A family featured in an Arizona Republic story about tenants having problems with a corporate landlord received an $850 refund and a direct call from an executive shortly after the story ran, mother Kathy Suszczewicz told the newspaper.
Tenants across the country have complained that Invitation Homes — the largest single-family rental company in America — delays repairs, charges excessive fees and is difficult to reach.
The company says it receives high marks from residents in satisfaction surveys, renews leases at a high rate and completes thorough maintenance inspections and follow-up.
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Suszczewicz said she received the surprise phone call from Tracy Valenzuela, Invitation Homes' vice president of operations for Arizona and Nevada, who offered to resolve the family's issues.
"I'm so grateful" to The Republic, Suszczewicz said. "(This) is what journalism is for."
Suszczewicz is a full-time caregiver for her husband, who is recovering from cancer, and their daughter, who has developmental disabilities.
Shortly after the family moved in to their rental home, the company took a month to fix leaking toilets and the only wheelchair-accessible shower in the house, Suszczewicz said. She said she had to drive to a friend's house miles away to bathe her daughter.
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The family also filed multiple maintenance requests for months to fix a pool filter. They paid a $95 per month pool fee even though they couldn't swim in the murky water, Suszczewicz said.
When Suszczewicz got the call from Valenzuela this week, the executive questioned her about The Republic interview, she said.
"I said, 'That's what newspapers do. I'm glad they did that,' " Suszczewicz said.
Valenzuela told her the family's problems likely stemmed from mergers between three rental companies during their tenancy.
Colony Starwood Homes became Starwood Waypoint Homes in 2016, which joined with Invitation Homes in 2017, creating a nearly 83,000-home rental company traded on Wall Street.
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After several phone calls, Valenzuela offered to credit the family $850 for pool fees and equipment that Suszczewicz bought while the filter was not working.
"I told her that seems fair, and I appreciate it," Suszczewicz said. "I was glad to hear from her."
Suszczewicz said she has "survivor's guilt" that the company fixed her problems while other tenant complaints remain unaddressed. Suszczewicz said she has heard from many through a Facebook group where residents share stories.
Suszczewicz said she told Valenzuela a major problem for tenants is feeling like maintenance requests filed online "go nowhere."
Employees look at all requests, Suszczewicz said Valenzuela assured her.
But she said Valenzuela told her Invitation Homes has only three employees in Arizona to handle the needs of nearly 7,500 homes.
An Invitation Homes spokesperson on Friday said the company has 322 employees at two offices in Arizona. It was not immediately clear why the numbers cited were so different.
As corporate rental companies face increasing pressure from investors to increase profits, Suszczewicz fears service won't dramatically improve.
"I don't see them changing their business model," she said.
Do you have a complaint about a business that mistreated you? I'm #HereToHelpAZ. Contact consumer investigations reporter Rebekah L. Sanders at [email protected]om, text HereToHelpAZ to 51555 or fill out our online form.