OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Former tenants at an Overland Park apartment complex thought they had found a nice place to live until they moved out and were hit with thousands of dollars in what they described as bogus charges.
“It was neat and clean,” said Rajneesh Shula, describing how he left his apartment at Corbin Greens that he had been renting with his wife and children last year.
“I personally cleaned everything,” said Shula, who recently immigrated to the United States from India.
He was shocked when Corbin Greens not only didn’t refund his deposit but also claimed he owed $3,600 for damaging the granite kitchen countertops, supposedly so badly they would have to be replaced.
Shula and his family had only lived in the apartment for six months before moving for a new job in Texas. Photos he showed WDAF-TV of the apartment depict a tidy and clean living space.
“I feel this is unethical behavior, and I feel they are taking advantage of me because I’m … new to the country,” Shula said.
WDAF Problem Solvers had never heard of a complex demanding money to replace granite countertops, which are difficult to destroy if sealed properly.
Corbin Greens sent Shula three photos that it said proved the damage. WDAF showed the photos to a granite expert who said one of the photos showed a rust-colored mark that would have been inherent in the granite itself and Shula would not have caused.
A second photo appeared to show only the reflection of a cell phone being held above the countertop. You can even see a reflection of the fingers holding the phone. The third photo does show a dark mark on the back of the granite, something Shula believes may have existed before he moved in.
Shula said he was unable to document the condition of the apartment when he moved in because the complex would not let him perform an inspection. That’s against Kansas law, attorney Peter Robertson said.
“In fact, there’s a statute that requires that the landlord and tenant shall jointly do a walk-through and an inspection,” Robertson said.
Corbin Greens argued that it did allow Shula to report problems he found in the apartment after he moved in, and he never reported any problem with the granite
Corbin Greens is owned by Sentinel Real Estate, a New York-based company that owns apartments across the country, including three in Johnson County.
A Sentinel spokeswoman told Problem Solvers that Shula was responsible for leaving the apartment in the condition in which he found it. But when we pointed out problems with the claims of damage depicted in the three photos Shula received, we never got an answer.
Instead, we were then sent two completely different photos, which Shula had never seen and showed granite stained so deeply that it penetrated through to the other side.
Shula denied the photos were even taken in his kitchen.
Problem Solvers showed the two new photos to granite expert Jake Mankin, owner of Central Surfaces in Kansas City. He said it would be difficult to stain granite that deeply if the apartment complex was regularly sealing — something Corbin Greens claimed it does each time a new tenant moves in.
“Olive oil, orange juice, raw meats — a typical sealer should not let that penetrate and for sure not to that degree,” Mankin said.
He said a typical sealer will protect granite for years. Shula lived in the apartment for six months.
Shula’s complaint isn’t the first time Corbin Greens has come under fire for charging to replace granite countertops.
Five years ago, another tenant, also from India, sued Corbin Greens after he was charged $3,000 for damaging his countertops.
A judge ruled in favor of the tenant after a Corbin Greens employee admitted in mediation that the granite had not been sealed.
WDAF Problem Solvers tracked down that former tenant, who asked us not to use his name. He said he decided to sue because Corbin Greens had repeatedly promised him it would seal the granite, but never did.
He said a friend of his living in different apartment at Corbin Greens was hit with the same charge.
A Corbin Greens manager told Problem Solvers that it charges tenants for damaging their granite “all the time.”
Shula said it won’t make financial sense for him to sue Corbin Greens in small claims court since he now lives in Texas. So he’s given up the fight and is paying for what Corbin Greens claims are his damages.
He said he’s learned a lot from the whole experience. Next time, he’ll insist on a move-in inspection, and he’ll take pictures of everything — the day he arrives and the day he leaves.