Nightmare on Franklin Road
DISCLAIMER: Pictures are included. If you’re easily grossed out, don’t say I didn't warn you!
* = name has been changed
Around this time last year, I decided I was ready to move out of my parents’ home and started looking for apartments. You all know I’m a city girl, and I really didn’t want to move out of Detroit, so I looked at a few places downtown and in West Village. Unfortunately for me at the time, my income and the price of rent in the city just weren’t matching up, so I begrudgingly began looking at some places in Southfield. In March, I came across a complex called Mapletree Apartments on Franklin Road and Northwestern Highway. According to Apartments.com, they had an opening for a 1BR/1BA for around $859 a month.
I’m really big on reading reviews. They’ve got 3.5 out of 5 stars on Google reviews, and I read every single post and looked at all of the pictures I could find online before calling to set up an appointment to tour the property. It seemed like a decent place to live and that the residents were pretty content with the management. During my appointment, a leasing agent named Karen* showed me around. Since there was someone still occupying the 1BR unit that I was interested in and all of the other one-bedrooms were full, she showed me a 2BR/2BA unit instead so that I could get an idea of the complex’s layout and design. Karen was extremely kind and I felt like the price was something I could work with, so I decided to fill out an application.
Although the apartment didn’t have everything I wanted, I felt like it was a good compromise since I had plans on trying to get a new car by the end of the year. My application was approved, and I set Wednesday, June 6, as my move-in day. I instantly got excited and started planning out my décor and even set a date in my mind for when I was going to have friends over. Move-in day came, and I had my dad, boyfriend and brothers help me pack all of my things into a U-Haul and we made it happen. I went to sign my lease paperwork around 11 a.m. and we finished moving all of my furniture and other items in around 4 p.m. Everything went pretty smoothly! Or so it seemed…
The First Bite
Around 3 a.m. while I was in bed, my leg started itching uncontrollably. I thought a mosquito had gotten me or that I was allergic to my new comforter, but something told me to get up to take a look at my skin. My entire right leg, literally from the top of my thigh to my ankle, was red, hot, swollen and covered in hives. I started ripping my sheets off of my bed and when I was about to take off one of my pillowcases, I saw a bug crawling around trying to get away. “Oh no,” I said to myself. It was a bed bug. Instantly, I started panicking but was able to catch it and kill it. Did I bring this in with me? How could this have happened?
Like always, in times of distress, I called my dad and told him what I saw. By this time, I was itching and burning all over. I was having an allergic reaction. When I talked to my dad, he asked me if that bug was the only one I had seen. Just when I was fixing my mouth to say “Yes,” I saw more. Everywhere. On the ceiling in the storage closet, on the ceiling in the bedroom closet, coming out of the carpet –– it was like a scene in a horror film. I wanted to scream and cry because I couldn’t believe what the hell I was seeing, but frustration and determination took over me and I just started trying to kill as many bugs as I could.
I spent the rest of the night sitting upright in a chair until the leasing office opened at 8:30 a.m. My dad left work early and got a ton of huge clear garbage bags for me to put all of my clothing and cloth items in so that we could take them to the laundromat to be washed.
The Morning After
When I went into the leasing office, I told Janice*, another one of the leasing agents, about the bed bug infestation. She looked shocked and then told me that they would “never move a resident into a unit with bed bugs.” Trying to keep my composure, I asked her when was the soonest time she’d be able to get a pest control company out to my unit, and she told me she’d have to wait to talk to Veronica*, who was their property manager. When I my dad and I got the opportunity to speak with Veronica, she basically made it seem like the whole thing was my fault. She insisted that I could’ve brought the bugs in when my NEW furniture got delivered, and told me multiple times that my unit could not have possibly had bed bugs in it because they “had the maintenance team laying down carpet and painting before I moved in.” My dad and I quickly let her know that maintenance workers are not pest control professionals; it’s not their job to look for and make reports about bugs on the premises.
