St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 5, 2010 -
An apartment management company in Creve Coeur, Mo., appears to be violating Missouri law by withholding security deposits from Saint Louis University students and their parents without cause. In some cases, the former tenants told the Better Business Bureau (BBB) they were able to get their deposits refunded only after driving to the company offices and threatening legal action.
The BBB suggests caution when dealing with University Heights Loft Apartments
, 3720 Laclede Ave., St. Louis, and Midland Management Corp.,
1227 Fern Ridge Pkwy., Suite 202, Creve Coeur. Midland Management Corp., which oversees management of the apartment building, has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
“The whole thing just reeks,” said the father of a Saint Louis University student from Glen Carbon, Ill., whose daughter shared an apartment in the complex with two friends until May. Despite a state law that requires the return of security deposits in 30 days, the man said the women did not receive the $900 refund they were owed until three months later and then only after he drove to the management company offices to demand the money.
Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that if a landlord does not return a security deposit within 30 days of the end of tenancy, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages. “Midland appears to be hanging on to these security deposits even in cases where it has no legal right to do so,” Corey said. “It also appears that Midland has not done a good job of responding to consumer concerns.”
Kathy Kleiman, who identified herself as director of property management for Midland, told the BBB that a series of problems has caused the delays in processing deposit refunds.
She said they include the loss of the former complex manager, a reduction in staff in Midland’s offices, and communication difficulties between her office and former tenants. As a result, she said, some refunds have “gone out a little slowly.” She said she is working to correct the problems. Despite consumer complaints that they did not receive return phone calls from the company, Kleiman said the company is vigilant about returning messages. She said the company soon would be moving its offices to Clayton.
Most of the more than 30 BBB complaints against University Heights Lofts and Midland Management deal with failing to refund security deposits and/or key card deposits.
A former Saint Louis University student who still lives in the St. Louis area said he paid a deposit of $875 more than two years ago when he signed a two-year lease agreement for an apartment in University Heights. At that time, he was told that $200 of that fee would be retained by the complex, but the remaining $675 would be refunded after he left.
He said he moved out of the apartment at the end of May and was told then that he would receive the full deposit back. When he did not, he phoned Midland’s offices “a couple dozen times” and received no response. He said his deposit was returned in late September after the BBB got involved in his case.
A father from Wheaton, Ill., said his daughter had a similar experience. He said the family phoned Midland Management for weeks about her security deposit, calling 26 times one day alone. He said she was able to get her $350 refund only after driving to the company’s offices. “I don’t expect that in St. Louis,” he said.
A Saint Louis University student from Wildwood, Mo., said he was refunded a $500 security deposit only after he went to Midland Management office and threatened to take the company to court. “I just wanted my money back,” he said.
The BBB offers the following tips for renters who pay security deposits before moving into a rental property:
- Know exactly how much the security deposit will be and make sure you get in writing the circumstances that allow the building management to keep all or part of the deposit. For instance, is it a problem to hammer nails in the walls? Will you lose a portion of your deposit unless the carpeting or floors are cleaned or the refrigerator is left in move-in condition?
- Walk through the living area with a building representative before taking possession, noting in writing any existing flaws or problems. If in doubt, mark it down. It will be much easier to argue a pre-existing condition if it is already in writing.
- At the time of move-out, do another walk-through with a representative of the building management, noting any problems and discussing thoroughly what, if anything can be done to ensure you will get a full refund of your deposit.
- Contact the BBB for a Reliability Report on a business before renting by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-645-3300, email@example.com