By on January 4, 2019

One of the worst things about being an adult is that you’re constantly inundated with legal agreements you don’t have time to read. But you’d best read them all the way down to the fine print because, as every old crank knows, “that’s where they get you.”

A sterling example of this phenomenon cropped up in Texas this week, where a man is at risk of being thrown out of his apartment complex if he doesn’t fix the dent on his first-generation Chevrolet Traverse. While the complex doesn’t have a policy around owning a battered automobile, it does have one about them occupying the property — and management is swift to enforce it (through towing) if owners don’t fix them. That’s a problem, as the man with the dented Chevy, one Sontlux Sukhavachana, says he can’t afford to take it into a body shop and can’t make rent without a car. 

The dent itself is indeed unsightly, though relatively modest in its overall scope. It looks as though someone had a serious parking mishap or sideswiped a concrete barricade. More ugly than debilitating, but it’s unsightly enough for the Ohio-based Fath Properties, which owns the Biltmore Apartments in Dallas where Sukhavachana lives, to want it taken off the premises.

“I got this notice on my car saying that they were gonna tow my car tomorrow,” Sukhavachana told CBS 11 (Dallas-Fort Worth) on Wednesday, before adding that Fath is “expecting tenants who barely have enough money to make ends meet to invest money in cosmetic damages.”

Despite receiving an extension in December, Sukhavachana said he still won’t have enough saved for repairs by the new deadline of January 4th. According to CBS 11, the vehicle image rubric has caused problems in the past. One renter claimed his car was towed over chipped paint, while another resident said his car was towed because his car was painted “two different colors.”

Fath Properties, which owns more than 30 complexes across the country, said its vehicle condition agreement is applied universally. It’s even outlined on its corporate website in “A Word From The Owner.”

From the website:

One of our unique policies is the Vehicle Condition Agreement that is part of our Rental Criteria and an Addendum to the Lease Agreement. Amazingly it came from our applicants consistently telling us the first thing they looked at were the cars in the parking lot. If the cars were disabled, heavily dented, rusted, unsightly, they assumed the property was poorly operated and their neighbors would be unacceptable. We understand that your automobile is a personal item and as such is your right to drive whatever you want, however from our research, this is something most good customers requested and we do have the right to provide.

If you truly want a clean, quiet, well-maintained place to live and will abide by the rules, I believe we are your best option. If you do not care and do not wish to follow the rules, then you will not be happy living with us.

While we can bemoan the lack of choice and freedoms caused by corporate interests and curse how things keep getting worse all the time, Fath appears to be well within its legal rights. That does not, however, make the practice anything less than a dick move.

It also doesn’t appear to be helping their appeal. CBS noted that the Biltmore Apartments has accumulated lackluster online reviews. After looking for ourselves, we were confronted with dozens of negative reviews pleading with potential residents to look elsewhere — often written in all caps. Complaints included everything from bug infestations to burst water pipes. While there were some positive assessments, even most of those cited a not-so-mild annoyance the renter had to contend with early on.

“While it might not be illegal, it doesn’t mean that it’s not outrageous,” said Sandy Rollins, the executive director of the Texas Tenants’ Union. “They seem to hold tenants to a much higher standard than they hold themselves.” Rollins said she was already aware of Fath because her non-profit received complaints about the company ranging from towing to poor maintenance.

Fath declined an interview request, instead pointing to its website and renters agreement to show it had done nothing illegal. Perhaps not, but we wonder how others feel about the practice — and whether they’re subject to similar mandates from their own apartment complex or local homeowner association. Should this dude just fix his damn car by any means necessary, adhering to the agreed-upon rules, or is management being wholly unreasonable?

[Images: CBS 11]

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71 Comments on “Apartment Complex Goes to War Over Dented Chevy...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    TIL that Sontlux is someone’s name as opposed to a parts description.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    ““I got this notice on my car saying that they were gonna tow my car tomorrow,” Sukhavachana told CBS 11 (Dallas-Fort Worth) on Wednesday, before adding that Fath is “expecting tenants who barely have enough money to make ends meet to invest money in cosmetic damages.” ”

    I have no sympathy for this entitled douchebag. They don’t know squat about the finance of their tenants, and they don’t have a single bit of responsibility for the finance of their tenants.

