We own a home in the United States. With the slow housing market, we were not able to sell it before moving here, so we opted for renting it. We made the mistake of hiring Michelle Fox of Fox Rental Management in Clayton, Johnston County, North Carolina to manage our property. I was fooled by a bible verse on a business card and a website that said “Meticulous Attention to Detail”. We signed a one year contract with her and the renters moved in the first of December, a year ago. The contract provided for us to pay her an upfront set up fee and a monthly management fee, nothing else.
There were problems from the start. Our contract with Fox said that the appliances were included, but that any repairs that needed to be made were the responsibility of the renters. Fox failed to make that part of the renters’ lease and the day before the renters moved in and five days before I was leaving the US, Fox told me the renters wanted to bring their own washer and dryer and wanted to know what I was going to do with mine! As you can imagine I was quite upset. Fox agreed to sell them on Craig’s List at a price I set and said the appliances would not be removed until sold. I suspected the appliances were removed and I asked for a photo of them in place. The photo did not come and Fox said she had found a buyer for less than my asking price and sold them. She sold the appliances to her employee and failed to disclose this to me.
She was to have taken photos and made a video before the renters moved in as documentation of the condition of the house. She did not do it but told us it had been done. When I later insisted on getting copies of the video and photos, she finally admitted to not doing it, but claimed when her employee came out to do it the day before the renters moved in that the house was still full of furniture and no one was in the house. I was in the empty house all day, cleaning and doing some touch up painting. No one came to take pictures and there was nothing left in the house except the cleaning and painting supplies. This was so important that had I known she was not going to do it, I would have hired someone to do it. She did not even conduct a move in inspection with the renters. She had the renters fill out a move in inspection form 30 days after moving in!
There were several accounting mistakes the first few months. She did correct the mistakes and give us the money due us after we pointed out the mistakes, but we should not have had to constantly scrutinize what we were paying her to do.
We were ready to file our income taxes and didn’t have a correct 1099 or Schedule E from her. I contacted the two vendors she had hired to get invoices to figure out what our expenses were and found out she had charged us more than the vendor had charged. (By vendors I mean the companies who came out to inspect the furnace and the septic tank). There was no provision in the contract to charge us an additional fee on top of what the vendor charged. If this had been a legitimate charge, she wouldn’t have hidden it from us and made it appear that the entire amount was going to the vendor.
She was to conduct an inspection of the home 90 days after the renters moved in. After the first two months we were worried about our home in her hands and just didn’t trust her, so we requested our realtor accompany her inspector. I sent several emails to Fox requesting this and our realtor friend called and emailed Fox, with no response to either of us. Then we find out the inspection happened before the 90 days were up, without our representative! Fox claimed there was a problem with one of the bathrooms, but couldn’t tell us which of the three or what exactly the problem was. She wouldn’t give us information on the name or qualifications of the inspector. We later found out the inspector was her father, a retired preacher, not someone with “inspector” qualifications. By this time we knew about her scheme to secretly add charges to the vendor’s bill, so we found our own contractor to check out the house. She refused to deal with him because he was not on her list of vendors. From Japan, we were scheduling with our contractor and the renters to try to find out what the problem was.
We were about four months into the contract by this time and asked to be released from the contract so we could hire someone to do the job we thought we had hired her to do. She refused.
At this point, I filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the North Carolina Real Estate Commission. We were very disappointed with how the BBB handled the complaint. All they did was forward our complaint to Fox and let her respond. They did not investigate or check on the answers Fox gave. They did post a shortened, redacted version of our complaint on their website, (along with the four previously filed complaints against Fox). All she had to do was respond to the complaint to stay in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission is the agency that licenses brokers. They actually investigated our complaint, although it is taking a long time due to the large number of complaints they handle. The answers Fox gave to this agency were very different from the ones given to the BBB. I would imagine one feels more compelled to tell the truth when one’s professional license is at stake. The complaint has worked its way through the in-office investigator, the field investigator, and is now in the hands of the attorney. I don’t know when a decision will be made.
The year with Fox has now passed and we are with a new management company. Our new manager has been very professional and is handling things the way we expected. At the time of the transfer from Fox to the new company, we discovered one last incompetent act. Fox lost the keys to our home! We are happy with our new manager and wish we had found her in the first place. I write this post so that anyone else looking for a property manager can benefit from our experience before getting into all the problems we had.