Sunday, December 13, 2009

What You Told Us About MAC (Nothing)

posted by chicago pop

Don't take it personally.

I'm just sayin'. We asked you to give us something to chew on about MAC, and you gave us nothing.

Sure, we're all busy, and actually getting to the facts, instead of rants on Yelp!, is kind of a chore. It's even a pain to write this post, kind of. But if something is really wrong out there, there's usually a way to find out, and the labor usually pays off with some nice juicy information that you can bring into the light of day that will generally addle all sorts of complacent people. We've been doing it for a few years now.

But when it came to our contest to see who could demonstrate that MAC was really worthy of the world-class grad-student world-weariness endogenous to the neighborhood, well, we got the null set. Rents are high? Show us comparables for units in other buildings and other neighborhoods. MAC is a slumlord? Show us code violations from city inspectors and compare them to K&G's record. Horrible service from MAC leading to loss of market share? Show us percentages of lease renewals.

The truth, as they say, is out there. And we're happy to hear about it.

There are a few stories on Yelp! about cockroaches, mouse droppings, and stained carpet, but MAC owns a lot of buildings, which adds up to a lot of apartments, which means that if these complaints were doctoral theses and were making their cases on the basis of statistically negligible samplings, I'm afraid they'd all fail their defense. MAC has over 3,000 apartments in over 70 buildings. To make up for this statistical negligibility, our contest manager, Elizabeth Fama, went out of her way to find people who were really, really pissed off at MAC. She looked hard and found a "No, I don't want to be a fan of Mac Property Management," group on Facebook with 4 members.

That was in early November 2009. As of 5PM today, it has 15.

She also found a a "MAC Property Management is a Huge Disappointment" group. They currently have 17 members, and determined one month after MAC acquired its building portfolio from the notorious K&G that, well, MAC was a huge disappointment. The group seems to have lost steam sometime in the early fall of 2007.

Similar story with most of the complaints on Yelp!

What we see there, though it's only 9 or 1o reviews, does suggest a pattern. MAC had a rough time getting started. If you read the Yelp! comments, a good number of them are concerned with renters who received erroneous eviction notices and had to deal with poor communications. MAC was, at this early stage, a little trigger happy with the payment non-compliance thing, so much so that they mistakenly sent eviction notices to paying tenants with good payment records. This is certainly enough to anger anyone, and seems to have been a real problem. But again, the complaints cluster in the early months of MAC's transition. You can read about a few of the various botch-ups yourself here, together with more recent cockroach-type horror stories.

But does it add up to anything we can make a case on?

Not really.

I'll admit that I've seen a number of freshly rehabbed MAC apartments -- generally those targeting young working professionals, not students -- and they were nice. But no one had been living in them for 3 years. So we'll see going forward how the upkeep goes. And there's a possibility that the student rental market is not MAC's primary concern, which may make it a second priority to leasing out the higher-revenue properties. But MAC's business model differs from that of K&G: it's not in their interest to extract rent from buildings that they are happy to let decay.

So we'll see. As of now, with the info we've got, HPP stands by the conclusion it has reached in reviewing MAC (and Antheus') investment activities: MAC Property Management is good for Hyde Park.


Elizabeth Fama said...

The contest even had a prize (free dinner for two at Sit-Down Sushi). I was surprised that didn't induce any entries!

Gerald said...

Most problems are caused by idiot tenants. Roaches, mouse dropping, broken stuff is usually a result of people not taking care of their 'home'.

Daniel said...

You missed "Why Yes, I Too Have Threatened MAC With Legal Action!"

wata said...

another prime example of how u of c students operate.. it's all outrage signifying nothing. As an alumn, i can attest to the fact that many students complain in a professional level here without actually looking into the issue itself. It's become part of the campus identity ("where fun comes to die" "the level of hell dante forgot" etc). And it's also understandable - it's an immedate release of the incredible amount of pressure these kids are under that seems victim-less to them since they are railing against disembodied, faceless corporate entities such as MAC or the university administration.

However, in their defense, how many undergrads were aware of your promotion, or even this blog? I think if you reached out and put this request through the Maroon you are bound to get some results.

Seitu said...

My family relocated to a Mac building after the Del Prado was purchased and closed in 2008. The interior was nicely rehabbed. Though my wife was a little nervous about the area (the block between Cottage Grove and Maryland on 54th street) we moved in and it's been okay. Mac is not that great on communication. We were told we would have a storage area in the basement. Hasn't happened. We were told the back yard (at the time we viewed it was muddy sand) would be beautifully landscapped- that took over a year to accomplish-after the forth of July. No one told us our back porch (and all of the others in our building) would be torn down and rebuilt until we recieved a memo about it a day before the work began. Nice job ultimately, but most of the summer our back yard was inaccessable.
The real problem over the past year has been break-ins. One just happened in the unit above me last week! A neighbor who was burglerized a month ago just had another recent attempted break-in (I guess the low lifes hadn't got enough the first time).The officer who asked if we had heard anything pointed out how flimsy the apartments front door and frame as well as the entrance door and frame are. before moving we asked about getting ADT or Brinks and were told that was not allowed. There have been four burgleries in three of the four buildings on this block that I know of over the past six weeks. Unfortunately some of the neighbors who were victimized moved and so there is a vacancy problem over here. I don't even want to get into the throngs of teens that have made the laundry room of the buildings across from us into their own gambling and drug hang out.

