“Hate” is a strong word. I try to reserve it for musical collaborations between Flo Rida and Pitbull. However, many people in West Campus would feel comfortable saying that they hate their property management.
There are few relationships quite like that between a West Campus property manager and a leaser. Property management firms typically administer residential or commercial real estate on behalf of the property’s owner. Management firms handle day-to-day operations of the property, including collecting rent, securing renters, managing maintenance and complying with regulations.
A quick Yelp search of West Campus property management shows that most people, at least among Yelp users, are less than pleased with their property management. In the first 10 ratings, there are four one-star reviews. No company averaged more than three.
It’s entirely possible that the people on Yelp are more likely to be critical than the average consumer, but the abundance of negative reviews still raises questions about how property management works and why people seem to be so dissatisfied with their company.
Deacon Shields is a real estate broker for West Campus property management firm Ely Properties. Ely Properties manages Texan Tower, Texan Pearl and LUX West Campus. He explained to The Daily Texan that the role of a property management firm involves effectively balancing the interests of the owner of the property and the tenant.
Whether or not you can get work done depends on the owner, Shields said. Ely manages for more than 300 owners and each owner is different. There are some owners who would do no maintenance if ignoring maintenance issues was an option. Some owners are much more responsive, depending on their priorities.
Shields described to me an incident in which a water heater went out in a unit managed by Ely. The owner refused to pay for its repair or replacement. The tenant ended up suing after three months.
When asked about lawsuits, Shields said that Ely “vigorously” defends itself in legal proceedings and “doesn’t often lose.”
Shields’ explanation for long wait times for maintenance — some owners simply won’t pay for it — makes sense considering so many people’s negative experiences with requesting repairs.
But it raises the question: Who’s looking out for the tenant? Trying to legally resolve a dispute with a property management firm can be a daunting task. Large management companies have at their disposal legal expertise and resources, which a college student could never hope to have.
Fortunately for tenants, the University offers legal resources for students to use in a situation where management becomes unresponsive. Legal Services for Students is a service offered through the Office of the Dean of Students and, according to the Director of Legal Services for Students J. Raymond Schiflett, “works with students to help protect their rights against outside private interests.”
According to Schiflett, his office deals with a variety of student legal issues, including disputes between tenants and landlords. He says the most common leasing issues at the beginning of the school year are getting back security deposits and properties not being ready for students to move into.
Schiflett recommended bringing your lease into the LSS offices before signing.
If it seems like property management firms are terrible and unaccountable, it’s because they balance two opposing interests. And though some companies have an abundance of experience defending their interests in court, tenants have an obligation to read their lease contract and educate themselves about their rights. So to my property management company: The ball is in your court. Please fix my bathroom.
Matula is a marketing junior from Austin.