Apartment Hunting in Salt Lake City – A Horror Story

This is a pretty wild story so go ahead, grab some coffee and get comfy while I spill some tea.

If you have been following me then you might have seen the pre-move update a couple of months ago where I talked about the fact that I got a job in Salt Lake City, Utah and was planning for my move in a couple weeks.

Keep in mind throughout this story that I have moved roughly every 6 months since I turned 18 and have a TON of experience apartment hunting, talking with management, and reading and signing contracts. I am not naive and have caught many rental agencies trying to scam me out of deposits, claim damages that weren’t mine, etc. I know my rights and know how to talk to management and broach topics in a way that makes me the winner in the situation.

Well, when I was in Salt Lake to interview for the job that I later accepted, I spent every waking moment I wasn’t preparing for my interview looking at apartments. I had done hundreds of hours of research beforehand and had narrowed down all the options into a shortlist. I wasn’t able to view all of my shortlist option in the limited time but I did see enough that I was able to settle on an apartment and feel good about my decision.

Oh how wrong I was.

I toured a larger apartment complex in West Valley City which, at the time, I felt was a good compromise between all of my requirements. It was pretty centrally located between downtown Salt Lake City and work, it was pretty/new but not exactly my style, it was budget friendly but not in an awful neighborhood.

When I did the initial walk-through, they explained to me that this was not the unit I would be living in but that all of the units were just like it. It had laminate wood floor everywhere except the bedroom which had new carpet. There was a washer and dryer in-unit but it was located in the bedroom which I thought was a bit weird. They told me that most units were that way but that there were some units that had it in the hallway and to ask for it when I was ready to apply. Everything was very clean and modern with a touch of traditional. The floor-plan was very open with a lot of light. Overall it felt like a good deal for the price and worth justifying the longer commute I would have since I hadn’t found anything comparable closer to work. By no means did it feel “too good to be true.”

I kept in touch with management and when I finally accepted the job offer, they were the first phone call I made. I filled out an application online and was approved same-day due to my excellent credit score.

Everything sounds fine so far, right?

My first red flag should have been the fact that they would only accept money orders for my deposit and first month of rent. They gave me a story about having a lot of checks bounce and that it was a way for them to screen bad renters out of the complex. Their reasoning was, “if you couldn’t come up with a money order now, how were you supposed to pay rent later?” I knew that I was relatively protected with a money order and so I felt comfortable enough to have my mom grab around $800 worth of them from her work.

Fast forward to nearly 1,000 miles of road traveled in a 20+ year old, breaking car filled with all of my belongings over a 2 day drive. I’m exhausted and so ready to inflate my air mattress and get a good night’s sleep. I pull up to the apartment complex’s office and head inside; cheque in hand.

As you can imagine, what came next was not ideal.

I walk into the office and am told that they “just have to cut me a new key and then we can go look at the apartment and sign papers. In the mean time, why don’t I just look over the contract to pass the time while my keys are being cut.” No problem. They hand me a 70 page document which is a 5ish page standard rental contract they got online with about 65 pages of standard, online addendums added on to tailor the contract to their specific property. For example, the base contract mentioned nothing about a pool and so there was a 2 page addendum stipulating the rules and liabilities behind the pool. I read the entire thing, and aside from the length, it was pretty standard, but it was a clear sign that the property didn’t have a lawyer to write their own contracts.

As you can imagine, reading a 70 page document took time — a long time — like, an hour, during which, the office gal is nowhere to be seen. She finally comes to get me and we get in the golf cart to go look at my new home. (The apartment complex is pretty big so they have golf carts to show people around). Pretty quickly I notice we are headed in the opposite direction of the apartment I had requested. I ask her where we are going and she finally spills the truth that my apartment is still under renovation so they are showing me another apartment that is ready that day.

I am shocked!

They had 2 weeks notice to prepare my apartment and I was told nothing about it needing repairs. I ask her if this apartment they are taking me to is the same price and same specs as the first and she tells me that it is 1.) more expensive and 2.) on the ground floor. Now, this complex isn’t in an awful neighborhood but it’s not in a neighborhood where I’d feel comfortable living alone on the ground floor. I had specified when I applied that I wanted a second floor apartment for that reason.

I tell her that and we turn around so that she can go look at what second floor apartments are currently available. Apparently there are none, because after another half hour wait, we load back up into the golf cart and head over to the unit I requested so she can show me the renovations. She assured me that the kitchen cabinets just needed their doors put back on since they had just been refinished, and that I was missing a bathroom sink. That’s it. And all of that was scheduled to be completed the next day.

