ATLANTA — Complaints of repairs undone and evictions undeserved prompted Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland to speak to metro tenants of a local corporate landlord.
Waypoint Homes rents thousands of single-family homes across the metro, and that number will more than double after the company merges with another rental giant. This fact did not sit well with local tenants, who call Waypoint Homes an absentee landlord at best.
“The location is very nice,” renter Jacob Lassiter told Strickland. “I would definitely say it's a good house.”
“What's wrong with it?” Strickland asked.
“I don’t want to say just the landlord, but the landlord,” Lassiter said.
Strickland teamed up with ABC reporters across the country to investigate complaints against Waypoint Homes.
Waypoint Homes' corporate records show it's an Arizona company, with 5,000 rental homes in metro Atlanta. In fact, Atlanta is the company’s No. 1 market. On Thursday, Starwood Waypoint, Waypoint Home’s parent company, merged with Invitation Homes. The two companies' combined portfolio is approximately 82,000 single-family homes. In a press release the company stated:
"The merger brings together the best practices, technology, and personnel from both firms to create the premier single-family rental company in the United States, with an unparalleled ability to deliver enhanced service offerings to residents more efficiently, continue investing in local communities, and generate value for stockholders."
Waypoint Atlanta’s Facebook page is dominated by lousy reviews, including one posted by Lassiter and his partner, Christina Howard.
“It just takes an act of Congress to get them to come out here and fix anything,” Howard said.
Howard and Lassiter said it took a repairman hired by Waypoint four months to fix a damaged floor, and four trips to replace a leaky water heater. Howard said the lack of professionalism of the workers may be what frustrates her the most.
“A contractor showed up and literally had no shirt on with a bathing suit and flip-flops on to come do maintenance on our house,” Howard told Strickland. “The next time he came out, he was wearing pajamas.”
The Better Business Bureau's D+ rating for Waypoint comes with an alert for a pattern of complaint.
“We wanted to live in a decent home. That’s all we asked for,” Theresa Hunnicutt told Strickland.
Hunnicutt said her family had to break the lease and evacuate after a string of septic backups. A company that pumps out septic systems wrote, “This house will need a new system, this is only a band aid.”
Waypoint rented to someone else, without replacing the system.
“It’s pitiful,” Hunnicutt said. “It was nasty.”
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Waypoint claims Hunnicutt ran an unauthorized catering business out of the house, taxing the system, but she denies it. The company admitted about the Howard home that "we failed to live up to our very high standards."
“There’s always an opportunity to get better,” Starwood Waypoint Homes chief operating officer Charles Young told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross. Young will continue to operate Starwood Waypoint after the merger with Invitation Homes. Ross pressed Young about complaints of slow repairs and an aggressive eviction record.
“We’re in the business of housing families. That’s what we do,” Young said. “An eviction is always a last resort.”
A team from the Atlanta Federal Reserve studied Waypoint court documents in Fulton County.
“A third of their rental units had an eviction filed,” said Atlanta attorney Michael Lucas, who co-authored the Federal Reserve's study.
Lucas told Strickland the study found that, compared to traditional landlords, "corporate landlords are far more likely to pursue eviction."
“The way that the kind of large out-of-state landlord runs rental property often results in more instability for the tenant,” Lucas said.
Howard and Lassiter told Strickland they were threatened with eviction after Waypoint's website would not accept their rent payment.
“I was scared because I didn’t want to be evicted from our home,” Howard said. “We’re trying to pay our rent.”
Waypoint renter Steve Williams said he was threatened with eviction too.
“At the end of the day it’s all about one thing and that’s money,” Williams said.
Strickland met Williams in Loganville, in a subdivision where more than half the homes are Waypoint rentals. Williams complained he had to pay out of pocket to fix the garage door on the rental because it was stuck open and the landlord said it was going to take three days to repair it. Williams said it was a safety concern. After Strickland called a Waypoint spokesperson about the complaints the company is reimbursing him.
Williams said the gesture comes too late.
“After this lease is up, it is my every intent seek a home elsewhere,” Williams said.
Cox Media Group