Renters left in lurch after manager fired, rent missing

Some Parkcrest Village Apartments residents are scrambling to prove they do not owe back rent or other fees as police investigate the reported theft of rent and deposit funds.

A co-owner of the complex said a new manager wants to meet with some tenants about outstanding accounts but otherwise will take renters at their word and won't begin eviction proceedings against anyone.

But at least one renter who has been told she is in arrears is upset enough to move out.

"We were notified we owe back money of $119 and now I must go to the bank to get copies of cancelled checks for the past year-and-a-half," Jamie James said Tuesday as she sorted boxes.

"I'll have to pay a $7.50 charge per cancelled check.

"When you've paid your rent and then must go back and prove it it's not fair."

Pam Cline managed the complex for five years until being fired Aug.

14, according to co-owner Daniel Terlecki.

Cpl.

Tracie Homer said Kingman police are investigating a complaint against Cline alleging misappropriation of funds that was filed Aug.

15 by Commonwealth Capital Corp., which manages the complex for Terlecki and the other owners.

Homer said she could not release details while the investigation is under way.

James said she has lived in a two-bedroom apartment in the complex for 16 months but plans to move out next week.

She produced a letter from Donald Zender, director of property management for Commonwealth Capital Corp., that James said many tenants found on their doors.

It was dated Aug.

19.

A ledger of charges and payments to the account of each tenant accompanied each letter and states the resident is in arrears, the balance due immediately.

The letter further tells residents to be prepared to present receipts, money order stubs or cancelled checks for items on the ledger tenants do not recognize.

James said she pays $579 per month rent.

She said new manager Sheila Hume told her there is no proof James paid a $300 security deposit or a $300 pet deposit when she moved in, so she could be looking at $719 in additional charges.

"We put our rent in a drop box and didn't see (Cline) so I have no receipts.

We wrote our checks out to Parkcrest Village and counted on her to credit them to our accounts, but it looks like she didn't."

A copy of James' five-page rental agreement indicates she paid a security deposit.

It is dated May 31, 2002, and signed by Cline.

Lori Potter has rented a three-bedroom apartment for the past six months and said she owes $400 for this month.

"I got a notice last Monday saying I owe $1,100," Potter said.

"I went down to the manager's office with receipts showing we've paid all along.

The only receipt I can't come up with is for May and (manager Sheila Hume) said if I don't have a receipt I have to pay the whole $1,100."

Potter said she pays her rent by money order and does not keep stubs from them, only receipts.

The Daily Miner contacted Troy Messer, a lawyer with Community Legal Services, for his thoughts about the dispute.

"The residents need evidence of payment," Messer said.

"A cancelled check is best and if you pay by money order you should have a little stub.

But if you lose it you're out of luck."

Owners of apartments or their designated agents can file an unlawful detainer action for failure to pay rent, Messer said.

Such complaints are normally handled in justice court.

"An unlawful detainer is a very quick action," Messer said.

"From the time the petition is filed until the owner gets the property back is something like 14 days (in Arizona)."

Such action seems unlikely in light of comments made Terlecki.

Paying rent by cash is against company policy, but some residents evidently did so and no record of those payments exist, Terlecki said.

"No one will have to pay any monies already paid, even if it comes to taking the tenant's word (of payment)" Terlecki said.

"There will be some instances where it can't be proven they gave cash or if they paid at all, but we'll give the tenant the benefit of the doubt.

"We don't think it's fair to put the tenant under any hardship or give them the responsibility of proving to us they paid their rent.

What we're trying to do is politely requesting any tenant with an outstanding balance by our records come in and talk with manager Sheila Hume, and everyone who has done so thus far has left with a good feeling that they are not accused of anything."

Parkcrest Village has 80 apartment units, and 20 tenants are being asked to come in and speak with Hume about their accounts, Terlecki said.

"People tend to get nervous when they're told to present receipts, but not everyone will have every receipt," Terlecki said.

"That's why we encourage people to pay by check."