Beck Park Apartments — managed by G & K Management Co., Inc., a subsidiary of Goldrich & Kest Industries, LLC — is one of the worst breeds of Goliath known to man. It is an apartment property of 120 units, managed by a fairly large corporation that has stakes in several different areas, including both residential and business property management, as well as construction and other industries. Generally, that translates to it being an overly large, fundamentally inefficient business entity whose concerns are bottom line only, with little or no regard to the moral and ethical responsibilities of housing real, live human beings.
California Tenants Law tends to side with the tenant in a lot of ways, and certainly some of the reasoning for this stems from some pretty terrible treatment in the past. The good thing is that it takes management companies and landlords a lot of effort to really screw over the tenant, should the battle go to court. But the bad thing is that all that extra effort leads to extra costs for the landlord or management company, costs that are passed on to the tenant up-front, and also lead to said landlord/management company looking for every possible opportunity to cut corners, which ends up screwing the tenant on the back end, too. Pun intended.
Beck Park Apartments happens to be a shining example of this, a true standard upon which all other devious companies aspire. Beck Park happens to be the low-income, red-headed stepchild of G & K Management’s properties, and that means it’s making even less money for the company than any other properties. More corners must be cut in order to make a buck off this place, and if the company’s large enough — and Goldrich & Kest is certainly large enough — they can even absorb the legal costs of doing things downright wrong (read: illegally).
Because tenants are foolish people, and they rarely ever fight for what’s theirs by law.
But all is not lost. Join with me on this somewhat long, sordid tale, and soon you will find some of the most effective ways to get your money back when you move out. Not just from Beck Park Apartments, but from nearly any apartment or rental unit in California (and maybe even the U.S.).
General Problems & Complaints with Beck Park Apartments:
Beck Park was billed as a quaint, scenic little place in the heart of North Hollywood, complete with several amenities you wouldn’t normally get at similarly priced apartments. The reality is that you get grounds that have been torn up and look like they could have been nice, if they just left the plants and trees alone instead of sawing them all down. You get a pool and hot tub that are said to be warmed year round, but are, in fact, rarely heated and only maintained in the vaguest sense of the word. And worse yet, here’s a few issues we dealt with during our year-and-a-half stay:
- Water shut-off usually at least once per month for about 8 hours, sometimes longer over a couple days. The water heater units are said to be very old, but replacements have been slow. Furthermore, there’s evidence that the maintenance and replacements that have been done have caused mold to go airborne, and also uncovered some asbestos problems that were never brought up to code.
- Gates leading off the grounds were often broken or had their locks jammed so that the doors would remain open for grounds-keeper crews, but allowing anyone onto the property at any time for weeks on end. Multiple complaints about this issue went with answer, and at least once I was directly lied to by management, saying that the doors were repaired when they hadn’t been.
- Toilets in all 120 units upgraded in a single day by a small outsourced work crew; our new toilet was in our bathroom but never installed, so I had to have the maintenance manager do it around 10:30PM (on a weeknight, of course). Next day, at least a half-dozen apartments experienced burst pipes and flooding problems.
These things are simply indicative of the general situation at Beck Park Apartments. There was much more that went wrong, and many poor decisions when it came to outsourcing work in and around the grounds.
Our Specific Problems with Beck Park Apartments:
We stayed at Beck Park Apartments for about a year and a half, mostly due to the hunt for a new place being severely curtailed by time and money. Plain and simple, Los Angeles and Hollywood are not the cheapest places to live. But when you read the following list of specific complaints and issues we faced, you’ll certainly think twice about getting stuck in an apartment lease you don’t want to sign:
- We moved cross country in August 2009, and on the first night found over a dozen cockroaches in the apartment. Luckily, we hadn’t even unpacked our Uhaul, so we promptly got out of there and stayed with family nearby until fumigation began. What we weren’t prepared for was that fumigation treatments would continue for the next 6 months, and dangerous chemicals were given to us for use in-between treatments. We are talking, “chemicals that require a license to handle.” Simply unspeakable. In at least one instance, we were served less than 24 hours notice for pest control treatment (which we denied them entry for).
- At one point, I took a day off of work in order to remove my dog while they did treatment, only to find out that they never showed up for the appointment. A complaint called in to management wasn’t returned for several days.
- Nearly 5 months passed in between maintenance requests to have leaking and molding fixed in our bathroom.
- In one of the most frightening displays of negligence, we discovered that management’s copy of our apartment’s keys were stolen from the office, and it was inferred by management that our key — and several keys for other apartments in the complex — had been stolen. To “reassure” us, the manager told us that, “it’s okay, because we know who it was, so there’s nothing to worry about.” At our request, our locks were promptly changed.
