vintage management: slumlords

i think that looking for apartments is ruining my life. jared & i arranged to do another walk-through over at Tiny House the other day. Tiny House is a tiny house in east lawrence that we kind of liked. it has that old-house charm, wood floord, big yard, etc etc, but it’s only one bedroom. i liked it quite a bit, despite acknowledging its Tininess. jared thought it was cute, but was really too Tiny. for whatever reason, he conceded to me & agreed to fill out an application for it. when i dropped our applications off, the property manager told me that another couple had beaten us to applying for Tiny House by about twenty minutes. if there’s nothing wrong with their applications, they’ll get Tiny House. if there’s some kind of hitch, we can swoop it & take it.

i rather surprised myself by crying about the idea of someone else living in Tiny House. it’s not that i was in love with it & thought it was perfect. honestly, i found it merely adequate. there are undoubtedly other rental properties in lawrence that are more suitable to our needs. maybe it was just the frustration of having seen it first, having dragged our feet a little with the applications (not having them ready to go as soon as we finished the second walk-through), having stopped to get ice cream & pre-natal vitamins before dropping off the applications…

anyway, jared gave me a little pep talk to make me feel better. it turns out that he was far less excited about Tiny House than he let on. he found it patently too Tiny, despite everything he said about how, “we could make this work. we can use smart storage solutions & be really happy in Tiny House.” suddenly the truth came out. Tiny House’s main identifying characteristic was also its primary failing. so i took some deep breaths & was like, “okay, this is early days yet. a lot of the most interesting properties in town aren’t even on the market yet. we’ll find something. & if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with our current apartment. we don’t HAVE to move.”

well, scratch that. we DO have to move. i called my landlord this morning to inquire about the fact that everyone else in our building has received their letters asking if they want to renew their leases for august or not. i was just checking in because the renewal letters include the rent increases, & the rent increase would decide whether or not we really need to commit to finding a new place to live. my landlord informed me, “you didn’t get a letter because i didn’t send you one. i’m not renewing your lease.”

i said, “may i ask why not?”

he said, “because you called the city on me. i don’t renew leases for tenants who call the city on me.” (readers may recall that i was forced to call the city on him last fall after he flat out refused to install a bathroom door in our apartment, in violation of the city housing code. the housing inspector called him & threatened legal action if he did not install a bathroom door. he installed a bathroom door within days & we haven’t had any problems with him or the apartment since.)

i said, “refusing to renew our lease for that reason is retaliatory & retaliating against tenants who call the city to have their rights enforced is illegal.”

he said, “so it is.” & hung up on me.

so i called the city AGAIN & made an appointment to file a formal complaint about his retaliation. not that it really changes anything. i don’t know that the city has the power to FORCE him to renew our lease, & i don’t think we would be especially interested in renewing a lease with a landlord who straight up engages in that kind of illegal behavior. i don’t really know what, if anything, there is to be done about this, especially because the laws in kansas are so skewed in favor of protecting landlords. tenants in kansas have almost no rights. & clearly, when we do pursue the few rights we have, our landlords just violate some more of our rights. lawrence really needs a tenants union.

anyway, this means that we really do need to find a new place to live for august. i just talked to a landlord who owns a lot of the apartments above businesses downtown. she sold me on a historic two-bedroom apartment right on massachusetts st., right in our price range. living on massachusetts st. may be just as noisy as living on tennessee st., but since living on tennessee st. is no longer an option, i don’t know that i care. it’s walkable to the university, obviously walkable to downtown because it’s IN downtown, hardwood floors, etc. i’m in love with it already, but i think that all of this fucked up apartment searching/landlord asshole behavior bullshit has just given me stockholm syndrome. i feel like i would rent a cardboard box if it had some wood laminate & an east lawrence address.

i told jared the other day that i really don’t think he understands how stressful it is to look for apartments. we more or less collaborated on finding our first apartment in lawrence, &…well…look how that turned out. that was the one we had to actually have condemned by the city. jared loved the place, i hated it, but i bit my tongue because jared was so lukewarm about all the other places we’d seen (which were all with the same evil landlord that rented us an uninhabitable apartment, so i’m certainly not arguing that any of them would have been any better). i learned that i really shouldn’t stay quiet when i’m looking at an apartment i don’t feel great about. i have put my head down & done most of the heavy lifting with every apartment since then (in terms of looking, not in terms of moving) & it really sucks. it’s a process of sending dozens of e-mails into the ether to landlords who never get back to you. spending hours on the phone trying to schedule showings & sort out applicant rules. going to showings all over town, standing around waiting when landlords & property managers are late, trying to remember to look at appliances & water pressure & heating vents & stair railings & every little thing.