    They DARE to expect their TENANTS to OWN their OWN responsibility for their finances.

    All Fath said was, “if you want to live here, sign this.” It’s not their responsibility to coddle the entitled snowflakes who think the world owes them never to have to live up to their agreements, who think instead the world owes them being in good financial health.

    He could have not signed it, and found somewhere else to live. But no, he signed it figuring “I’ll just find a way out of it if this happens.” Now it’s happened, and his “finding a way out” involves crying and whining to the world and expecting SOCIAL JUSTICE! to come down as a result of the keyboard warriors on Twitbook.

    If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. “Oh, that’ll never happen” says every idiot who’s ever signed an absolutely horrible agreement.

    How many horrible car deals and finance agreements do we read about here all the time? Yeah. I don’t exist to be an airbag for people who stumble through life actively making stupid decisions.

    There’s a HUGE difference between “fallen on bad times” and “I made a stupid decision”. The former, I give a fish to. The latter, I might help him help himself out of it–but I won’t give him the fish.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      I can’t tell if this is Jonathan Swift level sarcasm or serious.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a fine line between fallen on bad times and made a stupid decision in this country.

      The vast majority of Americans are undereducated and essentially illiterate. A great deal of whom to no fault of their own. When presented with agreements that are made to be as attractive as possible on their face and as predatory as possible in their details, they simply don’t have the skills to make a good decision. That’s why we have consumer protection agencies, etc… Or at least we did before we started the latest round of wealth aggregation via deregulation. In the end, you and I pay for it, we might as well educate people well and have some regulation around just heartily you can screw someone over.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        @ziprage: “The vast majority of Americans are undereducated and essentially illiterate.”

        I won’t dispute that. What I *will* dispute is that it is up to me to accommodate that.

        It’s a big world out there, full of opportunity. You can sit there slobbering, like Jabba the Hutt, or you can go out and grab some of it. No, you don’t start at the top. And that’s the problem with entitlement–people think they can go to work and get what it takes years, and lots of hard work, to earn.

        People also expect that they should NEVER have any setbacks, ever. That no bad things or hurdles should ever appear in their way. If those bad things happen, the entitled ones just drop where they are and expect the world to move the hurdle for them.

        “When presented with agreements that are made to be as attractive as possible on their face and as predatory as possible in their details, they simply don’t have the skills to make a good decision.”

        It starts with the simple acknowledgement that the world is NOT a fair place, and if there’s any question, the other guy IS trying to screw you over.

        Yes, it’s hard to read the contract. I’m sure he knows someone who could have sat with him and they could have understood it together. Or come up with questions. It’s not rocket science.

        • 0 avatar

          This is almost entirely on its face false. Meritocracy is a great American myth. People far smarter than I have collected the data and proven so (a great read:https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/).

          The pull yourself up by your bootstraps arguments doesn’t fly. Essentially your argument is, “I got mine, screw you.” Your complete and total lack of empathy for your fellow man is troubling and an American disease.

          • 0 avatar
            jalop1991

            No, the disease is people who think that because they breathe air, it is up to the rest of the world to provide them with a living wage.

            And by living wage, I mean “supports a family of 4 including sending kids to college”.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            How about My family and I made a ton of sacrifices over many years to overcome poor decisions I made early in my adult life and I am sick of subsidizing others who don’t want to make those same or similar sacrifices and tend to loathe people like me except for every April 15th when they show up for the annual hand out.

          • 0 avatar

            The Atlantic.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        “The vast majority of Americans are undereducated and essentially illiterate”
        jalop1991 won’t dispute this…but I’m your huckleberry.
        Where in hell did you pull that stat from, your ars!?

        the issue here is just like healthcare for all. everybody wants it but refuses to give up what they need to make it work.
        nobody wants folks to have a say in how they eat and live, but expect others to pay for poor decisions.

        who here can say they know how this dude lives his life or earns his money…or spends it?

        if so, then wh6y presume he has any right to expect others to allow him the exceptions others live by?

        fix your car.
        follow the rules.