This next one bears it’s own section.
When our lease ran out — which would normally make us month-to-month tenants — we received no notice. Per the terms of our lease agreement, that seemed fine; nothing existed within that lease stating that we would pay any different amount of money for rent until we signed a new agreement. However, approximately 5 months later we discovered that a credit on our account was now gone, and we owed money (tellingly, the letter that made this known to us was stuck in the door of a different apartment, even though it had our apartment’s unit number on it). Not knowing why, we contacted the manager, only to find that we owed backpay on a higher rent price for the past 3 months.
After a series of emails with the manager, we finally received documents that were supposed to have been delivered to us when our lease agreement term ended. Of course, these documents spoke of a higher price. The problem is that there’s only two legal ways for your landlord/management company to serve you documents such as these:
- Hand delivering them to you in person (i.e., they can’t just be shoved in or under your door; they have to be given directly to you, in person).
- Certified mail to your apartment’s mailbox, thus proving delivery and receipt.
Most smart landlords/management companies will do both, that way they have 100% proof that the information was legally delivered. After all, it’s very easy to argue having something delivered to you in person. This error in management’s judgment proved beneficial in helping us argue later on, but it wasn’t without a lot of emails and following up on our part to find out when we’d get that credit back.
No Light at the End of This Tunnel – Attempting to Move Out:
We quickly discovered that it wasn’t just our credit that had been eaten up by this (illegal) higher rent, but also many of our neighbors were dealing with the same problem. That was the last straw. We found another place, and gave our notice to move out.
Something to consider: we gave our 30-day notice, the standard amount of notice when you are month-to-month. But we planned on moving into our new place about 10-15 days before the end of that time period, because that would give us just over a week to move, clean the old apartment, and have an inspection done. Giving yourself this leeway time is like providing yourself with a giant safety net, one you can use to maximize the probability of getting your money back.
We scheduled an Initial Inspection Walk Through when we gave our notice. This walk through is not required by law, but if you request it, the apartment’s manager has to comply by law. Also by law, the walk through has to occur at least two weeks BEFORE you move out. The reason is that it gives you that amount of time to make any repairs and get the necessary cleaning done, thus nearly ensuring you’ll get your full Security Deposit back. As an aside, Beck Park’s manager gave us a sheet of paper saying that the Initial Inspection Walk Through should be scheduled within two weeks of the move out date. There’s nothing against the law about them doing that, but it’s obviously a tactic they use to give you that much less time to handle the cleaning and repairs, thus practically ensuring that you won’t be able to do the repairs, and they get to keep a portion (or all) of your security deposit. Brilliant. I just sent an email to the manager saying that it’s our legal right to do it before the 2 week mark, and they immediately complied and scheduled it.
At the end of the initial inspection, you must be provided an itemized receipt of any potential charges against you, thus giving you everything you need to know in order to make the appropriate repairs or cleaning. At the end of our walk through, we were simply given a sheet of paper entitled “Cleaning Guidelines – Move-out,” which lists normal cleaning charge to your security deposit as $90.00 (plus unstated amount for carpet shampoo); and by signing the lease, you are accepting an unstated Flea Fumigation fee (quoted in our Final Account Statement as being $85.00). Those were the only fees we could potentially incur; any other charges beyond that would be illegal (unless we trashed the apartment after the walk through) whether or not we actually followed the cleaning guidelines. If we followed the guidelines, of course, the assumption is that they could only charge us for the flea fumigation, because that was part of our lease agreement. We took pictures at the time of the walk through, and also took pictures after we moved everything to the new place and cleaned the heck out of our apartment unit.
We still had to argue for the full credit on our account, as well as get the charges for the higher rent removed. That sorta happened…
On the Final Account Statement we received 21 days after moving out (which is the standard time, and is perfectly legal), we did not receive full credit ($79.84 was reduced to $20.40 without explanation on the bill); we were charged for carpet replacement rather than simple carpet shampoo (though the carpet was not replaced; I have photos up through Sunday May 23rd of the carpets being the same ones we lived with until we moved out in March); we were charged cleaning fees (even though we had photos of the cleaning done to the specs on the “Cleaning Guidelines – Move-out” sheet); we were charged for painting (painting was not itemized to us during our initial inspection walk through, and constitutes normal wear & tear, and is therefore illegal to charge); the statement was not signed; and ultimately we also have video from outside the window showing none of this was even started by the time the Final Acct Statement was sent to us…nor has it been two months later.
Services used or quoted:
- Remus Services Pest Management
- Nova Refurbishing Contractors, Inc.
