Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com

UP.jpgI’m a current resident at one of CitiApartments’ old residences, and recently had “Urban Pioneer” take over management of the building. Urban Pioneer has been running things for about 8 months, approximately, with many problems regarding maintenance issues.

I’m considering moving out, and figure they aren’t going to pay the security deposit back, regardless of the condition of the unit. My partner doesn’t want to pay last months rent at all. I’m hesitant to do so because then we’re breaking the law as well, which could “potentially” lead to all sorts of shit that our security deposit might not be worth (it’s hard to say).

A representative for Urban Pioneer said Urban Pioneer was hired by the lender to manage the building and clean up the previous issues associated with CitiApartments. I googled the representative and it looks like he was formerly associated with Citiapartments. Yet the new building manager is actually a good guy, really nice and cool, and seems to be working hard to make the building better within the fucked up system Urban Pioneer is making him work within. He could just be pulling my leg, but he seems really sincere and honestly wants to help, so I’m torn. Anyways, I feel like I’m in a bind and/or being played by Urban Pioneer, and was wondering if you had any news on this issue that might help me?

Sorry for getting to this a little late in the game. As you may know Urban Pioneer is owned by Taylor Lembi, of the CitiApartments-owning Lembi family. You can see his mug and read about the demise of CitiApartments in San Francisco Magazine’s December 2009 article, “War of Values” by my good friend Danelle Morton. To say that I am one of CitiApartments’ biggest detractors is a tad of an understatement. And by your description nothing had changed until your new building manager arrived. I think it’s still fair to assume the worst.

That said, I have a case right now in which I’m dealing with Urban Pioneer. When I took it, I was just trying to help the tenants get some things fixed in their apartment. I called CitiApartments or should I say, First Apartments, asked who was in charge, got a name and wrote him a letter. No response.

I thought, shit, here we go and advised my clients to call the Department of Building Inspection. The housing inspector wrote notices of violation.

Then I got a call from the same guy you mention in your email as “really nice and cool.” He told me, “There’s a new sheriff in town,” and I immediately started humming “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who. You know, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Then something unexpected happened. Management sent a construction crew who began repairing all the problems. They’re not doing a bad job and seem to be respectful of my clients. The case is ongoing, but so far so good.

What does that mean for you? Hard to say. After all CitiApartments is still involved in a class action suit involving the theft of uncontested security deposits. But I recommend that you talk (and write) to your new manager and try to see if you can apply you security deposit to your last month’s rent. It wouldn’t hurt. Show him this column and point out that if I’m willing to give them a pass this time, it might be good for their image to keep this “new sheriff” thing going.

Unfortunately, if you refuse to pay your rent, pointing out that they should apply your security deposit, they can still serve you a three-day notice to pay and file an unlawful detainer if you don’t pay. If they don’t refund your money, you’ll have to sue them in small claims court for $6,000.00. You can probably win it all, given the bad publicity, but then you’ll have to stand in line to get paid.

I think that all of the remaining buildings owned by the Lembis should be forced into receivership so that this sort of thing can’t happen. It would also put the kibosh on any more trips to Vegas for Walt.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • Jenna

    I recently went through the exact same situation so I thought I’d share my story. I’ll try to keep it short.

    My Citi building was taken over by Urban Pioneer last summer, I decided to move out in February. From reading the articles on this site and elsewhere, I had the same concerns about not getting my deposit back.

    I decided to not pay my last month’s rent to protect myself against losing my security deposit. I sent UP my notice to vacate more than 30 days in advance of my move, and got confirmation that they received it. I then started receiving multiple notices taped to my door, shoved under my door, etc that I was overdue on my rent and if I didn’t pay within x days they would evict me. I tried to call them to explain but didn’t hear back, and plus I wanted to keep everything documented in writing. I decided to ignore their threats of eviction since by that time I was planning to move out within the week.

    About a week later, Jane Smith, Accounting Manager at UP emailed me one final notice of impending eviction. I was very straightforward and polite in my response, explained that I had already given my 30 days notice and that I had already vacated the apartment. I also explained that I purposely withheld my rent to protect my own finances and that I hoped they understood, given all the news about Citi.

    After some back and forth wherein they claimed to have not received my notice to vacate (which I was able to prove was false) I got notice that I would receive the net of what I was owed (security minus rent) within 21 days. I was rather surprised to see a check in my mailbox 2 weeks later.

    YMMV, of course, but overall I had decent experience, and certainly better than I expected. I would recommend contacting them directly and explaining your situation and concerns.

  • Jenna

    I recently went through the exact same situation so I thought I’d share my story. I’ll try to keep it short.

    My Citi building was taken over by Urban Pioneer last summer, I decided to move out in February. From reading the articles on this site and elsewhere, I had the same concerns about not getting my deposit back.

    I decided to not pay my last month’s rent to protect myself against losing my security deposit. I sent UP my notice to vacate more than 30 days in advance of my move, and got confirmation that they received it. I then started receiving multiple notices taped to my door, shoved under my door, etc that I was overdue on my rent and if I didn’t pay within x days they would evict me. I tried to call them to explain but didn’t hear back, and plus I wanted to keep everything documented in writing. I decided to ignore their threats of eviction since by that time I was planning to move out within the week.

    About a week later, Jane Smith, Accounting Manager at UP emailed me one final notice of impending eviction. I was very straightforward and polite in my response, explained that I had already given my 30 days notice and that I had already vacated the apartment. I also explained that I purposely withheld my rent to protect my own finances and that I hoped they understood, given all the news about Citi.

    After some back and forth wherein they claimed to have not received my notice to vacate (which I was able to prove was false) I got notice that I would receive the net of what I was owed (security minus rent) within 21 days. I was rather surprised to see a check in my mailbox 2 weeks later.

    YMMV, of course, but overall I had decent experience, and certainly better than I expected. I would recommend contacting them directly and explaining your situation and concerns.