UAM Performed an Unauthorized Purposeless Service and Paid Themselves Out of My Innocent Tenants' Deposit
Having been a customer for six months, during which time Urban Asset Management (UAM) wasn't asked to do much, I had a problem with the air-conditioning (AC) unit at my rental property. Being hands-on, I reached out to three different contractors on my own. They informed me that my 12-year-old unit was on its last legs. They also quoted me replacement costs. For comparison, I asked UAM to come to my property and give me an appraisal.
The next thing I know, UAM sends me a $295 bill. They justify it as "service performed on my AC to diagnose and maintain it".
When was this service authorized? Why would anyone perform expensive maintenance work on a 12-year-old AC? Why did all other contractors who appraised my AC do so free of charge, and easily deduce that there was no point in attempting a fix?
UAM had no answers for any of these questions. Instead they hid behind a clever "We can execute any service under $300 without notifying you" clause stealthily worked into their contract. Actually, not so clever, as it results in loss of significant long-term revenue and poor reputation.
A company with zero integrity, logic or self-respect. After this revealing incident, I fired them immediately. After being dismissed, UAM took their $295 fee out of my innocent tenants' deposit. I'm not sure this is even legal, and am researching the matter.
By the way, the AC replacement cost UAM quoted was far higher than what I eventually found myself.
$295, the amount they claim their unauthorized service, which accomplished nothing, is worth.
UAM and I agree that the purposeless service they provided was never authorized by me. We also agree that my fully documented and easily provable instructions to them were to provide a "replacement proposal", not to take any action.
This review is not factual and should be considered slanderous. The investor requested that we send our tech to the property to access the hvac system, because he stated that a/c repairs were not with in the scope of his repairman's knowledge. When our tech arrived there was not enough freon in the unit to run a diagnostics test to determine where the issue was. The investor was notified of this via e-mail when we were unable to reach him by phone and our voice mail was not returned. Our tech put the minimum amount of freon in the unit to run the test (6lbs). Freon with other companies run between $65-85 per pound plus and some companies even charge more than, plus a service call fee, plus the time a tech spends on the job to determine the problem. We have a written management agreement with our investors that we will not exceed $300.00 on any service repair with out their consent, so because the owner would not return our call or e-mail while the tech was on site we only billed $295.00 honoring our agreement. (A copy of our agreement can be provided if needed) The charge for the freon alone should have been $360.00 plus a service call charge. It was determined that due to the cost to repair the unit it would be better to replace the system. The client again was informed of this information at which time he asked us to provide a replacement proposal, and stated he would be getting another bid him self. Several days went by and the client was billed the invoice for the requested service. Once he received the bill for the service call and began e-mailing that we remove the charge right away or he would terminate the agreement. He refused to pay it and began insulting and lashing out inappropriately at the staff. Although we would like to offer free maintenance service to our investors unfortunately, that is not a reality in any industry. We do however offer our services a significantly lower cost than a third party vendor or contractor could provide. Below are are few e-mails that were exchanged between the investor and Urban showing that his request for a replacement proposal was not until after we informed him that the unit had to have 6 lbs of freon added to it in order to even run they system and check for the problem as he requested. I have only included the e-mails exchanged showing that this review is not a true account of how we conduct our business, however additional documentation can be provided if necessary. The owner was released from his contract and the tenants security deposit was sent to him less the discounted bill he owed for services rendered, and this situation should be completely resolved at this point. I regret the client feels we should have provided this service for free, however given the already discounted amount that was invoiced, and the property being located almost (40 miles) each way from our office we are unable give any further discounts. We respectfully ask that he stop writing slanderous and false reviews about our company. We do wish the investor great success with his investment property and all that he does going forward.
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 12:54 PM
Subject: AC Appt
I have been in communication with my techs. Appointments have fill up fast lately due to the season. This week so far we have been fully booked, but we are moving some appts around and have your home scheduled between 8-12pm tomorrow where we can inspect the system in better detail, and let you know what's going on. I will call you with an update to the scope of work. Just to make you aware, I have confirmed that the tenant is not using the unit to avoid additional leaking and has it in the off position. As soon as the repair is complete you will need to contact someone to check the floor condition if you haven't already. Just to verify that all the water has been removed.
I would like to speak with you on the phone in further detail about the possibilities revolving around your unit that I suspect could be future issues.
From: CN mailto:**@mail.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, XXXX X:XX PM
Subject: Re: AC Appt
Sounds good. Thanks guys.
You can reach me at (***)***-****. If I'm not available due to being in a meeting, leave me a message and I'll call you back immediately.
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2015 at 9:45 AM
From: "LD" <**@urbanassetmanagement.com>
To: "'CN'" <**@mail.com>
Subject: RE: AC Appt 1330 Kingston
Good Morning ******,
I tried to call you this morning and would rather be explaining all of this to you directly if you could please call the office as quickly as possible. My tech is there and needs answers on how you would wish to move forward with the system because it keeps freezing up. We added Freon because we couldn't test the unit due to the leak it has. It has a significant leak to the inside evaporator coil which is very badly rusted. It will not stop freezing up the system so we are not only dealing with that particular issue, but the compressor is making and extremely loud noise and is sound like it is about to take flight. The drain is backing up due to these issues and the filter was being sucked up into the air handler due to all the other issue the system is having. So I really need to speak with you because the unit is not repairable. I would invite you to go by and listen to it and or have another outside opinion of your choice if you wish. I will have a replacement proposal for you sometime today.
