David vs. Windermere
David vs. Goliath; I mean, Reyes vs. Windermere Property Management
I beat the great and powerful Traci Platiro in court. I don’t even know who the judge was, when I read my name on the reader board “check in at counter”. She had short hair and was youngish. I went to Meeting Room 1 at the downtown Court place yesterday, 2/28/11 at 1:15 pm. It was cold and windy.
I had been preparing for months, but especially the past two days. My opponent is formidable. She’s a property manager whose evicted families for spite; she’s been to court hundreds of times and she fired me from my last real job.
I interviewed other Windermere victims and learned her intimidation tactics in the courtroom, to better counter them. She lies. She brings big overstuffed binders and files. I brought two friends, one of them a witness, and a box full of files. My evidence filled half the box, so I just brought more stuff until the box was full and heavy. I had a tri-fold display board.
The clock strikes 1:30 and the judge asks if the parties are present. I am. Traci isn’t. “Did you go the juvenile court?” she asks me?
“The other party went to the wrong place” This amuses me because I verified the location twice, and learned that they letter they sent us was wrong. I wanted Traci off balance, so this was perfect.
They took another case first, a craigslist deal gone bad. They guy loses for $3000 to her, but they all seem to be buddies. He bought it stolen, didn’t know, she found out when she tried to register it. Nobody was the ‘bad guy’. Traci arrives in the middle of the case, appearing flustered, and sits in the back.
First the judge asks me where I got my amount I am suing for. I said I took the deposit of $750, subtracted $73.50 they refunded, and doubled it. The judge says “So, you did my job for me?”
“That’s my job. I can decide what part, if any, to double.”
“Just want to know what were starting with.”
Even though I’m supposed to start, she starts with Traci asking her “do you agree the deposit was $750?”
“No. It was $540.”
I am grateful there is a pitcher of water and cups on our table, I pour some and drink hoping I don’t pass out, my hands are tingly and I haven’t eaten in eight hours. Tracy is lying to the judge about why my deposit isn’t $750, it’s only $540.
The judge then asks me if I understand what she just said. “NO. I don’t understand. How can a security deposit be spent BEFORE I even move out? I thought it was for after I move out.”
I handed my brief to the judge and to Traci, the only thing I copied for the defense. The judge looked at it and said “too long,” and put it down. Damn! I stammered my beginning of my story, “I gave written notice, I cleaned the house, and we turned the keys in and waited for the deposit. It was only $73.50 and had no itemization or receipts or anything!”
The judge snidely says, “They don’t have to provide any receipts.”
“Well, their lease says they will provide them,” I add defiantly. I’m the underdog.
“Does anyone have a copy of the lease?” the judge asks.
I produce one while Traci fumbles through her giant wad of papers.
Basically, I was cut off when I tried to speak, told no when I asked to speak, and was the entire thing was directed by the judge. I was allowed to say “yes” or “no”. My witness was awesome. Juanita was very clear in her memory of how dirty the house was on move in. The judge told her, “You know you don’t have to accept a place that dirty. You can refuse it or call and complain and tell the company to send a cleaner.” Juanita just stared at her. Then the judge let Traci cross examine Juanita, and she grilled her with questions about the drip pans and the walls. Juanita said “I don’t know! I was putting stuff away in the kitchen.” I passed on my option to cross examine, instead smiling at my chagrinned witness.
So the judge and Traci were having an exchange of communication I almost missed about the illegal clause in Windermere’s lease. Traci said she would “take care of that today,” they have to change their lease. The judge not only seemed unshocked at this, she handed Traci an excuse about misspending my deposit on imaginary fees as “hamstrung by company policy.” I tried to enter a notarized letter from my roommate boyfriend contractor Eric who fixed the broken fence and installed the missing air filter. Judge said inadmissible. When I said to the judge there WAS NO air filter at the beginning so how can they charge me for even half of one, the judge cut me off with “I saw that.”
I had on the tip of my tongue the whole time “these numbers don’t even add up!” but never got to say it. The judge figured it out herself pretty quick and it was fun to watch Traci squirm and fake look for a number she knew wasn’t there. Shuffle thru papers and break into sweat. Her face was bright red.
Near the end, after an hour of me and Traci presenting our pictures and evidence, the judge seems unmoved by my case so I started to rant a little. I brought the judge my ledger of payments paid over the lease. I said, “There are no late payments.” Traci said she didn’t have any ledgers of Windermere’s, so I said “I do.” I gave two ledgers to the judge and said they were from the meeting with Mr. Hoover and told the judge “these don’t even add up to EACHOTHER. Show me where there is a late fee or any back rent owed.”
“I’m not going to read that,” snaps the judge again.
I’m on my lawyer stride now.
I also ranted that they *points at Traci* “cannot prove there was one battery dead, one cobweb, one light bulb out, because there wasn’t any!” I return to my seat. I mentioned the meeting with Mr. Hoover again and repeated some nonsense Mr. Hoover had said in the meeting.
I tried to say the drip pans were ran through the dishwasher, as cleaners do, but was cut off by the judge “I saw that,” she snapped
At some point the judge asked Traci if the time to turn over the unit was excessively long due to the damages. Traci said “no.” The judge said that it would not be cost effective to bring in the handyman, the cleaner and the carpet cleaner to court to testify to how much time they spent on the job there. I was silent, but later I thought I should have said “how about just producing their invoices?”
Also, when Traci saw she was losing, she tried throwing me under the bus with “this is a former employee and things ended badly, so we were extra careful doing her move out.” Eye roll. I should have brought out my Windermere BBB Rating of “F” but I was silent and the judge ignored her.
The judge started talking about cleaning and differing definitions of clean, and how it is a good idea Traci had about splitting the costs with the tenant and the owner, but not in this case. I find in favor of the plaintiff on the cleaning. Refund of $153.36. Also the amount of $55.82 shall be doubled. The judge gave the excuse that “somebody made an error somewhere” on the math, like it was an innocent bookkeeping error. It is really they just make up numbers and take what they want.
The judge also complimented TRACI on how their company tries, and they make an effort to be prepared, they are always well prepared and the judge appreciates that. This was made in comparison to other property management companies in town. (I was better prepared today but nobody mentioned that.) The judge was coddling Traci to prepare her for losing the case, something she never does. Traci, who went to the wrong place, has an illegal, money-grabbing lease, had a closing statement that was not itemized and did not even add up correctly, and who comes to court on a regular basis, needed complements and warm fuzzies from the judge. Because the verdict was for me-- all my deposit back of $750, less $160 for the carpet cleaning; me, who had NEVER been to court, had all my papers at the ready, had my photos on a nice display, got only a backhanded compliment, the judge said to Traci, “Ms. Reyes did a pretty effective job countering your maintenance claim.” Windermere has to refund $97.50 “while reasonable” (stupid judge) to the plaintiff. Plus $82 for court costs; plus $100. I never got to address their illegal “administrative possessing” fee of $150.00 that my lawyer told me about, and I never got to address that the lease grants the winner reimbursement of legal expenses. I was shushed.
How can it be right that I had to spend all that time, all that energy, just to get a refund that I rightfully deserved? When Windermere blocked me at every turn at my attempts to get back what was rightfully mine, that’s okay? That isn’t proof of “bad faith” or whatever the legal term is? What possible deterrent does this give to Windermere to stop wrongfully taking people’s deposits? Shaking head. Justice doesn’t’ feel served.