13 Investigates


Are some landlords slow to fix, quick to evict?

Investigating the Billion Dollar landlords
Posted at 6:00 PM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2018-11-21 16:56:37-05

In cities across the country, and right here in Las Vegas, frustrated renters are reporting major problems with the houses they call home. 

Contact 13 worked with the ABC News investigative team to expose some harsh realities behind the national companies renting those homes. Click here for more of the ABC Investigation.

They're the "Billion Dollar Landlords" who snatched up thousands of houses when the market was low. 

But instead of flipping them for a profit, these corporate landlords are renting out the houses.  And many renters say it's anything but home sweet home.   

"We found emergency housing. I had to board my cat for a month."

Lauri Voter said the constable showed up to kick her out of her home this summer as she was finishing her morning coffee.

"And he started saying, 'I don't think you understand. You're rinsing out a cup. I can arrest you. You need to leave now.'"

The 7th grade teacher says she never experienced eviction until she rented from Waypoint - a national company that owns and rents out nearly 2000 single-family homes here in Las Vegas.  

The Better Business Bureau says complaints from across the country have earned Waypoint a D+ grade. 
"Complaints that impact what I would call a livability and certainly comfort of living," says Matt Fehling. "Things like air conditioners going out for extended periods of time."

When water leaked from a bathroom upstairs Lauri says, "That was frightening. We thought the tub was going to come through the ceiling."

The problem was fixed. But Lauri says malfunctioning pool equipment was not.  

"And they did try to clean the pool but it still wasn't swimmable," says Lauri. 

She reported the problems multiple times, but had trouble with Waypoint's required maintenance web portal, 

"It would work sometimes. And not work other times," Lauri explains. "If we got someone on the phone, or if someone called us back, they would just say, 'go to the portal.'"

Frustrated, she withheld rent in July hoping to prompt Waypoint to fix the pool.  But the company says a renter must file a notice and pay full rent to the court, where it's held until the tenant/landlord dispute is resolved.

Waypoint claims they addressed seven work orders for Lauri's pool in a timely manner. 

 "Inevitable. Things go wrong in homes. And we know that," says Waypoint COO Charles Young. 

"Any disappointed resident is one too many. And we're committed to working with all of them."

Lauri offered to pay the rent minus an estimated pool fee, but according to emails she provided, it was too late. 

Lauri explains, "Waypoint said, 'No the pool has been cleaned to our standards. And I believe we started the eviction process.' So they wouldn't take the rent."  

Court records show Waypoint filed about 175 evictions in the Valley between January 2016 and October 2017. Waypoint says eviction notices are required by state law. But claims very few result in full eviction.  

And though they're unhappy with the BBB's D+ grade, Young says, "I expect this to get better and that's ok."

Young claims overall they provide high-quality homes in good neighborhoods. 
"We invested over $22,000 per home on average across all our markets."
But faced with eviction last summer, Lauri says the clock was ticking and charges were running up. 

"Waypoint charged us $55 a day, I believe, to keep our own belongings in the house," says Lauri. 

She says she arranged a move-out date through the corporate office in Arizona, but no one showed up.  Having lost thousands of dollars in security deposits and moving expenses, she went to a local office to confirm, on a recording, when they'd let her back in to get everything she owned. 
Lauri felt compelled to do this because in the time she rented from Waypoint, communication was a challenge

"We would call and there would be no answer," she says. "We would leave a message. There would be no response."
"Really quick to evict, and also, you know, quick to apply really horrendous late fees," says Aimee Inglis, with San Francisco-based advocate group Tenants Together. Inglis is studying the impact of corporate landlords. 

"Nickel and diming people on their security deposit, and many folks haven't even been getting it back," says Inglis. 

The BBB gives Waypoint that D+ grade citing a pattern of complaints from across the country.  But Waypoint cites their own customer surveys, which we should note were sought out after maintenance issues were finally resolved.
"And 99% have... a positive satisfaction rating," says Young.  "And now, if there are a few that are not, that's how we get better."

Waypoint just merged with another national landlord, Invitation Homes, which means about 82,000 houses in the country will be rented out by one company. Waypoint says that only accounts for a small segment of the 16-million single-family houses on the U.S. rental market.  

"We're in the business of housing families," says Young. "That's what we do. And so an eviction is always a last resort."

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