& now my one little sanity-preserving silver lining–that moving in august is completely optional–has been snatched away by mark e. lehmann, evil landlord extraordinaire. if anyone reading this lives in lawrence or is thinking about moving here, do yourself a favor & do not rent from vintage management. i hope he googles this.

but hey! in other news, how hilarious was the “top model” premiere? i loved that they made the girls do a runway show in giant hamster balls, & that every time someone fell down, the cameras cut away to show the audience smiling gleefully & openly laughing. that was even better than when cycle 14 alexandra got knocked off the runway by a giant pendulum.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

5 thoughts on “vintage management: slumlords

  1. Ahaha, wow. You juuuuust saved me from potential headache because I was thinking about Vintage Mgmt and found this via google. Apparently you’re not the only one that thinks this guy is a jerkface. Thank you, internet stranger.

    1. happy to help! though we do need a short-term subletter on our current place. the thing about vintage is that they do obviously fucked up shit like not installing legally-required bathroom doors & then refusing to renew the leases of people who agitate for their rights, but their maintenance guy is a real sweetheart & pretty competent. they are slumlords, but having spent the last month looking for a new apartment, i can vouch for the fact that almost every landlord in lawrence is a slumlord. the only way to avoid renting from a slumlord or some kind of sketchy asshole is to hold out for some nice person or couple who just owns like two houses & maybe lives in one of them & just wants a nice tenant to keep it looking nice. & then that is going to be a situation where you are not really going to be able to have big crazy parties or to bend the rules or anything. the places that don’t care if you have huge parties or disallowed dogs or whatever are the same places that will take three months to replace your refrigerator door & try to rent you an apartment without a deadbolt lock or whatever.

      i have heard mixed things about vintage as far as properties go. some people have lived in total falling down shitholes, & other people say they’re the best landlords ever & their properties are gorgeous. i have only ever lived in this one building, which is pretty sturdy & nice…you just have to know how to finesse the landlord if you have questions or requests. my apartment through vintage is by no means a shithole. nor is it perfect, but the main problem is that mark is an asshole. but we still probably would have renewed the lease for another year (we’ve been in the building for about two years) if he had let us & if we hadn’t found our dream house.

      i think looking for apartments in lawrence is really difficult, but here are my tips: always look at a property before you sign a lease (duh). if you overhear the current tenants complaining about how they weren’t informed that the apartments was going to be shown that day, that’s a red flag. that means management won’t inform YOU before they come by to fix stuff or show it. be on the look-out for any water damage or black spots around doors & windows. look for gaps between windowframes, doorframes, & walls. avoid anything with a soft, bouncy floor. that indicates serious structural issues. don’t be shy about running water in sinks & bathtubs, checking the water pressure, making sure hot water gets hot, & seeing how everything drains. check windows & see if they are double-paned, have storm windows, have screens, etc. none of this stuff is at all standard in lawrence, so if you can find this stuff, that means the landlord probably takes nice care of the property. make sure the apartment you’re looking at has a keylock & a deadbolt, & if you’re looking at a place in a building, bear in mind that the entrances to the building are also required to have locks & be weathertight. if you fall in love with an apartment in a non-locking building, just ask yourself how safe you feel there. i rented a place once in a non-locking building & yup, someone broke in & stole my boyfriend’s computer one day. in broad daylight. jimmied open our locked apartment door with a crowbar.

      look for any holes or dents in floors, doors, & walls. make sure all the doors have doorknobs & that they work okay. make sure any sliding doors slide in their tracks. make sure the bathtub isn’t missing any enamel. check for rust marks around the toilet, bathtub, & faucets on sinks. if the landlord advertises an apartment as having central air or a washer & dryer, those amenities have to be in good working order.

      this is all pretty obvious i guess. the big one is: if you find a place that you think you can call home, but you feel iffy about the landlord, try to go with your gut. a person can be a gruff asshole, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do good maintenance work & be fair with your security deposit. someone can be sugary sweet but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a slumlord. do your research (like you’re already doing), ask questions. if you can ask the current tenants why they’re leaving & you’re a good judge of character who can tell when someone’s not telling you the whole truth, that can be helpful. double & triple check the application form (certain questions are illegal–ask about anything that seems fishy) & your lease. you are entitled to strike out any clauses in your lease that are prohibited by the landlord-tenant act (for example, anything saying that you security deposit is in some way non-refundable as a matter of course). ask about that stuff & try to come to an agreement. anything you sign can be held against you in court if you have a problem down the road, so try to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re signing.

