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Apartment tenants lose deposits in management snafu

Staff writer

About a year into its repurposed life as an apartment building, the historic Bown-Corby school building is going through yet another change — management.

Building owner Tom George, a Wichita developer, sent a letter to Bown-Corby tenants informing them he had terminated a contract with Real Property Management (RPM) because of an alleged breach in the agreement, and had hired Cedar Mills Property Management to replace them.

“Real Property Management went out of business,” George said. “They did not pay me a large sum of money they owed me. I fired them.”

George wrote, “be advised we learned RPM converted all security deposits collected from the tenants. …This includes your security deposit. In other words, the deposit monies RPM was to hold until your lease terminates were spent by RPM.”

George said he was attempting to recover his lost rent monies as well as tenants’ security deposits, and would return their security deposits if successful in reacquiring them.

Nevertheless, George’s letter strongly suggested that tenants call the District Attorney’s office in Wichita and take steps to file a complaint with the consumer fraud division, and file a theft report with police.

On Feb.13, tenants received a letter from Nela Bayouth, a managing member of Cedar Mills Property Management (CMPM), who wrote that RPM had “failed and refused” to turn over security deposits.

“We will amend any leases that are still in the one year period and ask leases that have expired month to month to resign a new CMPM lease,” she wrote.

Her letter also encouraged tenants to seek help from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office and said measures were being taken to recover the deposits but also included a clincher sentence at the end.

“…at this time, the amount of the deposit held for your unit is zero and we will not have any money to refund or apply toward damages at move out,” Bayouth wrote.

The letters left some tenants with mixed emotions. Tenant Olivia Kliewer said she was “shocked” by the letters but she was “relieved” that management was changing.

Tenant Susan Gray said the letters had a strange tone.

“It sounded like they wanted us to go to bat for them,” Gray said. “My thought is that the whole thing is Tom George’s responsibility. He hired RPM and if they did not do things right I do not see how that really involves tenants. He should go to bat for us.”

Kliewer and her two roommates plan to move out when their lease comes up in May, she said the idea of losing her deposit money after trying hard to take care of apartment was “definitely upsetting” to her.

“My roommates and I are college students,” she said. “Money is tight. I do plan to go with the flow and file a case with the DA.”

Kliewer noted problems with RPM’s website payment system, a heater, and complications with staff.

“We would talk to them about getting things done, they would say they were going to get it done and then nothing would ever get fixed,” Kliewer said. “We’d call them again and they’d say ‘Oh, we’ll call you back.’”

Gray also noted communication problems with RPM’s office and on-sight staff. She was unsure if she would file a case with the DA.

RPM did not answer six phone calls or return any of the four messages requesting comment.

However, George was able to clarify a few things when contacted.

He noted there had been some tenant complaints from Bown-Corby, but said he had not encountered any other finical problems with RPM prior to the termination of their contract.

He acknowledged that the letter he wrote to tenants was unclear in some places, and paired with CMPM’s letter could have lead to confusion among tenants. He clarified his intent.

“I am taking legal action against RPM,” George said. “We are going after all of our money and all of our tenants’ money. I am paying all the legal fees.”

Last modified Feb. 22, 2017

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