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Communication and Trust

This afternoon I left work early to visit my landlord and try to iron out an issue that I’ve been dealing with for over two weeks. The issue, ironically, is that I want to give them money. Some would even call it rent.

The issue boils down to this: I was having my rent debited from my checking account and wanted to stop. I called and left a message asking how to do that, and never heard back. I called a few more times, asking if it was indeed going to keep going, or if I should write a check (you know, cause I want to pay my rent on time). I never heard back. I left two notes at the office for the building accountant (“Jeff”), sent an email to the accounting email address they post online and called their general accounting phone number. Nothing. The one accountant I did manage to speak to (“Mike Z”) told me that, yes, the rent would be debited for October, but not November. I left my phone number in case that changed for some reason, but never received a call.

When I checked today and saw that the rent still hadn’t cleared, I decided I should follow up. They’re usually not this tardy taking my money, so I stopped by the office today. When “Jeff” finally came downstairs (after not answering his phone when the woman at the front desk called up), he launched right in. “Oh, I guess I stopped things too soon, but if you can just write a check, we’ll call it OK.” Frankly, stopping the debit now is fine with me; but how was I to know? My response, “That’s fine, I just didn’t know I was supposed to write a check, since I hadn’t heard anything back from you,” was met with a simple, “Oh, right.”

It’s obvious CitiApartments is in trouble; our elevator was recently broken for a couple weeks and just after Labor Day a piece of the gutter fell off the second story into the courtyard. Luckily no one was hurt. Google’s cache reveals that my building was (is?) for sale , although maybe that complaint to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection had something to do with the page going away.

This incident, though, is the first time that my direct experience has been uniformly negative. Up until now I could say, “Yeah, I’ve heard they don’t treat residents that well, but I don’t have any direct experience with that. Maybe it’s isolated cases.” Unfortunately their lack of communication while dealing with this means that I no longer trust them to deal with me in an up front manner. A simple phone call back to say, “yes, we’ll stop debiting your account, when would you like to do that?” would have retained my belief that they value me as a tenant. All they had to do was communicate that they’d received my request and were acting on it, and trust would still exist between us.

Sorry, Citi; I won’t be too sad when you finally implode.