitely hold off on the physical threats, no matter what the context (joking, sarcastic, etc.). That will surely come back and bite you in the ass if this does land you in court.

  3. trixare4kids says:

    I’m not sure where you live, but a lot of areas have “tenant’s rights” or “tenant advocacy” groups – they should be able to help you and give you the information. Your local city might have some kind of program or help also.

    Google tenant rights -your state- or -your city- and see what comes up!

    If you do sue in small claims court, most of them have telephone or drop in hours where you can consult with someone for free. They do not represent you, only point you in the right direction about how to file, what to file, or even if you have a case.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Jim writes:

    “1) Book stores sell books relating to tenants right in the state he lives in.

    2) Photograph everything for evidence.

    3) Some states / cities have tenant / landlord arbitration centers.

    4) Read his local paper, some papers have consumer action lines that would know the best resources for him to explore.”

  5. Ben Popken says:

    Ca_Chopppers writes:

    “First let me say that having been in a similar situation I can sympathize with the writers plight. I think his outrage over the matter is clearly justified and will serve him well in pursuing the matter as long as it doesn’t get the better of him. Next I would like to point out that in the majority of states the lessor of the property has an affirmative duty to mitigate the damages to the property even if (especially if) they believe the lessee to have been the cause of the damage. It seems improbable to me that any reasonable person would agree that a two hour trip down a single flight of stairs fulfills the lessors obligation.

    As to a material alteration of your contract after the fact, this is not a new contract regardless of the management companies assertions to the contrary. It is merely an offer for a new contract, one that I would summarily reject were I the offeree. It is actually quite probable that the use of this tactic is a violation of the equal housing laws in your state, and if you can prove racism so much the better for your cause.

    Finally, my advice in this situation is to begin contacting as many consumer advocacy agencies as possible. For example contact the equal housing authority and the BBB, make a complaint and ask them who else you should contact. Most importantly contact a lawyer make your case to them, and get professional advice. Most areas have pro bono services available and if your county doesn’t check out http://www.legalmatch.com

    -good luck”

  6. EverettAnaxagoras says:

    Keith: I think that you may have something here that is larger than you know. I am currently a resident at a Carmel Partner property in Alexandria Virginia and I am ready to file suit against them for anything that would stick. Carmel Partners does not care if you are white american or latino – they just strong arm anyone and everyone to cover their negligence and stupidity. In July of 2008 I had a water leak from the unit above me. Immediately following their “annual inspection and point up” of the HVAC units in the apartments the condensation line in the unit above me was blocked and overflowed sending water cascading down my kitchen wall for days. I also called and left a message (at midnight upon arriving home from work) with their LIVE answering service. It was days before anyone stopped the leak and once this was done they simply washed their hands of it. They never came back to remediate the damaged gyp wall board or fix the GFI outlet that had water running through it. The bathroom hot water valve was leaking so bad (one gallon every 5 minutes) through a faulty valve nut and this went on for 1.5 years. I then began to get excessive mold growth on my kitchen wall – the toxic black mold – and report this several times to the idiots in the office who as you can guess ignored it – so I decided to photograph the mold damage and sue the stupid idiots and with no notice at all they entered my apartment yesterday 10/14 and proceeded to sand the mold off the wall sending spores into the air of my apartment, prime and paint the wall. The manager then left a note on the service paperwork saying that she looked behind the wall (must have x-ray vision) and saw no evidence of mold. They never brought in an expert to test this to see if they exposed me to toxic mold, never responded in any manner. They are lying, theives who are never held accountable. You have a larger problem with the water damage and this is residual mold damage which every state has strict guidelines for – go on-line and enter your county and check for tenant-landlord issues as relates to mold remediation. I will guarantee you they have not even addressed you about this. Your baby will be exposed to toxic mold that will grow on the reverse side of gyp board, under carpets, etc. I have demanded of the local office that they forward me their written guidelines for mold remediation, test results from the mold that was present in my apartment etc. These people seem to think they are immune from any law – they started building a fitness center and cyber cafe in my building WITH NO BUILDING PERMIT! Had a stop work order from the city given to them and six months later started the work AGAIN with NO PERMIT! They just do not care about the welfare of their residents or apparently the law.

    So, here is my thought, there should be a class action lawsuit launched against Carmel Partners and you and I could initiate this. There have to be many more examples of what you and I are going through within the Carmel Partners portfolio of properties across this country and there has to be a lawyer who sees viability in a class action lawsuit. What do you think? Are you willing to work with me to affect this? If so, I will start a blog asking for all Carmel Partner residents past and current who experienced such stuff to step forward – it would at least be a first step. Let me know you have my e-mail. If you elect not to do this – DO NOT LET CARMEL DO THIS TO YOU – LEAVE THE APARTMENT AND SCREW THEM – DO NOT STAY. I don’t care what your credit looks like (mine sucks) you can find another place to live you just have to look and not allow yourself to be victimized. Get out of that apartment before mold kills you and your family.

    Let me know your thoughts, mine are with you.
    Barbara

  7. Ms. Cane says:

    Carmel Partners is famous for this tactic. In VA landlords are able to charge addt’l costs for water, sewage, and electricty. In 2010 Carmel Partner evicted all of the tenants from the Serrano located at 5539 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA. With half of the population evicted the utilitiy bills still climbed, and climbed and climbed. Some tenants received bills for $500-$600, and they had previously been paying $200-$250. How can companies we stopped from cheating their clients? What has mankind come to that cheating, stealing, and lieing is just a part of life. You make Carmel Partners pay for what they tried to do you. And yes, they tried that tactic on you because they all think people of color are stupid, and won’t fight back. Fight them tooth and nail. Fight them all day, and all night if need be. There are agencies that can help you. If you feel Carmel Partners has done this to you because you are Mexican contact Office of Civil Rights in your area.