- Inland Management in Encino, CA
- Carpet USA in Inglewood, CA / Culver City, CA
Ultimately, we looked like we were screwed. Money taken from us was not credited back in full, additional charges above and beyond the itemized receipt we received after the initial inspection walk through were placed on the Final Account Statement, and the entire document was unsigned, and therefore might not even stand up in court. In fact, we not only didn’t have any money coming back to us, but we owed money on top of our security deposit!
Get Your Money Back!
So how did we get almost every red cent we were owed back?
Following some of the advice in our article on Hotels.com and Expedia, I gathered up all the contact info I could on G & K Management Co., Inc. You can find much of it below, including their corporate phone directory and some of the people you should call and leave messages with.
After that, it was simply a matter of asking for a few things, and showing our evidence (photos) that we’d followed their guidelines for cleaning, and had done everything we were supposed to do.
- We asked for a “full statement of our account” which will include every single monetary transaction between us and them since the day we moved in till the day we moved out. We requested that they send us this within 7 – 10 business days; it’s our right to see all of our transactions as a “receipt,” after all. They can either give it to you or you can take them to court, where they will have to give it to you.
- I talked to a lawyer, even though it seemed pointless at times (the amount of money was relatively small in the grand scheme of things, after all). Many lawyers can be found online, and will be happy to field a 5 minute phone call about the issue, no charge to you. Unless a lot of money is at stake, they’ll probably tell you very nicely that they can’t help, but the thing to remember is this: you can now truthfully tell the management company that you’ve spoken to a lawyer, and if you do end up going to court, the lawyer already has an idea of what’s going on. Even better, they may give you some legit advice to point you in the right direction.
- I always made a point to tell G & K Management’s employees that I will follow up on each communication, and when, via email. Chances are, by giving them timelines that are strict and tight, they will act fast to get rid of someone like that. I basically would give them between 2 and 5 business days to do whatever it was I wanted them to do. If they knew they couldn’t deliver in that time frame, they were very quick to tell me, and I wasn’t a jerk about it. I let them have 7 or 10 business days when they needed it, but I damn sure contacted them exactly at the end of that time frame to get an update.
A much more in-depth article will appear in the Take Action portion of our site, but this information, along with the resources listed and linked to below, should give you a good idea of what you need in order to prepare yourself for a fight against your landlord.
Other Resources to Aid You:
- A Guide to California Tenants Law (PDF download!) – This PDF actually does a pretty good job of making the law clear to people who aren’t lawyers. It provides examples and illustrations for almost every aspect of the law, so you can see how it actually affects you and your situation. I can’t claim it’s 100% up-to-date, but even so, it is an excellent document.
- County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs – Mediation request – this organization allows you to file a dispute and attempt to have it mediated, which means you don’t (necessarily) have to get lawyers involved.
Contacts at G & K Management Co., Inc.
- Beck Park Apartments Management (Monica Zurita) 818-980-5150
- Corporate main number 310-204-2050
- extension 888 for phone directory by name
- x. 316 Ron Penrod – handles Final Account Statement disputes
- x. 319 Letitia Hines (works for Ron Penrod)
- Other random employees:
- x. 456 Randy Castillo
- x. 738 Stephanie Newman
- x. 240 Stephanie Cushner
- x. 428 Steve Lun
- x. 368 Joel Franklin
Principals at Goldrich & Kest Industries, LLC
- Warren Breslow x. 404 (firstname.lastname@example.org <- unverified)
- Peggy Amenta (secretary to Warren Breslow?)
- Jona Goldrich (CEO?) – probably reached through x. 401, but that is unverified
Resources on the Enemy
Beck Park Apartments
These are all excellent sites where you can review Beck Park Apartments, or read other’s reviews of the apartments. Reviews are a powerful tool in the arsenal of Dangerous David, and it’s through these sites that some of the most visible and lasting reviews can be found, damaging a company’s public image for as long as the internet works.
- Beck Park Apartments @ Yelp
- Beck Park Apartments @ Apartment Ratings
- Beck Park Apartments @ Google Places
- Beck Park Apartments @ Yahoo Local
- Beck Park Apartments @ North Hollywood / Toluca Lake Patch
G & K Management Co, Inc. / Goldrich & Kest Industries LLC
The following links and websites all lead to G & K Management Co, Inc., or their controlling corporation, Goldrich & Kest Industries, LLC. These links serve as a great resources for research, and most importantly may lead to other places where you can review the company, or uncover contact information to get in touch with the people within the company that screwed you (or can help you get somewhat less screwed). These are the footprints of a most Gluttonous Goliath, so tread lightly the closer you get to this monstrosity.