I am not the kind of person that will sit for hours and write up a long complaint such as this one, so this is how severe this problem is.
I am going to describe this situation as objectively as possible, as there are many emotions involved here due to the sensitivity of the situation, and I want the potential renter to be fully aware of the stance that Greystar takes when it comes to the interest of their tenants, and what laws or rules were or were not broken by them in the process.
About a month ago, my wife and I learned that her mother has passed away. She was found in her apartment in Hawthorne Groves in Orlando which is currently managed by Greystar properties. She lived alone, she was divorced in 2011, and my wife is her only daughter. This makes her the only next of kin and there is no will filed with the Orange county court to dictate anything to the contrary. My mother-in-law had nothing. She was unemployed, trying to get disability and on the *** of being evicted by this complex for months because she was having trouble paying rent, so they were well aware that she had nothing. In light of that, her death was unexpected, and the medical examination is still pending, but no foul play is suspected, but we were all shocked by this.
Upon finding out that her mother passed away from the Orange county medical examiner, my wife immediately contacted the apartment complex, hoping to be able to get some clothing items and photos for her funeral arrangements and to see if there was a will. She initially spoke with Jessica, who is the manager of the complex, whose immediate response was "We have to get back to you, we never had this happen before." Right away we knew something was up. Why would they not at least escort us in to get some clothing or photos? We located the spare key that her mother gave us a few years ago, and the electronic lock had been disabled.
We called back later several times that day, only to be told that they are not letting ANYONE into the apartment without a PROBATE COURT ORDER.
I immediately contacted an attorney to find out what a probate court order entails, not ever having to deal with the death of an immediate family member before.
A probate court order in Florida starts with a $1500 attorney fee and a $400 filing fee, and it just goes up from there. So the bare minimum we would need to pay for probate is $1900. By the way, there are NO pro-bono probate attorneys in Florida. We just don't have that kind of money. We are struggling ourselves.
My wife used to see her mother every single weekend for years, and she is fully aware of what her mother's "assets" were as she pretty much did everything for her mother. There is no where near $1900 of assets in that apartment, so not only would it cost us a fortune to get in the apartment, there is no way we would get that money back!
Out of the 12 or so attorneys I spoke to, not 1 had ever heard of a complex doing this in Florida before. There is NO statute requiring Greystar to prevent access to the apartment by next of kin. One of the attorneys volunteered to call the complex to try to reason with them. After that happened, they refused to talk to us at all.
I invite Greystar and their attorney, Harry Heist, to post the statute on here to disprove my point. In fact, the only person who seems to advocate the position is Mr Harry Heist and his firm, as they are EVICTION attorneys. It even states on HIS OWN WEBSITE BLOG that there is no reason to prevent a family member with a key, to access the apartment to remove property, so they are contradicting their own legal advice.
Now that we have that out of the way, I will go ahead and demonstrate the rules that WERE BROKEN by Greystar Properties and their representation, Mr Harry Heist.
Jessica Spencer instructed us to call Mr. Harry Heist when my wife, naturally extremely upset, began to push the issue. When speaking with Harry, he showed no intent of addressing the situation regarding our plight to merely get clothing and photos to bury the deceased. In fact, he shouted at and hung up on my wife and refused to take any further calls. He has broken Florida BAR RULE 4-4.3 DEALING WITH UNREPRESENTED PERSONS, and I will be filing a complaint with the Florida BAR as soon as I am done writing this.
All of this time, they have not let us in to the apartment, but they saw fit to allow others to come and go as they pleased, without posting a proper notice. I can see through the windows that furniture had been moved, carpets were torn out, and who knows what they have removed or thrown away, or pocketed in the process.
Instead of a funeral mass and memorial service, we were forced to have my mother-in-law cremated as there was no clothing to bury her in, and no photos of hers to display a proper memorial.
As a last ditched effort, we filed a Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. A self-help affidavit and $240 is what is required to file this, and is about all we can afford now that we paid for the cremation services. I would also add that when we hand delivered this filing to the management office to show that we had intent to retrieve the possessions, they threatened to call the police on us. Nothing was said, no threats were made. My wife was sobbing and simply asked "How could you do this? How can you sleep at night?" That to them must constitute harassment, oh, and we did mention our intent to stand in front of the front gate with signs, which is perfectly legal since it would be a demonstration on public property!
I don't understand why they wouldn't let us in either, but from all of the research I have done, I DO know this:
Remember, that probate law in Florida allows the decedent's first $6000 in assets to go towards the funeral and medical services. So even if we were able to scrounge up $400 out of what was in there between furniture and miscellaneous items, the complex can make no claim to it, and they probably can't locate the deposit that was made nearly 8 years ago as the complex changed hands.
However, if they put the possessions under lock and key knowing it would cost more to "legally" gain access to them then they are worth, then after 60 days after Mom's death, they are essentially free to do what they please with those possessions, as they would be considered abandoned.
My opinion: It is an extremely dirty immoral trick to take advantage of the Florida law (or lack thereof) addressing the deceased and their apartment lease.
I ask you as the consumer to please consider this carefully before renting a Greystar Property.
Let me conclude with the arguments that may or may not be presented as a response to this post from the staff at Greystar.
A. We are following the law
Which law is that? Please cite the Florida Statute please! You ran a background check on her before you rented to her, so you can easily determine who her family members are and there is no other next of kin. You can even find the divorce under public record, so her ex-husband can't lay claim to any possessions either. Her brother is in NY and is equally frustrated that we can't get into the apartment, and also can make no claim to anything in it since there is no will.
B. We don't want to get sued!
By whom? There is no one to sue you except us! There was no will filed with the county, and that is the only valid instrument that would dictate anyone else gaining access to those possessions.
C. You were harassing us.
Tell me, if you were in our shoes, how would you YOU feel if you couldn't get to your mother's lifelong possessions, knowing that everything that she left behind can be thrown away at any moment? We have been as civil as anyone in this position could possibly be.
D. Jessica Spencer may say "You told me I don't know what I am doing and shouldn't be working there (at Hawthorne Groves.)"
Jessica, you haven't show us that you are capable in any way as a property manager other than to defer any meaningful decisions to your attorney.
Your first excuse to not let us in was that no one was allowed into the apartment, not even your cleaning guys. You claimed that you couldn't get in touch with the investigator to release the property. THERE WAS NO POLICE TAPE ACROSS THE DOOR, the property was released to you when he left. We were able to get in touch with the investigator any time we tried and we had to CONFERENCE him into a call with you before you ever got in contact with him.
When that excuse was no longer valid, you went ahead and let cleaners in and who knows who else, just not us, and you did so without posting the legally required 24hr notice on the door. I hope for your sake that everything you did in that apartment and anything that was moved is well documented.
We have voice mails sent to mom from your employee, Marvin Brown, and copies of several improperly executed eviction notices that prove that you were putting mom in unnecessary duress, when she has been a tenant of the complex for over eight years.
We can put the past behind us, but there is nothing that reasonably justifies this stance of Greystar other then to feel that you are following the letter of the law, but only when it benefits you.
I am going to send a copy of this complaint to Greystar's owner, Mr. Bob Faith. Since he is unable to address matters over the phone, perhaps the public forum will get his attention.
Monetary Loss: $3000.