When it came down to a solution, Veronica told me I could do one of three things: 1) I could have my unit treated and continue to live at Mapletree, 2) I could move to Pine Ridge Apartments, which is one of their sister properties, but I would have to be moved in by Monday, June 11, or 3) I could terminate my lease. My emotions were high and I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time. In the meantime, Veronica was able to get in touch with a pest control company that was set to come out between 4 and 6 p.m. I told Veronica that I wanted her to call me when the company said they were on the way so that I could talk to them and show them exactly where I found the bugs. I got a call from Veronica at 3:30 p.m. saying that the pest control company had ALREADY ARRIVED despite me asking her to call me BEFORE they got there. I had to rush down the Lodge to try and get there before they left so that I could talk to someone about what I had seen.
When I arrived back to Mapletree, I saw two technicians from Griffin Pest Solutions sitting in the leasing office. I got the attention of one of them and told him that I was the resident in Unit 228 and that I wanted to speak with him. Suddenly, Veronica came rushing out of her office and took both of the technicians over into a corner to talk with them, and then they left. When I asked Veronica what happened, all she did was tell me that the technicians found traces of bed bugs, but she couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me where they saw them or give me any other details. I asked her to call the technicians back to see if they could return to the office so I could have a real conversation with them, but she claimed that she couldn’t get a direct phone number. So I was left clueless with no answers to any of my questions. Before I left, she told me that they would be coming back three more times to treat my unit as well as the surrounding areas, and that I needed to leave my furniture in there so that it could be treated as well.
I told Veronica that the entire situation was unacceptable, and that I wanted to speak to someone from the apartment’s corporate office about being compensated for the inconvenience. She gave me Adam Jones’* number, who is the financial representative for Sherr Development. I gave him a call that evening and left a voicemail letting him know that I would like to be compensated in some way for the issue.
Now It Gets Messy
Before you ask, “Did you sleep there another night?” the answer is a very loud, clear HELL NAW. I washed the clothing that I could and brought that back to my parents’ house where I slept the next night. There was absolutely no way I was attempting to sleep in there again. The next day I went to look at their sister property and was told that if that was the route that I wanted to take, I wouldn’t be able to move in there for a few weeks until my furniture was done being treated, despite Veronica telling me that I would have to be moved in there by June 11 (which was less than one week from when all of the drama ensued). I also received a voicemail from Adam that day stating that he “was on the same page as Veronica,” and that there was “nothing else” they could do for me in regard to the matter. Mind you he had never heard my side of the story, so I could only make assumptions about what Veronica had said to him. I left Adam another voicemail and told him that the customer service I’d been receiving was horrible, and that I’d be seeking legal action if necessary.
I drove back over to Mapletree, went into Veronica’s office, and told her I wanted to break my lease. Again, she refused to take accountability on behalf of the complex for what happened. Talk. About. PISSED. I told her that I wanted to have a meeting with her and Adam on Monday, June 11, to talk with them about next steps. I left her office and went up to my unit to grab a prescription that I’d left on the table, and not only did I see a dead bed bug on the baseboard in the living room, but there was also toilet water leaking all over the floor, which further let me know that my unit had not been inspected properly at all.
The next day, I received a phone call from Adam in regard to the most recent voicemail I’d left him, and when I tell y’all this man was YELLING at me over the phone…it was totally ridiculous. He told me that “Mapletree is not responsible for taking care of bed bug problems” and that they weren’t going to compensate me for anything because they still “didn’t know” where the bed bugs came from. I felt like he was saying anything he possibly could just to argue with me. Even down to the toilet water leaking on the floor. His response to that was: “that could happen at any time.” After asking him to lower his voice several times, he told me, “I’m not about to play this game with you.” That triggered me. It’s SO hard trying to stay professional when someone is trying you like that. Before things got too ugly, I told him that I wanted to meet with him and Veronica on Monday, June 11 at 8:30 a.m. in the leasing office to have a discussion.
To top it all off, I ended up having to go to urgent care later that day because my skin was still extremely irritated. Benadryl became my best friend for some days.
