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Susan

apartment bait and switch

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I was shown a sample apartment which was nice, clean and actually furnished like a model apartment. I was told by the rental agent that the apartment available for rent is substantially the same but in a different building and is not available for 5 days because it is being cleaned.  If I want to rent it I have to sign the lease within 2 days but can only see the apartment in 5 days because it is being cleaned.  It is the policy of the complex that they have 5 days between renters for cleaning.  I signed the lease because I couldn’t find anything else since Asheville NC was in high summer / fall season and there were no empty 1 BR apartments I could find. My husband had passed away and I wanted to be near my son and his family.  

 

My son came with me when I went to move into the apartment and we found it had a very strong odor which made my eyes burn and my nose run almost immediately.  It was also quite dirty with glue stains on the carpet and many scratches in the walls and trim.  Faucets were leaking and the bathroom door could not be closed.  I am not an allergic person but this odor was making me ill.  The landlord's representative said they would move me to another apartment if I pay a moving fee of $300 to change to a different apartment.  I balked at that and eventually they said ok, they wouldn't charge the moving fee but again I would have to sign a lease within 2 days even though the apartment would be available to be seen only in 5 days because it was being cleaned. I didn't want to fall into that trap again so I stayed in the original apartment hoping the smell would go away as they said it would but it did not. I would have moved out the same day but had no place to go. 

 

Before the end of the first month I sent a letter stating that I had to move out because the apartment had made my eyes burn and my nose run for the entire time I was there.  I had paid a month’s rent and a deposit, bought the required rental insurance and paid deposits for utilities.  The landlord would not break the lease.  They locked the apartment and did not offer it to anyone else to rent even though there was a high demand and they could have rented it if they offered it to qualified applicants.  

 

Now they are charging me rent for an additional 2 months, plus utilities that were not used.  This is unfair.  I think this was a bait and switch resulting in a windfall profit for the landlord. What can I do?  The total amount is approximately $3,500 which is a lot to pay to an attorney, if I can find one, who may not be able to get a judgment in my favor since I did sign a legal contract.  The costs may actually increase for me if I have to pay an attorney on top of what the landlord is demanding.

 

I would appreciate advice on how to handle this.

 

Susan

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It's not "bait and switch."  You knew the apartment you viewed was not the apartment you would be renting.

 

You took a risk by agreeing to lease an apartment without an opportunity to inspect (why you couldn't at least look at the apartment during the 5 day period is beyond me, but it's beside the point), and nothing in your post suggests that the statement that the actual apartment was "substantially the same" wasn't true.  The problem with the apartment was that it smelled.

 

You had an opportunity to change apartments without paying any fee but rejected that.

 

You can quibble over the specific amount, but for the reasons mentioned, I think you're going to be on the hook for something, unless you want to go to court and argue that the smell made the place unhabitable.  The third point above will make that argument a tough sell at best.

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