That Does Not Compute
A Day In The Life...
I entitled chapter three of my book, I Have A Complex, But I’m Managing It!, “Lost In Translation”, because it contains some off-the-wall stories from property managers who’ve experienced a communication breakdown with either prospects or residents. Suffice it to say that when this happens, the outcome can be pretty frustrating. Such was the case in this tale submitted by a manager in Dallas.
This Does Not Compute
Years ago, two men came into the leasing office interested in leasing a one-bedroom apartment. Both were new to the area, having arrived from another country. While one spoke some broken English, the other guy would just smile and nod. I was sympathetic toward them knowing it must be difficult being in a country were you couldn’t speak the language.
It turned out that the man with whom I could actually communicate was just a friend helping his co-worker. He explained that the apartment was for the other guy, that he had a good job and was learning English. He said he was going to pay the entire year’s lease up front in the form of a money order to include the security deposit.
I agreed that my management company would do that, however; with no rental background or credit history, we’d still require a co-signer to guarantee the lease. The English-speaking friend agreed to do that for his buddy.
An Excruciating Explanation
We scheduled a move-in date and the two came back to secure the lease. The one guy translated for the other as we went through every single paragraph of the long document. It took forever and was quite excruciating. The man who did not speak English would question almost every sentence. His friend patiently explained in their language back to him in an animated fashion, using body language to emphasize key points.
When we reached the part about the written move-out notice, I remember spending even more time. I always did this with every resident, making sure it was crystal clear that although their lease expired on a certain day, a thirty-day written notice was required before that date if they intended to move out. I guess the two realized how serious I was because the one guy would say “notice” and his friend would echo back the word to us, nodding and grinning from ear to ear.
“That’s right. Written notice. Thirty days before this day,” I repeated, circling the date on the lease.
A Promise To Supervise
Since my English-speaking translator had agreed to co-sign on the lease, I asked him if he’d help our new resident keep up with these important documents. “After all, you’ll be held responsible should any problems arise,” I reminded him.
“Oh, yes,” he assured me. “I’ll stay on top of all of this.”
So, we got a new resident and he turned out to be quite a charmer. He’d stop in the office nearly every day after picking up his mail and I was pleased to hear his English steadily improving. He seemed to enjoy trying out new phrases he’d learned on my staff and I. With that big, goofy grin, he was hard not to like.
Nearly a year flew by and soon his lease would expire and continue on a month-to-month basis. Because he’d prepaid, I had him on my radar to contact him about signing a renewal. I was preparing the paperwork when he popped into my office carrying a large box. Hanging from his shoulder was a huge, heavy-looking bag.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m glad you’re here! We need to talk about your lease.” I looked at him, trying to get a fix on whether he understood what I’d just said. “Your lease,” I repeated. “It’s almost over. Do you understand?”
A Little Help From His Friend
At first he said nothing, regarding me with that same funny smile. I watched as he set the box down on the floor and unhooked the bag from his shoulder, resting it on top of the box.
I was about to say something when he held up his hand, requesting me to wait while he proceeded to throw the bag back upon his shoulder and picked up the box again.
“Okaaaay,” I said slowly. “That stuff looks pretty heavy. Why don’t you set it back down so we can talk?”
“No,” he insisted. “We don’t need talk. You need notice.”
“I need notice?” I asked, completely baffled. “Hold on!” Holding up a finger to indicate that I needed a moment, I quickly searched for his friend’s phone number. Hopefully he can help shine some light on this situation! I thought.
Mercifully, his friend answered on the first ring. I identified myself and explained what was happening in my office. The man asked if I’d put our resident on the line. I did so and waited, listening to one side of a fast and furious conversation between the two and not understanding a single word.
Finally, the resident handed back my phone. “He speak to you.”
“Yes? So, what in the world is going on here?” I asked.
“My friend is confused,” the man explained. “He is moving out and thought you needed to notice him moving out. That’s why he came to your office with the box and bag full of his things.”
One Tricky Little Word
“What? This is not a notice! I don’t have to notice him moving! We require a written notice! This is absolutely ridiculous! You would have to admit I was very, very clear about what we required to move out of the apartment. You need to talk to your friend and explain this to him.”
Sidebar: I was probably a little more aggressive with this guy than I should have been, but it was all just so crazy!
I handed the phone back to our resident who was still standing by my desk, smiling and holding that darn box. The two spoke for a few more moments, then the resident set his box down, took a couple of keys out of his pocket and handed them to me along with my phone.
“Thank you very much,” he said. With that, he turned and left. I didn’t even try to stop him. I mean, why?
I sent maintenance over to see if the guy’s apartment was empty. Sure enough, the unit was vacant and clean as a whistle. He’d definitely moved out.
I got a nice surprise the next day when the co-signer on the lease showed up in my office. He said he felt bad about the misunderstanding and knew he was partially responsible for not having stayed on top of the lease.
He wrote out a check to cover the next thirty days and handed it to me. I smiled and handed him a blank piece of paper and a pen.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
“I hate to beat a dead horse, “ I replied. “And, I really appreciate that you came back today to take care of things, however; I need a written notice for our records.”
The friend was a good sport about it, laughing as he wrote me the notice.
From the book I Have a Complex, But I'm Managing It!, stories from property managers compiled by Monica E. Simmons.
Monica E. Simmons, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for JDC Enterprises, LLC, has worked in the multi-family industry in several different capacities since 1987. She is a published author whose books include; I Have A Complex, But I’m Managing It!, It Happened in The Hill Country and 30-Love.
Contact her at: Monica@TheVendorGuide.com