That was not all.

They assured me it had been recently painted and it clearly hadn’t. There were paint smudges from the baseboard paint on the wall, and dings and dents from former tenants or from the construction workers. The unit was supposed to be laminate wood and it was old, dirty carpet. There was a painted piece of plywood as a door in the hallway to hide the water heater. The cabinets were straight out of the 80’s. The entire apartment was small and dark and nothing like the model unit.

I am exhausted, and at this point, I tell them that it’s fine, and that I will take the unit if I can move in that night because I can’t afford a hotel room. They can come finish the work while I am moving in the next day. We go back to the office and she goes to talk to the property manager who ends up calling all of the workers in to finish the work right now. She tells me that the unit will be ready to move in at 5 pm. That leaves me 3 hours to go twiddle my thumbs; exhausted and with my car full of all of my belongings. It’s not like I could go see a movie or something.

I try to just hang out there in the office but they can’t get their WiFi to work and my phone plan doesn’t have unlimited data; what am I supposed to do with 3 hours and no WiFi? I hop on Google Maps and see that there is an Olive Garden nearby which has free WiFi.

Up until this point I had no thoughts about jumping ship. I was obviously not happy with how things went but I didn’t really see any other options and my sleep deprivation wasn’t helping me make good decisions. Once I had gotten some breadsticks in me, my brain kicked in and I start calling all of the places that had made my shortlist from when I had visited durning my interview; no one had a same-day opening. Finally, I get an idea to call the apartments I saw super close to work but hadn’t visited because they were on the top end of my budget.

It was meant to be.

I told them my story and they told me to come over right away, and that if my credit score was what I said it was, they could get me in same-day. I pulled up to the apartment complex and they showed me the two units available. The first was ground floor but the neighborhood was night-and-day better than the other complex’s. Still, I’m not the biggest fan of ground floor apartments so they show me the second apartment which is on the top floor with the most amazing view overlooking the valley.

It’s finished beautifully… and so clean… and there is so much light… and the view! I’m in love. We head back to the office and in less than an hour, I was approved to move in and my contract is signed. I call the other place back to tell them I found somewhere else and they don’t even fight it; they know they screwed up. I hadn’t signed anything, so other than the two money orders written to them, I’m not out anything. (This ended up being a story in and of itself trying to find someone who would cash-out money orders written to the complex, but luckily, Walmart was super understanding.)

I hurry up and call all the utilities for the old place to take them out of my name and they were all so understanding after hearing my story. Xfinity was the funniest because they had already sent me an installation kit which was basically a bunch of cables and a code (no router; I had bough my own) and so I asked if they wanted me to go back and pick up the package to send it back to them. The customer support guys was like, “oh no honey, don’t go back there. It’s just a couple of cables, we’ll live.”

So, How are Things Now?

After living here for about 5 months, I’m still in love with this apartment. My blinds are never closed cause I can’t stand not to see the stunning view every moment of every day. I’m slowly getting it furnished which is going to be the topic of my next post, and I have even taken a crack at building my own furniture.

What my living room looks like so far. Yes, I built that coffee table from scratch!

The other apartment was meant to help me save money for a year so I could pay off loans and save for a nicer apartment. I’m sure my wallet would have preferred that I stay in the first place, but who knows? If they were so disorganized and dishonest before I had even given them my money, how do I know they wouldn’t have scammed me out of money when I tried to leave?

Another thing that is 20/20 in hindsight is the condition of my car. My 1997 Honda Accord with 340,000 miles really started to give out after driving from Washington to Utah and I ended up replacing it at the end of November. If I was commuting all that way to work every day, then I imagine it would have given out after only a couple of weeks, giving me less time to save the couple of paychecks I had and proof of residency before securing a car loan.

Lesson Learned.IMG_4445_Facetune_15-03-2019-00-20-54

Go with the flow and stay agile. Things will work out if you keep your head and think from all angles. Take a step back and think things through in a stressful situation.

If you want to see how I have made this stunning apartment my home over the last couple of months then follow me here or on one of my social medias. The new post should be out next week along with a vlog that I’m really proud of and is something totally new I’ve never seen anyone else do. Until then, I hope you enjoyed hearing my near-miss with Salt Lake apartment hunting.

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