From: CN mailto:**@mail.com
Sent: Thursday, April 02, XXXX XX:XX PM
Subject: Re: RE: AC Appt 1330 Kingston
Thanks. Called you but you were with another client.
Please let me see your replacement proposal. At the same time we'll get an alternate opinion today just in case. Talk to you soon.
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
Here's the first sign of a poor low-integrity business. Instead of viewing negative feedback as the best means of improvement, it tries to shift blame to its clients as "slander".
It's incredible how comfortable UAM is with dishonesty. From the very same e-mail they pasted in their response, it's clear the first thing I asked was "Please let me see your replacement proposal". Which of course means a full replacement of the AC was needed. A replacement proposal (i.e., cost estimate) was needed, not any kind of service. This was at the very start of the e-mail thread! But instead, as readily admitted in their own response above, UAM performs a $295 service so that "It was determined that due to the cost to repair the unit it would be better to replace the system". Pardon me? What determination needed to be made? The first thing I wrote was that we're talking about replacement, not repair! This was 12-year-old AC unit on its last legs. Which, due to their earlier participation in the matter, UAM was actually fully aware of, even before my first e-mail. Again, what a remarkable lack of integrity.
During the process, I consulted only one of several contractors who provided me a free replacement estimate. He said:
"In my opinion I wouldn't of added freon to the machine with the condition it was in.unless you told me that is what you wanted to do .
Yes you can check the compressor without the freon.If he put freon in without you authorization then in my opinion that's his problem.
It's standard operating procedure to advise you the customer before any repairs are done. You have to authorize the work. If I the contractor wants to be paid for my services."
And here's what our Dallas realtor had to say on the situation:
"I concur with the AC contractor. This sounds like their problem and not yours.
I wouldn't add freon to a leaking unit that was going to shut down anyways. Their repair tech seems like their trying to get the full amount for only checking the unit.
I recently service my unit, like adding freon and repair and it only cost me $100 for 2 hours of work.
An estimate needs your approval. I would ask why the bill is so high for barely any work done without your authorization.
You should definitely call the broker if record."
I'm happy to provide the names and contact details of the above contractor and realtor to BBB upon request. And I've already reached out to HNB Realty, the broker whom I believe works with UAM, for accountability.
During this dispute, I also challenged UAM to provide an itemized list of costs for their unrequested service. They declined to offer anything backing up their baseless claim of $295.
For further clarity, I'd be happy to speak to BBB over the phone.
Let's sum things up. The bottom line is UAM's service provided no value or information, and was never requested. In fact, my very first e-mail - which UAM kindly pasted in their response - states clearly that the AC unit needs to be replaced.
Did UAM act in good faith here? Did UAM act on behalf of its clients, who pay UAM $75 per month and typically don't have many requests? Ultimately, did UAM do what's best for its clients? These questions should determine whether the BBB wants its accreditation to stand behind a company like this in front of unwary consumers.
Final Business Response
As stated before we are regretful that the outcome of this situation resulted in an unhappy client as our goal is to maintain long term relationships with our clients as we always have.
As most companies are; we too are very busy this time of year and had we know the client would be upset about paying the bill we would not have serviced the home that day.
Please consider if it would be unreasonable to expect a company to rearrange their techs schedule that was already in place to accommodate the clients requests, drive 40 miles each way (approx 2 hours of travel time) to access the HVAC unit, add 6 lbs of freon to the unit just to determine the cause of the leak, (minimum time on job 1 hour) and all for free?
The client e-mailed us his request to send our tech to access the unit because the a/c issue was "beyond the knowledge" of his personal handyman he had go to the property prior to asking us to go.(original e-mail below) His request did not say anything about the unit being 12 years old, or that he was interested in a replacement of the unit, because at that time the problem with the a/c was still unknown. After our tech completed the testing on the unit it was determined that the freon leak was in the evaporator coils and at that point we were asked to provide our replacement proposal.
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 at 7:30 PM
Subject: No Subject
*******, my contractor stopped by the property yesterday. Here's what he had to say about the issue.
"The air conditioning I don't think has a leak it is leaking because the condenser tube may be clogged but it is also not very cold air. It is damaging the ceiling in the kitchen were it is leaking and also the floor. It will cause the wood floor to buckle and come up it not careful. I will send you the air conditioning guy I use and I really like this guy."
The actual repair is beyond the scope of his knowledge. Also I contacted the guy he recommended but couldn't never reach him.
Attached are the photos he took. Would your AC technician be able to provide an estimate of the recommended repair?
We regret that the client is dissatisfied with the outcome and we do wish him great success with his investment and all that he does in the future.
Final Consumer Response
Another interesting note is an explanation UAM provided during my communications with them in this dispute. At one point, they freely admitted to adding freon to the AC unit without being aware of its cost, which later they discovered exceeded $300.
This explanation works against them in two ways.
First, it highlights their dishonesty and / or incompetence. Since UAM possessed and owned a quantity of freon, how could they not know what they paid for it? Was it dropped off at their doorstep one random day without a price tag?
Second, the cost exceeded $300. This puts them in clear violation of their own policy! This policy, which they wrote themselves, states the client must authorize any work that exceeds $300.
UAM shows absolutely zero accountability for their poor decisions and self-policy violation. In their desire to pay themselves using any means possible, including tenant deposits, they show no respect for integrity or logical deduction.