They say in some cities there used to be a popular scam some bars used to run. You'd enter a place and order a drink. Then maybe two or three more. When you got the tab, you'd discover you owed $200. How can that be? the customer would ask. You never asked me how much they cost, the bartender would say. If you didn't pay up, you'd be met with a bouncer, who'd give you a choice between paying and getting roughed up.
This is business ethic of River City Real Estate (RCRE), which takes advantage of trusting tenants and antiquated, pro-landlord state laws to put money ahead of renter satisfaction. The company, which engages in dishonest and unethical business practices, is the epitome of a rip-off. The most frequent means the company has of ripping you off is by way of its numerous fees for everything from routine maintenance to a $300 "refurbishment fee" upon moving out. This "refurbishment fee," it should be noted, has increased six-fold in the last two years. So, if you give RC a deposit, regardless of how you leave your apartment when you leave, you must pay them at least $300. Nor does the company have any kind of cleaning list when you are preparing to move out. It then sees fit to charge whatever it wants for people who haven't cleaned the apartment to an unspecified standard.
RCRE also likes to raise fees without providing additional services. Utility fees (for water, sewage, and trash only) have doubled since the fall of 2006. The company charges $35 per pet, per month, and dog and cat owners must pay a fee (non-refundable) of $200 up front. The company has also in the past two years doubled its NSF fee for checks from $50 to $100. A bounced check will also be met with a charge equal to 15% of rent and $20 for sending you a "pay or quit" notice. Thus, a bounced check for a $700 apartment will incur a fee of $100 + $105 + $20 = $225. The company also has a policy of putting all money sent to them toward any outstanding fees, charges, etc., first, and rent last. Therefore, if you owe them $700 for rent and $150 in fees, they will put the first $150 of your next rent check toward the fees and the rest toward your rent. Your rent will therefore be considered underpaid, which will lead to more late-rent fees, more charges, etc. Nice little scam, eh?
Not only is RC liberal with charging fees, it is also liberal in deciding when to charge them. Very often, it will send tenants retroactive bills containing charges you should have received months or even a year ago. Unfortunately, none of these fees are illegal. However, the company is not allowed to withhold deposits past 45 days, which it does. Nor is it allowed to enter apartments without 24 hours notice for non-emergency reasons, which it also does. The company, furthermore, is misleading at best and providing false information at worst, on its website. Contrary to what it says, pet fees have increased to $35, not decreased. It also claims some of its units are in Richmond's "Fan" district, when they in fact are not, and has a very liberal interpretation of the phrase "recently renovated." A year ago? Two years ago? Ten?
This would all be bad enough were it not for the petty, vindictive, and verbally abusive office staff, which belittles and insults those who complain (tenants or not tenants), concocts fake online reviews, and posts personal information online about tenants it doesn't like. Members of a renters association have been met with threats and insults.
There is more to say. A lot more. Just let it be known that this is a bad company to rent from. Avoid it at all costs.