Meeting Gone Wrong
When it came time for the meeting, I had my parents accompany me since they had both witnessed some of the things I mentioned earlier. We arrived to the leasing office on time, and neither Veronica nor Adam were there. When Adam finally walked in, I asked him where Veronica was, and he told me she wouldn’t be attending the meeting because of an “appointment.” Now, call me crazy, but I found that to be kind of fishy seeing as how she failed to mention that appointment to me when I initially requested the meeting. I told Adam I wanted to reschedule the meeting to when Veronica was available and even asked if he could call her to see if she would be able to meet later in the day. However, he insisted that her presence was unnecessary because he had his lawyer, Charlotte Smith* with him. I told him I was not comfortable speaking to Charlotte because I didn't have an attorney present with me. Just as my parents and I were about to gather our things to leave, Charlotte sashayed in and told us that she was going to be acting as a “mediator,” and was only there to listen to see how we could come to a resolution.
I eventually agreed to talk to Charlotte, but told everyone at the table I’d be recording the conversation because I’d witnessed people within the company backpedaling on statements. After explaining the situation and providing Charlotte with a list of items that I wanted to be reimbursed for, she said this to me: "I do want you to recognize that there were no bed bugs in the unit when you moved in, and that the prior resident did not have bed bugs, and that no other unit adjoining has bed bugs." Kind of a hefty statement made coming from someone that wasn’t involved in any of the previous conversations nor been inside of my unit, don’t you think? The meeting lasted for about 30 minutes and ended with Charlotte and I exchanging contact information.
The Ghosting Begins
After our meeting, communication started to get pretty murky between Charlotte and I. She emailed me on June 14 letting me know there’d be another treatment being done in my unit on the 21st of that month, but for a week I had been trying to get in contact with her to follow up about my list of reimbursements. I emailed and called her several times, but never got a response. I wasn’t able to speak with Charlotte until July 2 –– almost a month after the incident had taken place. She called me to inform me that she’d seen my emails but had been too busy to respond, and that she’d call me later that evening to discuss my list. We spoke that night and I had to give her my list again. The conversation ended with her saying I’d at least get my security deposit and first month’s rent back.
I was so tired of being ignored, so I decided to go up to Mapletree on July 3 when the third treatment was being done in my unit. My dad and I waited in the car for two hours during the window when the technician was supposed to show up, and he never did. I tried calling the phone number to Griffin Pest Control and told them I was a resident at Mapletree and was supposed to have someone coming out to my unit that day. The woman over the phone told me that they were not allowed to talk to tenants, and that any information about when they were coming and what they were doing had to come from my landlord. At this point, mad wasn’t even the word. I was too outdone. I went into the leasing office and found out from Janice that the technician was running two hours late. My dad and I left and came back at the new scheduled time and still didn’t see anyone. I felt like I was being Punk’d. After playing the cat and mouse game for about 15 more minutes, I received a call from Janice saying that the technician had already sprayed my unit and I could come talk to him if I wanted to.
I asked the technician a few questions, but he honestly wasn’t that helpful. He said he had only seen a dead bug on my mattress, however, when I went into the unit earlier that day when I was waiting on him to arrive, I spotted one on my brand new bookshelf as well. When I asked him if he had seen that one he said no. How convenient!
Taking it to the Next Level
On July 6, I filed a small claims case against Mapletree Apartments. After dealing with them for over a month without any concrete talk of when I’d receive my security deposit and rent money back, I felt that it was necessary. The court date was set for September 5. Three days later, I finally heard back from Charlotte. She told me that she’d be removing (read: transferring) the case from small claims to district court. A week and a half had gone by, and I still didn’t hear anything from the court about Charlotte coming to fill out paperwork to remove the case. I felt like she was playing games with me yet again.
On July 18, Charlotte emailed me again and told me that the final treatment in my unit had been completed, and that I was to make prompt arrangements to vacate the property by July 23. I told Charlotte (via email) that I wasn’t comfortable turning in the keys without proper documentation stating that I was no longer responsible for/associated with that unit, and she told me she’d talk to her client about providing me with some paperwork.