    • 0 avatar

      Reading this makes me consider how the culture got to this point. These kind of attitudes – feeling entitled, “hard times” avoidance, etc. – had to be encouraged/reinforced at some point, perhaps over a somewhat long period of time. Is this a result of the “no one is a loser, everyone wins” approach seen often in situations like a child not making the base hit, not coming in first place in some competition? Celebrate something that does not demand celebration? Shield the child from dealing with life’s “unfairness”? Stuff does not “always” go your way? I don’t truly know, but I suspect that this is, at the very least, a factor. Society has no one to blame but itself for encouraging/imprinting the behavior/attitude.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Saw this posted on the “J” site. As absurd and wrong as it is, I can’t help but wonder if the guy just spent $5 on some polishing compound and $10 on generic white touch up paint, I’m willing to bet the management people would back off (and I’d then be waiting out my lease to move out of there).

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      Exactly – buff out the paint transfer and it would be pretty much unnoticeable.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It would certainly be worth making the effort. At the very least, he would force the property owners to reveal whether or not they are reasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I would do this – ride the wave. Then don’t pay rent for as long as possible. Make them evict me hard while renting something else already. Put some old furniture from garbage. And when they finally evict me, just walk away leaving them with apartment full of furniture that they have to clean out.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Having not rented for quite a few decades, and not knowledgeable, does that strategy screw you in any future financial transaction? Can the lessor wreck your credit history?

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, they’ll send you to collections and it’s going to hurt your credit.

          You also lose your entire security deposit (a month’s rent), and will likely have to also pay for the removal of all the crap – given how tight their lease seems to be.

          I suspect this man can afford neither a credit hit nor losing a month’s rent.

          • 0 avatar
            jalop1991

            @Corey Lewis: “I suspect this man can afford neither a credit hit nor losing a month’s rent.”

            And so his response is to…do nothing.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Actually, this is all state by state, or even city-specific laws. I know that in some places it is really hard to evict someone. People can live months at the expense of the landlord.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      gtem, I agree regarding removing the paint transfer. Scratched and dented, but mostly white would be much less noticeable.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    An old saying applies. “What the big print sayeth, the small print taketh away.”

  • avatar
    ajla

    It has fortunately been a while since I lived in an apartment, but when I did they all had vehicle condition rules like this. I’m not sure how strictly they were enforced though.

    Back when I was tenant for detached houses I walked away from a few because I didn’t like the lease agreement. However, it didn’t take me long to realize every landlord used the same template so I just had to suck it up.

    Even now owning a suburban house on a large-ish lot with no HOA I’m beholden to volumes or city, county, and state ordinances.

    Really, unless you move way out to the sticks or have screw you money, you’ll have to answer to someone’s authority when it comes to your possessions.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    There’s no street parking of any kind nearby? Or a store that wouldn’t notice if his car was parked in a different spot every night?

    Seriously, this story is stupid on many levels.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Answering my own question, and assuming there is only one Biltmore apartment complex in Dallas, there is a Walmart literally right behind the building. 5 minute walk at most. Yeah the rule is stupid, but it’s not like he has no options here.

    • 0 avatar

      I doubt the thought process for solutions went that far. “I can’t” seems to be the primary response, with a shrugging of shoulders.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        @Corey Lewis: “I doubt the thought process for solutions went that far. “I can’t” seems to be the primary response, with a shrugging of shoulders.”

        Welcome to the entitlement world. They sit there like Jabba the Hutt and expect to be taken care of at a level THEY want to be taken care of, as they watch “Cribs” on MTV and think that’s reality.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I agree Corey. Assuming he’s been an otherwise good tenant, there’s probably some compromise where he buffs out the paint transfer to make the damage less noticeable and parks the car somewhere else when the leasing office is open.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        The thing is, almost all of us here have a built-in bias. Nearly everyone reading this either changes their own oil or at least knows how to. Ditto a flat tire.

        While it appears this guy is playing the helpless card pretty hard, he may not know enough about cars and paint for it to even occur to him that he might be able to DIY something that doesn’t involve duct tape. He’s taken it to a body shop and he knows he can’t afford the quote.

        Yes, he could try a couple other body shops, especially a mom-n-pop that he could explain his situation to that would probably do just enough to make it passable for a few bucks. But even that requires some amount of problem solving skill.

        There’s a big difference between ignorance and entitlement even though on the surface they may look the same.