John said...

i think seitu just earned a dinner at the sit down.

Alec Brandon said...

I moved back to Hyde Park in September and looked at what MAC had to offer vs. other landlords in Hyde Park.

- MAC's prices were consistently above other apartments in Hyde Park. I'd say they probably have something like a 10% mark up if you adjust for location and condition. My sample size isn't huge, maybe looked at a total of 10 apartments from 3 landlords.

- I've heard MAC has done good things rehabbing buildings, but none of the (~5) apartments I looked at were in good shape. I've lived in K&G apartments, so I know bad shape. For example, one had a ceiling that had completely fallen in in the bathroom.

- If you think MAC might have great service or whatever, I wouldn't put too much stock in that. After they bought K&G it took them 1.5 years to actually have someone look at our apartment and when it comes to service they suffer from all the inefficiencies of a large company (like Seitu's deck debacle).


You probably shouldn't take any of this as MAC ranting. MAC was a fine landlord after they bought my K&G apartment. They just seem to be charging more then a similar product in Hyde Park. Which is their prerogative, but it's also mine to not rent from them (I didn't).

I should also preface this with the fact that I was looking for a Hyde Park apartment in September. MAC might have raised its prices thinking there'd be a premium to get an apartment before the school year started.

Anonymous said...

There have been four burgleries in three of the four buildings on this block that I know of over the past six weeks.

That's pretty weird. I lived right on Cottage Grove between 56th and 57th until the U cleared those buildings out last spring and we never had a single break in that I know of. We also had a gated courtyard and back entrance, so maybe that's why.

Seitu said...

That's pretty weird. I lived right on Cottage Grove between 56th and 57th until the U cleared those buildings out last spring and we never had a single break in that I know of.
That would definately help. Our back yard areas are gated with wrought iron fences-with pointy tops so none of the break-ins have come through the back, plus it's more obvious what a burgler is doing back there. I'd also like to point out that the back door and frame are made of steel. My wife called me today around 11 am to tell me the police were over here again at the building across the alley from us (we are on the first floor) talking to a resident. Don't know the details, but again both buildings that face Cottage Grove had the front entrances kicked in last week when the neighbor above us was burglerized.
Like Gerald said earlier some of the problems are caused by inconsiderate tenants. From the start I took it upon myself to pick up garbage bags that other tenants left on the ground next to near-empty dumpsters in the alley. Sweeping dusty sand off the backyard sidewalk while waiting for grass or sod to be planted.
While the back porches were being rebuilt a huge debris dumpster was left in the back (good reason not to have planted grass!) to contain the remains of the old porches. It was emptied every 14 days or so. I witnessed other tenants (mostly on the second and third floors) toss their garbage bags in there. Smelled real tasty in the summer. One night I saw a racoon help himself to the dumpster's contents. Good eats is where you find 'em I guess.
One of the first break-in's that I was aware of last year happened to two college roomates. They were hit twice in a three month span (they needed time for the apartment insurance to replace everyting). Now they had thrown a few big parties-it was obviously their first time living off campus and I wondered if one of their guests or more likely someone that came with a guest chose to come back and rip them off.
Early on we had a neighbor on the second floor that could not get along with the person that lived above her. She said she made too much noise, but the woman was just walking around on the older (but nicely refinshed) wood floors. The floors squeek when you walk on them. The lady on the second floor called the police on her. The cops went in her second floor apartment and said they couldn't hear anything but the squeeky footsteps and left. That turned into a one-way feud with the person on the third floor who found her front windshield mysteriously broken. She moved to another building after repeatedly asking Mac to do something. After the lady on the second floor threatened our next door neighbor Mac gave her a five day notice to move, but the negative experience (as well as other problems with Mac) convinced them to move as well.
Last summer I go out on the back porch and see four teens engaged in a game of dice under the back porch again of the property across the alley from us. Before I could call the police they showed up. That's when the party moved to their laundry room. One of the teens lived in that building. There is little Mac can do if they approve a tenant that says they only have a 12 year old kid, but also have a 20 year old unemployed son that just got out of jail.
The best thing anyone can do is to try to know your neighbors so you have a feel for who should or shouldn't be hanging around your building.

Lilithcat said...

Roaches, mouse dropping, broken stuff is usually a result of people not taking care of their 'home'.

That's partly true, Gerald. But don't forget that in a multi-unit building, if one tenant has roaches or mice, those pests are likely to migrate to other units, even those kept clean. And mice may actually migrate from adjacent buildings. So the landlord has a responsibility to act to exterminate them throughout the building.
No one told us our back porch (and all of the others in our building) would be torn down and rebuilt

Seitu - the city has been tagging back porches all over town for code violations, following a couple of porch collapses. Once that happens, the building owner has a limited amount of time to repair or rebuild before the fines start mounting. I'm not suggesting that one day's notice to tenants is sufficient, but MAC probably had to move quickly on this.

