If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’d be aware that it is SOP to give two months deposit and one month advance payment. In some cases, it’s more than that. My daughters go to a college that is too far for daily commute. So, they stay in a rented condo. In Sam’s case, this is the fourth condo in a little over a year. This is our horror story.
The first condo that Sam stayed in was owned by Speedy’s youngest brother. We were given preferential rates, no deposit, no advanced payment. Family, after all. But Sam found the condo too far from the school. And she felt lonely living by herself.
So, we gave up the condo and she moved to a dormtel, short for dormitory-hotel, called Cara Celine. Four girls to a room. At P7,000.00 per person per month, including electricity, water and cleaning services, it was very affordable. We paid two months’ deposit and one month advance. Sam’s best friend, Joan, and another friend, Catalina, were her roommates.
It turned out that Sam wasn’t comfortable at Cara Celine. No cooking was allowed in the room, even the use of a microwave oven, so she couldn’t bring cooked food from the house. No outsiders were allowed in the room either. In short, Sam found life at Cara Celine boring and inconvenient. Worse, the girls had bad experiences with slippers getting ruined and gadgets mysteriously getting destroyed. Remember, cleaning services were included in the contract so it wasn’t just the girls who had access to their room.
When the six-month contract with Cara Celine expired last December, we didn’t renew it. Two days before school resumed after the Christmas break, we were able to find a reasonably-priced condo unit (at Providence Condominium) that Sam and Joan could share. They moved in.
The Cara Celine contract having expired, we went about collecting the deposit. And that was when our headaches began. It was Speedy, mostly, who had to deal with the Cara Celine people. I wouldn’t intervene until the very end. But let me tell you how things unfolded.
The first time Speedy asked for the deposit, he was told that he’d have to come back after two months. Since it was Christmas break and we were busy with so many things, we didn’t think much about it. Sam moved to the condo with Joan, Speedy’s balikbayan brothers and their families were in town on vacation, we were all busy with parties and outings and, well… to make a long story short, the two-month period was over before we knew it.
When Speedy went back to Cara Celine after the two-month waiting period, he was told that he’d have to make a written request. Okay, I wrote the request and Speedy handed it to them a week later. Remember that Speedy could only follow up with Cara Celine on Fridays before he picked up Sam. So, a week passed before he written request could be handed in. After he did, he was told to follow up by phone. The following week, he was told that it would be another two months from the date the written request was handed in. At around this time, we were busy with Alex’s prom then her graduation. In other words, another two months passed before we knew it.
Four months having passed from the day that the lease contract expired, Speedy and I were getting irritated. The women in the reception area always had one excuse or another. When Speedy started to become demanding, they told him that they would give him a post-dated check. That was when I finally lost my temper.
A deposit made in consideration of a lease is immediately demandable as soon as the contract expires. A deposit is made for a reason — to cover damages to the leased property, if any, and to cover any unpaid rental. Since there were no damages and no unpaid rentals, we should have gotten the deposit four months earlier.
From the house, I called up Cara Celine. I told the one in charge of the front desk that Speedy would come by the next day and she’d better have the money ready — in cash. Otherwise, we were bringing in the police. I told her I would sue all of them for estafa — and “that’s not a threat; that’s a promise.”
Twenty-four hours later, we had our money. But that’s not the end of the story.
Last week, Joan and her older brother went to Cara Celine to get the deposit they paid. And they were given the same runaround. Unfortunately for the Cara Celine people, Joan and her brother were aware of what Speedy and I had gone through and they knew that playing hardball was the only way to get through to those people.
So, Joan’s brother, Dennis, started making an ugly scene. He demanded why Speedy was able to get back our money while they wouldn’t give back Joan’s deposit. And you know what the people at the front desk told him? “Kasi, nauna silang (meaning us) nagwala.” To translate, it means “Because they (meaning us) were the first to get angry.” At the time that Dennis was demanding angrily, Joan was texting me and I advised her to threaten the Cara Celine people with a lawsuit. Before Joan and Dennis left Cara Celine, they had their money back.
I don’t know what kind of business those effing people at Cara Celine are running. According to the front desk people, it’s the owner — a Korean — who’s hard-headed. I don’t know how true that is — a foreigner can own a condo unit but not the lot on which the condo building stands. Unless someone — a Filipino — fronts for him.
Who cares, really, whether the Korean angle is true or not. A lessor is not a bank that is lawfully authorized to invest deposits received from clients. A lessor cannot do that because a person or entity engaged in the lease business is not engaged in the banking business, and deposits received from lessees must always be available upon demand. If a lawful demand is made — as when the contract has already expired — and the lessor refuses or fails to return the deposit, then estafa is committed.
The lease contract with Providence Condominium will expire on July 2. No one stays there anymore because we had to find a bigger unit for the three girls — Sam, Alex and Joan — and they had all moved to the bigger condo over a week ago. Will Providence give us the same crap that Cara Celine had? I hope not because with the terribly hot weather, I’m short-tempered these days.
So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation and you’re not sure how to assert your rights, remember — the word is estafa.