Q: I question our new manager's ethics. She has been on the job at our senior complex for only several months now. My lease expires Sept. 30, and I received a letter two months ago alerting me to make an appointment to renew my lease for the coming year. My rent has gone up every year, and this increase is the highest ever. But what worries me most is that she has been a no-show for every appointment she makes to see me.
It's hard for me to get to the management office because I have diabetes and rely on a mechanical wheelchair for mobility. She was kind enough to say she would come to me to have the papers signed, but she never shows and doesn't call to cancel. Every time I've called her, I get her voicemail, but I can't hear the message and the beep well enough to leave a message. When I have emailed her and eventually get to talk to her, she tells me she has never received it, but I have never gotten an error showing it hasn't gone through. This has gone on since I received the letter asking whether I would like to renew the lease.
Our mailboxes are located in the manager's office, which is also where we receive our packages. She locks her office from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, which doesn't seem right because no one can access the mailboxes — not even the postal delivery person. A friend picks up my mail and delivers my rent check to her. I asked him to make another appointment for me, which he did. Again, she did not show or call.
I am not only mad but also scared she is doing this because she doesn't want me to renew. I also just learned that she never deposited my September rent check, which my friend personally delivered to her. I've rented here for eight years with few maintenance calls, and I was late with rent only once because I couldn't get it there, so my standing should be excellent. Should I enlist the aid of a lawyer? Or should I have my friend wheel me there and wait for her to see me?
A: You have tolerated her unprofessional and unethical behavior for far too long. The end of September is here, and it's clear she is stalling to prevent you from signing the renewal lease. It is interesting when liars are not smart enough to know people can see through their lies, and you have enough evidence to prove she should be fired. She is going to claim you never got in touch with her and didn't pay your September rent. What isn't known is whether her behavior is the result of her own personality disorder or instructions from the owner.
It's easy to prove your emails have gone through, because you have successfully emailed her predecessor (the previous manager) for the last eight years. She apparently thinks her denial of receipt is proof enough, which it is not.
Her refusal to answer your phone calls or show up to meetings without calling to cancel is rude and unprofessional. The setup of the mailboxes in her office, which she locks up, so even a post office delivery person cannot access them, sounds highly irregular, if not illegal, but that is a different issue to address with the owner of the senior housing complex.
The time for being polite and tolerant is over. You must act now. If you can afford a lawyer, contact one familiar with the state's laws regarding rental real estate and senior apartment complexes. Had you acted as soon as you knew something was wrong, you would have had time to report the manager's behavior to the owner.
Collect all related documents before calling an attorney. Lawyers don't want to work with a potential client who shows up with a shopping bag of loose documents, and if they do, the client will have to pay for the time spent organizing them.
Print every email you have sent to this new manager. If possible, make a list of dates you called her. Obtain a phone record for the last two months. Even though she didn't answer your calls, your phone records the connections made, as long as you stayed connected to hear the full message and the recording time turn on. (Apart from the managerial problem, consider getting a phone for those with issues hearing.) The attorney will know if regulatory agencies governing senior housing complexes exist in the state, so you may need to also file a complaint with them. Don't worry about being evicted. When the laws don't protect people, the media will.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.