        Of course, now that he’s drawn attention to himself through the media, the owners may make accept a partial repair to make the negative press go away, but they’ll be watching him like a hawk after that.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Pseudo-ticket claims that he is illegally parked by virtue of not fixing a cosmetic problem. I am not a lawyer, but isn’t legality something determined by a, oh, I don’t know, government, applying laws and regulations?

    • 0 avatar

      Not on private property, where the relationship of owner and tenant is governed by a lease agreement.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        My point was use of the term ‘illegally’, not whether the T&Cs were appropriate for what is a civil matter.
        Dragging your sorry self 10 minutes across summertime Dallas parking lots would not be fun, but this gives the guy months to save up and fix the damn thing.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          How about “unlawfully”? As in, “your car is parked unlawfully in violation of our agreement, and as per our agreement, we will tow it”.

          That is, the landlord claims that he is in violation of civil laws governing such agreements.

          • 0 avatar
            chuckrs

            @jalop1991

            how about “Your car is in violation of Fath’s terms, which you agreed to. Fix it or move it, or we will.”

            I’m so glad that, absent a major reversal, I won’t be living in a van down by the river, or in an apartment complex next to a Walmart.

  • avatar
    frank smith

    I’ve had my car towed from my apartment complex without any warning for having an expired inspection sticker.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I had a similar experience selling a townhouse. They demanded that a garage door be replaced, despite the fact that it was in the exact same condition as when I bought the place. Luckily it was a corporate move and I got my firm to pay for it, but annoying none the less.

    The odd thing was that some windows were practically falling apart and they made no mention of that!

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      When you move into a rental etc., photograph and document all deficiencies. Have the document notarized to verify the date if the potential for dispute seems likely.

  • avatar
    pdog_phatpat

    I’m not sure whats worse, the policy or owning a Chevy Traverse.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Sorry Sontlux. Their complex, their rules (that you didn’t read.) End of discussion.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    So the guy can’t afford some sandpaper, a roll of masking tape, some Bondo and a can of spray paint?

    Yeah it wouldn’t be perfect but probably good enough to appease the rental gods.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So the Traverse came out in like 2009. There are at least decent odds that this vehicle is still financed. (If he is currently scraping by I doubt he purchased it new in 2009). This of course equals comprehensive coverage…unless they are uninsured.

    Maybe not, don’t know. Point is I have lived in apartments (and barracks for that matter) with cars in all manner of disassembly in the parking lot. Some people don’t like that. This company apparently saw that and structured their lease to attract the kind of folks that don’t like that. There are other places that don’t care. This person should have rented in those places. It is a hard lesson, but he is lucky…I learned the lesson with a car loan that completely screwed me. Still had to pay it. Never made that mistake again.

    Learn from it. It sucks being poor in this country. That certainly motivated me to do what I had to do to no longer be poor.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yep, I imagine it’s from a note lot (“Nosotros Financiamos”), and has a GPS tracker on it in case the guy misses a payment and the lot decides they want to pull it back.

    • 0 avatar
      thejohnnycanuck

      You’re my hero, Art. Please tell us more about your fascinating life story and other people’s financial predicaments that you know nothing about.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        OK Johnny, how about I don’t care. Lease says you can’t have a busted up car parked in the parking lot. His car is busted up, therefore it can’t be in the parking lot. Having a bunch of hoopties parked around adversely affects the property value. My HOA feels the same way. If I “fell on hard times” and had a banged up Trans Am in my driveway I’d get similar treatment and people like you wouldn’t give a rat’s kiester. That’s fine, because I don’t give a Rat’s kiester here. Not my job to know or care about anyone’s finances but my own.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        But maybe you, being so kind and caring would kick this guy some cash to fix his ride? Didn’t think so. Much easier to just moan about stuff and try to get the Government to raise my taxes because we “owe” other people something.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I worked with one of these dudes and he actually suggested I take a pay cut (commission) so he could make more, get the juicier jobs, since he had 2 small kids and a stay-at-home wife. I laughed and said “You want to play BUT want me to PAY??”

          Our boss laughed too, but I was 20 and lived large on what I made, while he was 30 and lived beyond his means. Yeah I should’ve put it a nicer way, but he had it coming (long story).

