For almost a year, Gunnar Vincens has gotten the runaround on getting back his security deposit from the owners of the Water’s Edge, a $60 million, four-building apartment development on Revere Beach that, according to tenants, is far from idyllic.
The elevators often break down (a real problem in a 16- story building). Trash doesn’t get picked up, washers and dryers are out of service, air conditioning and heating systems malfunction. There are unusable swimming pools; scant security; homeless people in the garage and stairwells; discarded condoms, needles, and mattresses; and abundant mice, cockroaches, and rats.
The state earlier this year shut down all the elevators for three days and ordered them overhauled. The City of Revere cited management for 160 sanitary and fire code violations and asked a court to appoint an outside manager to go in and clean the place up.
Government inspectors have set one deadline after another for improvements that seem beyond the capabilities of Carabetta Management, which describes its apartments as “luxury.”
So this is the context in which Vincens and his wife, Zhongmei, tried to have a civil conversation with management. Vincens simply wanted Carabetta to uphold its end of the lease by returning his $1,700 security deposit after he moved out last August for a job in Colorado. At first, Vincens got lots of assurances he would get his money within the legally mandated 30-day deadline.
He’s still waiting.
Lots of people would have shrugged and walked away, rather than continue the tedious process of getting their money back, especially from 2,000 miles away.
But Vincens told me he’s fighting for the principle, as well as the money.
His back story suggests a certain doggedness. He grew up in Colorado and joined the Marine Corps. He was never deployed to a war zone, but wound up with a 70 percent disability due to injuries to his back, leg, and jaw while stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and Camp Pendleton in California.
Vincens’s military service afforded him the chance to enroll at Suffolk University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, at government expense, while sampling courses in legal writing.
He’s now deputy clerk to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners in Colorado.
Vincens’s case wound up in Boston Housing Court, where a hearing was scheduled for April 11 — eight months after he moved out. Fred Levitan, the company’s on-site senior property manager, asked for a delay because he was scheduled to be on vacation. It was denied.
At the last minute, Vincens and Carabetta’s attorney, David Frye, signed an agreement that called for Carabetta to pay Vincens $1,935 within two weeks. The deal covered Vincens’s security deposit, plus some expenses. It was a compromise Vincens thought he could live with.
“It meant ending a dispute that had really taken a toll on my wife and me,” Vincens said. “But unfortunately it didn’t happen the way they promised it would.”
‘It meant ending a dispute that had really taken a toll on my wife and me.’— Gunnar Vincens, referring to a settlement that Carabetta Management has not made good on
Carabetta reneged. Vincens, putting his legal education to use, filed a motion to have the agreement enforced. A hearing is scheduled for next month. Vincens has been excused from attending due to the expense of travel.
I tried to find someone from Carabetta Management. At its office at Water’s Edge I found the door locked.
“I’m in the building. I should be back shortly,” someone had scrawled on a piece of paper taped to the glass door. A day later, the door remained locked.
I checked another on-site Carabetta office. Nobody there (and no note). I called the number for Carabetta Management. Out of service. I called the company headquarters in Connecticut. No call back. I called the company’s lawyers at the firm Brown Rudnick. No return call. I called the company’s other lawyers at the firm Russo and Scolnick. No return call.
“They never do anything when you complain,” said Sara Mejia, a tenant. “Usually, they don’t respond to you at all.”
“I really can’t think of one positive thing to say,” another tenant, Casey Coppola, said of management.
I also stopped a nurse leaving one of the Water’s Edge buildings after checking in on a couple of sick and homebound residents. Her job as a visiting nurse takes her to some of the crummiest buildings in Greater Boston.
How bad is it?
“Bad, bad, bad,” she said.
I went on the Yelp website and found seven reviews of Water’s Edge apartments by tenants. To say they were scathing would be putting it mildly.
Here’s two examples: “The worst place i have ever lived in.” Another: “Stay away from this place!!!! you will regret” it.
But the thing that really struck me was that four of the seven reviewers said they were still trying to get their security deposit refunded — or had given up entirely.
If you pay Carabetta a deposit “you should just forget about” getting it returned, one said.
On its website, Water’s Edge uses this come-on:
“What could be more delightful than a walk down the beach in the late hours of the day? Or the warmth of the morning sun rising over the water? Or the calming effect of ocean breezes after a good day’s work in the city?”
I’ll tell you what would be more delightful: fair dealing and common decency.
Sending Vincens his long-overdue security deposit would be a good first step.Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.