Group Five apartment property management is unresponsive

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Editor:

I have been a resident in good standing of Walnut Hills Apartments in Grand Rapids (managed by Group Five Management Company) for the last five years. I have been an excellent tenant — respectful and responsible. Group Five has been absolutely horrible. It currently is being sued by the city of Kentwood for numerous fire hazard and safety code violations on all of its properties it has failed to address. (“Kentwood sues developer over safety issues,” Dec. 16 Business Journal.)

During my time as a tenant, there has been an unsanitary sewage leak that flooded the first level apartments of my building and a delayed response in fixing maintenance requests. I had standing water in my dishwasher that wasn’t addressed for a month despite multiple complaints and follow-up calls to the office. The smell was horrendous. My laundry was stolen directly out of the dryer in the laundry room a total of five times.

My biggest complaint against Group Five is the way it has treated me regarding my safety concerns. There is no secure entrance to the apartment buildings. I have frequently seen people (who are not residents) walk through the apartment building for warmth during the colder winter months. 

I was alone in my apartment Sunday evening (Dec. 15) around 9 p.m. when I witnessed a forced entry. I heard loud pounding and saw that two men were trying to kick in my neighbor’s apartment door. It was so loud and forceful that my apartment door was shaking from across the hall. When the police arrived, the door had been kicked down. My rights as a tenant (right to quiet enjoyment) had been violated and I decided that I could no longer be a tenant at Walnut Hills due to my safety concerns.

The very next day (Dec. 16), I called to speak to the property manager, Eric, but was told he was not in the office. I attempted to set up an appointment with him but was told he usually leaves the office before 5 p.m. — sometimes even before 4:30 p.m. It is almost impossible for me to see him as I work from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays. 

I left work early to possibly catch Eric before he left for the day, and the regional manager, Stacey, happened to be there. I told her how I witnessed the forced entry that happened the night before, and she and the office staff had no idea that it had occurred on their property. I informed Stacey that I would be terminating my lease early and provided my written 30-day notice. 

I requested no consequences to the early termination of my lease as my rights as a tenant had been violated (right to quiet enjoyment). She informed me they only accept 30-day notices on the first of the month and offered to move me to an alternate property as I no longer felt safe. I respectfully declined as the conditions of their other properties are much worse — moldy furnace rooms in each apartment, safety code violations and fire hazards. 

I informed Stacey I no longer wished to be a resident at any Group Five property and would like to mutually work toward an agreement regarding the termination of my lease. She informed me she would discuss it with my property manager, Eric, and let me know their decision.

I had not heard from anyone for the rest of the week. On Friday (Dec. 20), I left work early again to catch Eric before he left for the day. When I arrived in the office, I was told he was not available — he was in a meeting. I was denied his direct phone number. I also called Stacey directly several times but was told she was “indisposed” (Stacey later told me she had been in court that day — what a surprise.) 

Eric did eventually call me and had absolutely terrible customer service skills. I was attempting to explain my experience, and he tried to frequently interrupt and talk over me. Eric told me I did not have reasonable cause to break my lease, and “I’d have to deal with this anywhere I go.” 

Ultimately, Eric told me the decision was out of his hands. The following Monday (Dec. 23), Stacey returned my call. I reviewed my experience, how frustrated I am with their response and treatment, and my goal to negotiate a mutual agreement (outside of court). Stacey informed me I could provide 30 days’ notice on the first (after paying January rent I’m sure) and “buy out” my lease by paying 2 months’ rent. That’s over $2,000!! Group Five would like me to pay a total of three months’ rent to end a lease after my rights as a tenant have been violated.

Lexie Bryce

Grand Rapids

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