Seitu said...

Seitu - the city has been tagging back porches all over town for code violations, following a couple of porch collapses. Once that happens, the building owner has a limited amount of time to repair or rebuild before the fines start mounting. I'm not suggesting that one day's notice to tenants is sufficient, but MAC probably had to move quickly on this.

Lilithcat-Indeed the porch was not up to code and I believe they had planned to have completed it before residents moved in, but being relatively new to Chicago, Mac didn't know who to pay off to get the building permits to commence de and reconstruction of said porches (my own cynical editorializing). Every other building that they have rehabbed in this area (and there are a lot) got new porches and they seemed to do them first or concurrent with the interior rehabbing.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Chicago Pop forgot to mention that I also advertised the contest on UC Marketplace.

As for Seitu's break-in stories -- it's an epidemic in Hyde Park right now, in every part of the neighborhood, in both apartments and single-family homes. I live at 56th and Kenwood and four of my neighbors have had break-ins, all with similar M.O.s.

Anonymous said...

it's an epidemic in Hyde Park right now, in every part of the neighborhood, in both apartments and single-family homes.

It's probably the same group of people committing most of them. Like the "goon squad" assaults from a few years ago, once the police find whoever is doing it and arrest them, the break ins will probably diminish considerably.

Seitu said...

Wednesday evening someone knocked on our door saying he needed to check our gas hook up. I wasn't home from work yet, but my wife told the guy our building does not have gas and threatened to call the police as he kept insisting he needed to come in to inspect it. No doubt he was one of the perpetrators that have been hitting our buildings. He also went to other apartments above us and did the same thing. Each resident refused to open their doors and he finally left.
Afterwards to Mac's credit ( I don't want to appear to be solely a Mac basher) they sent a memo to all residents cautioning us to call police if something suspicious like that occurs along with tips of how to protect your belonging -especially since there will be several college students here who will be out of town for the holidays- and had their maintenance folks work on better securing the building entry doors. It's just a shame it had to get to this point
(several very nice neighbors departed) before something was done. The next day a few people were seen hastily moving out as they were found to have people living with them that were not on the lease and selling drugs-(discovered after they were also broken in on). Mac will try to correct problems, (when they realize it's affecting their bottom line) but you really have to keep after them.

KT said...

I was sad to have not been reading this blog at the time of this contest. I lived in a MAC apartment from summer of 2007 until summer of 2009. While I can see your point of the overall benefits of the rehab work they are doing, etc., I have to say that being one of their tenants can be a miserable experience.

From the very first day when I had to wait outside for three hours while the rental agent was taking her time getting the keys to finally getting in and seeing that the apartment had neither been clean nor painted, I had a bad feeling. When I finally did get in the apartment several days later (and I was a local!), the stove didn't work and the fire alarm beeped every few minutes. Deemed a non-emergency, it didn't get repaired for three days. I was provided an eviction notice a week after moving in. We were given new laser-cut keys that couldn't be copied, and then only way I could get another was to have someone co-sign my lease.

My neighbor's door was busted down by police. Obviously, MAC didn't care b/c after three weeks I had to call to get the lights in the apartment turned off and the door put back on its hinges. My electricity blew all of the time and when a pipe came through my ceiling it was another "non-emergency," then it became one, and then again it wasn't. Took several weeks to get it fixed.

I was accidentally given another key to the building next to me, then got it trouble for having it through no fault of my own. My refrigerator flooded, and they refused to do anything about it until it flooded the kitchen.

But what bothered the most, growing pains or not, the folks at MAC are consistently rude, arrogant, and unfeeling. I don't need someone to hold my hand, just respect me as a paying tenant.

I'm with a different company now and couldn't be more please or happier that I no longer have to associate with MAC

ladyjanewriter said...

I moved from 54th and Woodlawn last June and wound up in a teeny (but perfect for me) studio in East Park Towers. They're reconfiguring a bunch of studios into 1-bedrooms. Mike, the building manager, is very nice, and the maintenance staff is pretty consistent and friendly.

I came from a K&G building, so anything's an improvement? But, I think once construction is done, people should look into relocating into this building. It's close to the #6 and #28 bus stop, and the on-site building manager takes away the sting from MAC people.

Also, Seth Perl is amazing. Just an amazing guy overall.

carolina said...

My partner and I are considering moving to Hyde Park from Edgewater. We saw so many MAC signs in front of buildings, so we decided to stop in their office and ask them to show us a few places. Total crap holes - and they took us to the places that had "just been renovated and were in great shape." Another huge turn off is that we saw the number of names on the other buzzers in the buildings. 8 people with different last names living together in some apartments? No thank you. Maybe this is just par for the course in an area with so many students but I want a landlord that has a limit on how many people are in the building and is going to enforce it. The rents were extremely high for less space and far fewer perks than the apartments I'm finding in our area on the North Side. I'd like to know if Hyde Park is simply more expensive, but it's impossible to tell what is the Hyde Park rental market and what is MAC properties - they seem to be one in the same. No thanks!