Lessee lessons: Two of three tenants still sad

Tenant woes dominated this space in late April and early May, with each of three successive columns ending with at least the shadow of a hope that things might get resolved. Now I can report that one outcome was semi-happy, one was distinctly unhappy, and one's still in limbo.

Tim Mulholland is the semi-happy tenant– or maybe "philosophical" would be closer to the truth. Mulholland and his roommate ran into an immovable policy when they tried to replace a departing roommate with one who hadn't quite graduated from UVA ["Ashtree dustup," May 11]. Ashtree's policy for townhouses (unlike apartments) is that undergraduates aren't allowed, unless they're 25 or older.

Mulholland had been a happy customer of Management Services Corporation (MSC), which manages Ashtree, for five years when he hit that serious bump. Communication issues arose on both sides as he was renewing his lease, and adding the new roommate snowballed into what threatened to be an expensive year for Mulholland and his remaining roommate, since finding a replacement so late in the year can be tough.

When I spoke with Andrea Heide, regional market manager for MSC, she said that she'd be glad to discuss the situation with them; Mulholland hoped they might be allowed to move into a two-bedroom apartment.

Instead, he claims, Heide "wouldn't budge" on anything. Just in the nick of time, however, a friend of a friend surfaced who needed an apartment, and voilĂ ! The problem was solved.

When I asked how he feels now about MSC, Mulholland said he's trying to focus on the five good years he's had with the company. Although they might not outweigh his frustration right now, he added, they probably will in a couple of months.

As for the unhappy outcome, that would be Robert Stilling. Stilling and his fellow tenants at 415 Brandon Avenue were notified last November that because Wade Apartments had sold the building– to make way for UVA's South Lawn project– their leases would not be renewed. Reluctantly, Stilling signed a lease for another Wade property on Wertland Avenue.

But then he learned in March that the new owner of the Brandon Avenue building, the UVA Foundation, would allow tenants to renew after all. Stilling swung into action, appealing to both his landlord and the university to be allowed to stay.

Wade Tremblay, general manager of Wade Apartments, expressed sympathy for Stilling's situation– but claimed he would be "opening Pandora's box" if he made an exception and let Stilling out of the new lease; what if other tenants wanted to follow suit? Tim Rose, UVA Foundation CEO, claimed he wasn't aware of the problem and promised to contact Stilling.

Stilling claims that never happened. "With two weeks left," he emailed last week, "I am resigned to moving to my new apartment." To make things worse, he's had to put up with prospective tenants being shown an apartment he doesn't want to leave.

"It would be nice," he added, "if the Foundation or Wade were willing to compensate me for my moving expenses, since they are, I believe, at fault for this mess." Nice, yes; likely, no.

Finally, Arin Bennett's tenant travails are either in limbo or in the ozone– but, in any case, I suspect they're safely in the past. Bennett broke his lease at University Place apartments on April 30, after about $1,800 worth of electronics equipment was stolen from his bedroom ["Keyed up," May 4]. Bennett claims there was evidence to suggest that someone with access to keys might have been involved, and the Albemarle County Police sent a detective to investigate.

As far as Bennett can tell, however, nothing came of it. The last he heard from property manager Susan Rooke, he says, was a phone message she left on April 26 saying that she was "waiting to hear" from her superiors about Bennett's intention to move out. 

So Bennett's moved out, but he's still in limbo.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville 22902. 


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