No love above: Barclay Place works it out

"Come home to Barclay Place," its website urges, a "peaceful retreat" where one can "appreciate the residential-like seclusion in prestigious Albemarle County."

While the English majors among us might wonder what "residential-like seclusion" means, Joshua Bartz stays busy wondering what happened to his "peaceful retreat."

Bartz, a UVA law student, lived contentedly last year at the upscale apartment complex. When his lease ended in August, he changed roommates and apartments and moved in under neighbors who, he claimed, shattered his calm. Starting on September 4, he made "numerous complaints" about them and their allegedly boisterous habits. In a written account, for instance, he stated that they "routinely run across their apartment wearing heavy boots while playing fetch with their dog. "

When they aren't entertaining "numerous visitors who also make ridiculous amounts of noise," he stated, they entertain themselves by "jumping up and down so violently that walls shake, furniture moves, and decorative plates have been jarred onto the floor."

Bartz claims that his complaints made no dent in the couple's lively lifestyle. After a meeting arranged by Tammy Ray, the complex's manager, he says, the racket just got worse. Given the husband's "extremely belligerent attitude at the meeting," Bartz wrote, "it is obvious they are doing this intentionally as revenge."

Bartz finally filed a complaint with the state Office of Consumer Affairs, after which, he says, Ray and her boss at Great Eastern Management Company – which manages the complex – offered to let Bartz and his roommate move to a new apartment.

It seems like things would have calmed down after that, but just the opposite. "It was at this point," Bartz declares, "that they began their fraudulent and deceptive practices." By his account, Great Eastern first said that Bartz and his roommate could transfer without paying any additional deposits, but then demanded a $400 security deposit from Bartz and a $250 pet deposit from his roommate.

After that, Bartz says, all kinds of mayhem ensued regarding when they would vacate their current apartment and move into the one they'd chosen. Things went downhill fast, and by the time he contacted The Hook on October 13, they appeared to be at an impasse.

I spoke briefly with Tammy Ray, who referred me to her boss, Dotty Hopkins, managing director of Great Eastern. The noise concerns, Hopkins claimed, "went both ways." She said that the situation had been frustrating for everyone. "We believe we've been very responsive," she said. "We try to be extraordinarily customer-service oriented."

The apartment Bartz will be moving into, she said, is more expensive, has more features, and is on the top floor– which means that no heavy-booted neighbors can be cavorting overhead. Even so, Bartz and his roommate will pay the same rent they're paying for their current apartment.

As for the allegedly unfair deposits, Hopkins explained that Great Eastern's policy is to handle such transfers as two separate transactions: They inspect the first apartment when it's empty and refund the appropriate amount from that deposit. Meanwhile, before the tenant moves into the new apartment, the complex collects a second deposit. In other words, Bartz and his roommate weren't being asked to pay more overall; they would presumably be reimbursed the original deposits. In this situation, however, Hopkins said that Great Eastern had already decided to make an exception and not require a second set of deposits.

All Bartz had to do, she said, was pick up his keys and provide a moving date. He's now done that, and by the time you read this, he expects to be mid-move. Let's hope he finds that peaceful retreat soon– and has really quiet downstairs neighbors.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at Box 4553, Charlottesville 22905.



The company most frequently mentioned in this column, Lethal Wrecker, finds itself in the news again this week. See story, page xx.