      other management companies/landlords in lawrence to avoid or be aware of:

      gage management are notorious slumlords. some of their properties are cute, but once they start to fall into disrepair, they don’t really do much to turn things around. they generally do not shovel walks or do any lawn work, in violation of city law. an example of their lack of maintenance: the oven door fell off in one of their units, & they just never replaced it. the tenants lived in the apartment for six more months & had to eat take-out for every meal. the tenants did not call the housing inspector, as they were legally entitled to do, because they feared repercussions. i don’t know if gage has a track record of retaliating against tenants who call the city, but they obviously have a record of not helping tenants who DON’T call the city.

      morningstar management is THE WORST. their places are nicely priced & allow pets, but all of them are in horrible ramshackle repair. we’re talking windows that leave a two-inch gap in the wall, holes in the ceiling, crumbling foundations. we rented our first lawrence place from them, not realizing that there was such extensive roof damage that all the insulation in the apartment had turned to black mold. within a matter of days, my boyfriend, cat, & i were getting daily migraines & throwing up from mold poisoning. the air conditioning also broke down on the hottest day of the year & they just never replaced it. we eventually had to have the apartment condemned by the city in order to get out of the lease…& the landlord STILL kept the security deposit! worst of the worst.

      property management services: i’ve never rented from them but i’ve seen some of their properties & holy shit. if they are in any way habitable…there’s just no way. they honestly looked like photos of destroyed neighborhoods in new orleans once the hurricane katrina flood waters receded. noldy carpet pads, holes in floors, holes in doors, squishy foundations, crumbling staircases…horrifying.

      eck: i have heard that they are really strict about enforcing their noise policy (which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you are), & pretty much none of their properties allow pets, full stop. not sure about conditions of their places.

      first management: they have A LOT of properties all over town. they own many of the managed complexes. as such, the quality of their properties can be somewhat hit & miss, & they usually price accordingly (ie, dirt-cheap for a shithole, quite expensive for something nicer). the main thing to consider with these guys is that they are the ones building the condos downtown across from the bourgeois pig. i expect those condos to have a significant impact on the flavor of downtown lawrence–in a bad way. so ask yourself if that’s something you want to support.

      bonita yoder/joy realty: her properties are cute & well-located, generally in east lawrence or old west lawrence…& they are disgustingly maintained & wildly overpriced. she does NO MAINTENANCE whatsoever. NONE. one of her properties caught on fire a few years ago (a candle left in a bedroom lit everything on fire) & sustained several hundred thousand dollars of damage. the tenants were okay, but the property was severely damaged. bonita did fuck-all. she just left the smoldering heaps of debris out in the yard until neighbors started calling the city to complain. her buildings routinely have mold issues, foundation problems, etc. & she charges out the ass for them–far more than they are worth. plus she’s a flake. she routinely fails to show up for house viewings, doesn’t return phone calls or e-mails, & doesn’t have the necessary paperwork on hand for tenants. she pretty much pours all of her time & energy into desperately trying to rent out the numerous vacant properties she has around town for far more money than they are worth (most have been sitting empty for months…if not years), writing books & pamphlets about how to become a millionaire by smart property investment (ie, how to be a slumlord), & her ventriloquism act (not kidding). her own home is huge & freshly-renovated & beautiful. her rental properties are in complete disrepair. an example of her money smarts: i looked at one property that she described as “$850, utilities included”. when i showed up to the viewing, the price was suddenly “$875, utilities not included”. now it’s listed on CL for “$890, utilities not included”. she seems to reel people in with offers of cheap rent & then jacks up the price on them when they see the place, hoping they’ll just agree.

      all right! good luck.

  2. This is why I’m so nervous about looking for a place here in Lawrence! I know this post is old, but I came across it trying to find out who NOT to rent from. I currently am in housing owned by the University of Kansas, and it’s great, have had no trouble in the last year. Do you know anything about Dutcher Properties? I want to go see a place they own, and I can’t find anything bad about them online, though I’m not finding anything at all, period.

    1. i’ve never heard of dutcher properties. i have struggled though to find any property management in lawrence that isn’t a slumlord. i’ve been in my current place for the last two years & it’s a little house owned by the woman who lives next door. she owns her house & my house & that’s all, so she’s motivated to take care of the property & not be a jerk. i just stumbled across it in an ad in the newspaper.

      but i know other good deals like this are out there. i have friends in town who have great houses. it just takes a little digging & a little luck.

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