It took my family and me about two days (July 22 & 23) to gather everything out of the unit and take it to a storage facility. Since I figured that Charlotte never asked the Mapletree staff about the paperwork, I drafted up a letter myself, which had information about when I was moving out, my unit number, and when I would return the keys. I attempted to give that letter to Karen on July 22 to initial and make a copy of, but she quickly informed me that she was instructed not to communicate with me in regard to the issue.
July 24 rolled around, and I returned my keys to the leasing office staff. Janice was the one working at the time, and when I asked her if there was anything she needed to give to me as confirmation for me breaking my lease early and she told me no. “Weird,” I thought to myself. But I just ended up leaving.
The end of July came, and Charlotte still had not filed for the case to be removed, but I decided to call around and look for attorneys anyway so that I could be prepared for whatever. A lot of attorneys I talked to told me that since the amount of money I was asking for was under $6,000, it wasn’t the best idea for me to get legal representation because I’d end up paying them more in fees and could possibly walk away with noting. I understood what they were saying, but it definitely added more fuel to the fire.
It wasn’t until August 4 that I received my security deposit back. And then it wasn’t until August 22, almost two months after my initial claim was filed, that I received removal paperwork in the mail. It seemed like Charlotte was trying to drag this thing out for as long as she possibly could. Instead of a regular court date, I was instructed to attend mediation on October 5 at 9 a.m.
Mediation Day finally came, and I had my game face on. I had been dealing with these people for four months and I was completely over it. Both Charlotte and Adam came, and my dad accompanied me. I was under the impression that there would only be one mediator, but there were two. We crammed into this tiny room (except for my dad who waited in the lobby) and started explaining everything. I came in with a whole Manila envelope full of evidence: photos, email chains, court paperwork, etc. I wasn’t here for the shenanigans. The conversation started to get heated and we ended up having to do what is called a caucus, where the mediators separate the plaintiff and the defendant and talk to each party separately.
When I had my one-on-one with the mediators, I told them everything. I didn’t hold back. We probably spoke for about 20 minutes. I told them my initial ask, and an alternative number that I would be comfortable with receiving if I wasn’t granted everything that I was asking for. When it came time for the mediators to speak with Adam and Charlotte, their conversation was much shorter. I don’t think they weren’t taking the matter seriously. They, of course, refused to give me the amount of money I felt like I deserved, and came back with a number that I wasn’t okay with at all.
I gave them another number and they did the same thing. I gave them my final number and they still refused, so my dad and I both agreed that we were just going to take it to a higher level and get in front of a judge. As soon as I got in line to speak with a court clerk about next steps, the mediators came up to me and told me that Charlotte and Adam would grant me the final number.
We went back into the mediation room and signed paperwork stating that we had come to an agreement, and that I’d receive a check within a week. Although this solidified the end of a terrible era, I still felt like they came out on top because I still lost a few thousand dollars on costs that I would’ve never incurred if I hadn’t dealt with them in the first place.
These past four months have been a rollercoaster. I was so excited about moving, only for things to go so south. Not only was I in pain physically, but my spirits were crushed because I truly felt like a failure. That was my first attempt at trying to move out and do something so major on my own, and then the very next day something traumatic happened. It made me feel like I was incapable of being independent. I was embarrassed.
In some strange way, though, I’m glad it happened when it did and I’m glad it happened to me as opposed to someone else. I was fortunate enough to have somewhere to go back to; not everyone else has that privilege. If I were someone relocating from a different state, or if I had no money or no one else to help me out, things could’ve been worse.
I’m 100% sure they already have someone else occupying that unit, and I can only hope and pray that they aren’t dealing with the same disrespect that I did. If you’re in the process of looking at apartments, PLEASE ASK QUESTIONS about pest control, do your research, and try talking to people that live there if you can. There are people that will pacify you and tell you what you want to hear just to get your money. I’ve learned that the hard way.
This has been an awful experience, but I’ve learned so much and am happy to say that I’ve moved into a better place that I absolutely LOVE (and that I’ll be writing about soon!). I hope this very long blog post will be insightful to some of you!