I-TEAM: 'I am at my wits' end': Local apartment complex's new rent system will only allow residents to pay online

By  | 

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Steven Hulmes has a bizarre problem with his apartment complex. He can't pay his rent -- not because he can't afford it, but because his complex now requires rent to be paid online. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Better Business Bureau is investigating a local apartment complex after very unusual complaint.

Tenants say they have their rent money but they can't pay it. Why? Because the apartment complex no longer accepts payments in person.

This is a first for the BBB and a first for us. Tenants are racking up late fees, lawyer fees, and other fees because they say they can but can't pay their rent.

Steven Hulmes is one of those residents.

“Any repair to this place I do myself,” Hulmes said.

It's easier than getting maintenance from Forest Brook to come here. Just check out the reviews with the BBB.

But his issues with the complex are something he cannot fix.

“I am at my wits' end,” Hulmes said.

Management posted a flier on his door at Forest Brook Apartments. It states they will no longer take checks as a form of payment. Rent must be paid through the online portal. But there is a problem -- a big problem.

The portal won’t accept his payment, so he tried to pay in person.

"I said, I will leave you a check for rent and you input it anyway you want,’” Hulmes said. “She refused to do it. Just refused.”

Now he has late fees, a lawyer's fees, and something called a “promise to pay” fee tacked onto his rent.

These problems have plagued Gigi Turner, too.

“This is something very concerning to us right now,” Turner said.

Forest Brook has a long list of complaints with the BBB but this is the first of this nature.

“He has been paying his rent on time with no problems,” Turner said. “He doesn't use a computer often, so he is not computer savvy. They have suddenly put a notice on the door that rent has to be paid through their portal."

Hulmes rental contract states he can pay by check. The attorney general's office told us his contract would supersede anything management posted on his door. Hulmes says the apartment manager did give him an option to pay rent through Walmart Money Center.

So what’s going on?

“I am not certain, but I definitely think some legal authority needs to step in and look at what might be taking place over there,” Turner said.

Hulmes made it through Vietnam without PTSD. He hopes to make it through this without it, too.

“I can’t live under this kind of stress, and I am totally stressed out to the max,” Hulmes said.

The BBB is continuing to investigate. We called the corporate office who had the local property manager calls us. She told us she would waive the fees Hulmes accumulated by not being able to pay online as long as he paid his rent. He said no thanks and moved out.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.