Help! I owe $1,048 in back rent, but I always pay on time

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Christopher Elliott

Why did Kate Syverson’s rent just go up by $157 a month? And why is her apartment manager threatening to take her to court if she won’t pay $1,048 in back rent?

Question

I’m hoping you can help me with a situation I am having with my apartment management company. I’m a college senior. I recently moved out of student housing and into my own apartment at the Allure apartment complex, which is a property of Greystar Real Estate.

My rent was $1,886 plus utilities every month, and when I got a dog in March of 2020, the rent went up by $50 a month. I’ve always paid my rent on time through the resident portal and I have never had any problems with the other residents or apartment management.

My parents and I agreed that we would sign a year lease last February so I would not be stressed about moving during finals and the holidays of 2021. I assumed I would get a new lease notification via email or in my resident portal account, as that is how all communication with Allure has occurred.

On July 13th, I received an email from Allure that I was going month to month starting on July 13th and would now be charged an extra $157 a month. The company agreed to prorate July. A couple of hours later I received another email saying that I had been month to month since February and so they were charging me $157 a month in back rent as well.

After numerous emails and attempts to resolve this issue, Allure management has sent me a notice saying I have 15 days to pay the back rent plus late fees or they will start legal proceedings. I feel like they know that hiring a lawyer is expensive, so they just think I will pay it. If there is anything you can do to assist me, I would really appreciate it. I’d like to get $1,048 in back rent removed from my account. — Kate Syverson, Orange, Calif.

Answer

You should have signed a new lease, which would have kept your rent payments at $1,886 plus utilities. Instead, it looks like you assumed that your rate would not change if and when you moved to a month-to-month lease. It wasn’t.

Allure waited until July to adjust your monthly rental rate, but it then appears to have also retroactively adjusted your rate. It should have offered to fix the problem instead of threatening to take you to court — although, as you suggested, the threat was likely a form letter generated when your rent is overdue.

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The fix for this is easy, in retrospect. Make sure that you sign all the paperwork for your apartment lease well in advance. I understand that Allure typically communicated through its website portal, but it looks like this time it didn’t.
I asked Allure to review your case.

The mostly good news: The company will reduce your back rent

“This resident did not renew her lease, so she was put on a month-to-month status as a result of that,” a spokeswoman said. “The team is going to talk to the property owner and to her and see if we can work out a resolution.”

Allure reached out to you. The blame for this is definitely shared. You know you should have been more proactive about the rental contract. But Allure should have also contacted you sooner. And that business with retroactively charging rent and then threatening you — not a shining example of good customer service. Allure offered to split the difference with you, which leaves you with a back rent balance of $524 due.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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