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Back when I was an apartment dweller, one of my criteria was to check the parking lot to see the condition of the vehicles. If it was full of beaters, chances were higher you’d have issues with other tenants. If the cars were in generally good shape, the quality of tenants was generally higher.

      These contract conditions really don’t have much to do with the vehicle, but about attracting quality tenants. It’s smart long term thinking, until the media decides to sensationalize it.

      • 0 avatar
        SirRaoulDuke

        I would do the same thing. Lots of hoopties is never a good sign. That said, I don’t think a late model with a dent would even get my attention.

        What I wonder is exactly where is the line drawn by this landlord? My daily is mechanically well-sorted, but it does have its fair share of small nicks and dings. It is a fairly attractive vehicle, but upon close inspection I don’t know how it would be judged within the arbitrary language used by this landlord (I can only go by the statement provided by the landlord, as their website does not contain the actual lease agreement, and the statement language is arbitrary). I would be pissed to high heaven if a landlord told me it was in disrepair.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        Back in the late ’90’s my then-girlfriend and I were looking for a new place. She’d spotted a huge old house that had been carved-up into seven apartments, with one for rent. I was apprehensive, as I’d been used to concrete buildings with underground and heated parking, but we went to check it out. The landlord told us to park in the rear, as the house had rear external stairways – my lazy, elevator-using self nearly balked at that aspect. I changed my mind after a quick perusal of said parking lot. An ancient RHD Beetle; a supercharged MR2; a brand new Integra; a manual Accord; and a Disco Van with bubble windows. My lowly 944 fit right in. We lived there for four years. I later found out that the woman who owned the Beetle had painted it with a roller.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes. His car lowers the value of their property. It scares off some of the better clientele.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Ironic that they’re going after him about his hooptie – that complex is in a high crime area of Dallas that was once the little community of Vickery (it had a feed store and a roller skating rink when I was a kid) before being annexed into the city of Dallas. The area is very run down, full of apartment complexes built in the early 1970s, with plenty of Section 8 renters. The guy that died from Ebola lived in this neighborhood, in a nearby complex.

    It’s ironic because I’ll bet that the city could send Code Enforcement out there and find all kinds of code violations on the property.

    All that being said, yes, the guy should have read the lease. There’s plenty of slum complexes in Five Points (a name it gets from a nearly five-way intersection where Park Lane, Fair Oaks, and Ridgecrest meet), and I’ll bet the others don’t care what your ride looks like.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “I’ll bet that the city could send Code Enforcement out there and find all kinds of code violations on the property.”

      Maybe not. They might be trying to stand out from the other apartments in the area and attract a higher class of tenant. This could mean keeping the property up (and charging a little more). Enforcing vehicle condition clauses may also help in attracting such tenants.

      I’d rather live in such a building, than the ones you describe.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    If he would have greased the palm of the complex manager when he was supposed to none of this would have happened. The complex manager’s cousin runs the wrecker.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Most of those marks would come out if you hit it with some compound and a buffer and maybe some of the bigger dents would come out with a $2.99 Harbor Freight suction cup.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That’s what I’m saying. Quick look at youtube, a trip to AutoZone or Wal mart, and about 15 minutes of time and he’d have a much more presentable looking car. All of this towing business aside, why not do such a trivial and cheap/easy thing to make your car look much nicer after a scrape like that?

  • avatar
    MBella

    I wonder if the manager has another reason to be difficult with this guy. It just doesn’t seem like you would pick this fight as a landlord without there being more to the story.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      gasp! Are you saying someone would actually TWIST THE FACTS and then use Twitbook to drown out the truth using said twisted facts? All for his own benefit?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    With my own bad experiences with apartments/landlords, alerting the media, or sniveling in general, somehow never occurred to me. But they did send me on a path to fixing myself, my situation and eventually becoming the landlord.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    As others have mentioned, not paying the rent and then leaving without notice is a bad idea. This will not only likely lead to trouble with one’s credit rating, many property managers and owners subscribe to a similar system which reports a person’s rental history. Late rent payment or eviction probably would lead to a much more difficult time finding a place to live.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Individuals failing to maintain their own possessions won’t respect others possessions.

  • avatar

    They should have told him they were kicking him out for his hairstyle.


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