World-class rough? Students painted into a corner

 The house at 910 Rugby Road may have been lovely in its day, but it isn't any more. For many years now, it's been rented to students. Students, because they're usually young and transient, can be rough on a place. But $2,475 rough? That would be world-class rough.

Conor Lastowka, who lived in the house with four roommates last year, emailed me to complain. The group had paid one month's rent, $1,375, as a deposit when they signed the lease. At the end of the lease, although they brought in a cleaning crew and paid them $175, they "were shocked to find out that instead of getting a substantial part of our [deposit] back, we were being billed $1,100 over the deposit. A majority of these charges were for 'painting and patching' the walls– $1,500." Ouch.

I spoke with Don Godfrey, who runs the business with his brother Gregory as Godfrey Property Management. He claims that the place had just been painted when Lastowka and the others moved in. "It was immaculate," he said, "and they screwed up."

Current resident Hadi Irvani gave me a tour of the house and had plenty to say about Godfrey's management of the place. He claims that tenants have to call repeatedly before anything gets fixed– and as for that $1,500 paint job, there are tell-tale signs that it was a spray-paint job.

"It's the quickest way you can paint," says Raymond Scarabosio, past president of the National Association of Residential Property Managers. "It's quick and dirty." Scarabosio also says that "80 percent of a paint job is prep work."

On my tour of the house, I saw pubic hairs or beard clippings on the bathroom windowsill that had clearly been covered with spray paint. So much for prep work.

I visited with Betty Michael, who lives next door at 900 Rugby Road and who described how different things were before the current owner, George Minor, inherited the house when his uncle, Peter Minor, died. Godfrey's management of the property has been a continual source of frustration for Michael. On at least one occasion, she's had to call the City to compel Godfrey to mow the lawn. She also claims that some of the screens– when there even are screens– are held in place only by the dead ivy stuck to them.

I called George Minor to see if he was aware of the allegations that the house is deteriorating.

"There are some neighbors who like to interfere" was his reply. He went on to say that he has "no great criticism of Godfrey," who also manages two other rental properties he owns. He did, however, say that he'd go over and take a look.

Gregory Godfrey, through his brother Don, refused to speak to me, so I emailed some questions. First, I asked about a leak in the downstairs bathroom ceiling, which is below the bathtub above it, and about a large hole in the wall.

Don's response was that they hadn't known about it– yet the damage was there before the current group moved in, and Irvani has pictures to show it, taken prior to his moving in.

I also asked about Michael's complaint about yard upkeep, and he replied, "We have a contractor responsible for cutting the grass as needed. The tenants are students and do not tend to care about the appearance and upkeep of the neighborhood."

Minor concedes that "a dozen" neighbors have expressed their frustration to him, but he ascribes their discontent to the fact that he rents to students. "They want old and well-to-do people living there," he says of the neighbors.

Is it the tenants, the property managers, or the owner? Landlord-tenant disputes don't lend themselves to easy answers.

Next week: We visit two more Godfrey-managed properties owned by George Minor.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.