Tenants bemoan MAC management

By Claire Wilcox

When fourth-year Zach Herz started the Facebook group “Why Yes, I Too Have Threatened MAC with Legal Action,” it was just intended as an inside joke between some friends.

But the group’s membership has quickly ballooned to more than 50 students since its inception, with frustrated tenants posting a litany of complaints, including missing mailbox keys, lost rent checks, filthy apartments, unfounded eviction notices, and unreturned phone calls.

The group stemmed from Herz’s own experience with MAC Property Management, which became Hyde Park’s largest realtor after buying housing management firm K&G last April.

“They lost our security deposit three times. They called my roommate and asked what the check looked like,” Herz said. “Then they threatened to show our apartment to other people while we were living there.”

He, in turn, then threatened legal action, claiming that MAC would be breaking the housing code by showing their occupied apartment to prospective parties.

Both leasing agents and Chicago-based MAC executives declined to comment for this article, citing company policy.

Though not universal, these gripes are commonplace among MAC tenants, and Herz’s Facebook group is one indicator that MAC may not be a significant improvement over K&G’s notoriously substandard practices.

“I’ve heard from my roommates that while K&G would always find the cheapest way to do repairs, they at least did them promptly,” said third-year Hannah Jacoby, another student tenant, in an e-mail interview. “MAC is absolutely non-responsive when we file work orders with them. Usually things don’t get done until we threaten some sort of legal action or refuse to pay rent.”

Still, tenants who have experienced problems are not all quick to blame MAC. Third-year Ilana Tabby, a former K&G tenant, believes that MAC’s difficulties are due to a bad inheritance.

“I think that MAC didn’t see all the apartments before buying from K&G,” she said, citing missing kitchen drawers and broken screens in her apartment. “But they’ve been really responsive. I think a lot of it doesn’t have to do with the realtor. If there’s an issue you can contact them about it.”

The poor physical conditions of the newly acquired buildings present a formidable challenge, which MAC is attempting to address through large repairs to buildings across Hyde Park. Still, MAC’s problems seem to stem significantly from internal disorganization, said residents whose documents were lost.

“MAC is well intentioned,” said Herz. “If you’re able to get a hold of them, they really do want to help, but they’re not really professional. I had to start making my own copies, and they don’t keep track of papers.”

In addition to the merger with K&G, MAC has changed primary apartment management offices numerous times in the past year.

“Too often they’re pinning things on the tenants,” said Emilie Shumway, a second-year in the College and a first-time apartment tenant. “I feel like they’re trying to take advantage of students who they think don’t know anything about their rights. We didn’t know we could ask for things like blinds until our maintenance guy told us.”

Jacoby echoed the frustration and believes that MAC’s singular hold over Hyde Park real estate was to blame.

“It really has reinforced the importance of tenant solidarity in my mind,” said Jacoby. “If all MAC residents were to have a rent strike until they shaped up, things would likely change. They have no competition in Hyde Park, so there is no motivation for them to improve the quality of their work. I think a coalition of MAC tenants would be hugely helpful in fixing these problems.”