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Tenants of Scott Brown Properties growing frustrated with management

Tenants of Scott Brown Properties growing frustrated with management

609 and 611 Amarillo St. Graphic Illustration. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Tenants of Scott Brown Properties growing frustrated with management
July 08
14:14 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Senior Staff Writer

@aldot29

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

Scott Brown Properties has been in Denton since the 1990’s and currently rents to roughly 3,000 tenants, but many current and former residents have recently been vocal about bugs, mold, foundation issues, bad customer service and other issues on the properties.

Roughly 3,000 tenants dwell in 1,400 Scott Brown Properties, which translates to 13.1 percent of Denton’s renting population, of whom 75 to 80 percent are UNT and TWU students.

Biology senior Zoe Pratt is one of those students. Pratt looked into a duplex on the 600 block of Amarillo Street in August 2014 after a frantic search for a place to live yielded little return.

415 Amarillo Street. Sanchez Murray | Staff Photographer

A home on 415 Amarillo St. sits vacant after increased dilapidation. Sanchez Murray | Staff Photographer

When seeing the house for the first time, Pratt said the first thing she saw walking into the duplex was a dead bird hanging from the front porch section. Walking in, Pratt said, revealed a distraught, unkempt house with a two-foot-wide hole in the ceiling with drywall hanging from it and mold throughout. She said the agent guiding the tour of the house told her not to worry and that Scott Brown Properties would fix all the damage in time for them to move in.

“They fixed the hole in the ceiling, but I started moving my stuff in and was walking around the carpet, and I realized that there were bugs on me,” Pratt said. “So I called my friend and I had him come over, and we walked around and he was like, ‘These are fleas.’”

Pratt said because she is allergic to mold, the discovery forced to wait another month before moving into the house, due to unlivable conditions. Further inspection of the residence, Pratt said, revealed multiple other flaws, including visible holes in the floors that went down to the foundation, as well as mold in one of the closets.

According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, people who have immune system complications and chronic lung diseases have increased risk of fungal infection in the lungs.

“There was so much mold that I just couldn’t even breathe at all, but there wasn’t anything that you could do about that,” Pratt said “They just said it was an old place, so I was like, ‘That sucks I can’t breathe in my own home.’”

415 Amarillo St.

A home on 415 Amarillo St. sits vacant after increased dilapidation. Sanchez Murray | Staff Photographer

Pratt is not the only student who has had problems with mold. Other Scott Brown Properties residents found similar conditions in their houses.

One particular current Scott Brown tenant, who has asked to remain anonymous because he is still a tenant, used a home testing kit to find toxic mold in his property. They said that after notifying Scott Brown’s offices of the mold, “they refused to check for toxicity” and gave them “a bottle of some bleach spray and said to clean it.” After repeated calls, e-mails and visits to the offices, the resident said their mold problems still have not been taken care of.

A former Scott Brown tenant, marketing senior Colin Wheeler, began renting in June 2014 and said during his 12-month lease, he and his roommates still came across issues with his house, including mold. 

Though the properties may be in poor condition when a tenant views it, Scott Brown property manager Jay Brakefield said the company tries hard to make repairs. He added that it’s difficult to deal with both the tenants and the investors and owners of the properties they manage, calling the owners the backbone of the business.

But Brakefield said a student would never rent out a place if they saw it in poor condition.

“If a house is bad, nobody needs to be living in it,” Brakefield said. “But what do you do? The owner’s calling you, ‘You got that place rented?’ You’ve got to tell the owner something. We work for the owner.”

Brown said his company is trying to “weed out” the owners who do not meet his company’s standards, and that what he really wants to emphasize is neither he nor the company owns everything that their sign is on.

A local business

The company’s standards have developed along with Brown.

When Brown was 17 years old he bought his first rent house with $10,000 his father gave him for his high school graduation. Brown said when his father offered to buy him a new car after graduation, he instead took the money and invested in a house, with his father as co-signer. In 1992, he began his surge into the housing and real estate business with Scott Brown Properties.

“The way I bought the other ones through college is I’d sit down with older couples who already had their houses paid for, they didn’t have any debt on them, and I’d go have dinner with them or take pizza over or whatever,” Brown said. “And I’d sit in there on Friday nights and have pizza with these people, and they would own or finance for me so I didn’t have to go to the bank.”

Brown graduated from UNT in 1986 with a degree in management and real estate living. He drove a bus for most of his time at UNT to keep money in his pocket and bought the current offices of Scott Brown Properties in 1999 – a five acre plot on the 1400 block of Dallas Drive.

Since his business began, Brown said he’s made an effort to keep a one-on-one relationship with his investors and his tenants. He also said owners need to take responsibility for their properties – not just the company.

“Scott’s taken a personal interest to go out into town and look at the properties that we manage, and he’s looking to really get these owners in here,” Brakefield said of Brown. “I mean [the house on] Amarillo, if you look at every house around there, it’s been remodeled. And the guy who owns that, I’ve personally contacted [him] and said, ‘Hey every house around you is been remodeled. Let’s do something with your house.’”

Mold only the beginning

After dealing with the mold, fleas and other problems at the Amarillo Street house for a month, Pratt decided to get out of her lease, though it was not an easy process.

She finally moved out of the property in November 2014, believing she was in the clear with Scott Brown Properties. However, Pratt received a call from her roommate in January long after she had already left the house because her name still appeared on the lease.

Mold grows on wood in a Scott Brown Properties home. The renter of the home asked to remain anonymous. Hannah Breland | Staff Photographer

Mold grows on wood in a Scott Brown Properties home. The renter of the home asked to remain anonymous. Hannah Breland | Staff Photographer

She decided to formally break the lease, and over the next few months she created an itemized list of things wrong with the house that she believed were violations on the part of Scott Brown Properties and hand-delivered it to their offices. In the end, she said Scott Brown Properties agreed to use the owed first month’s rent to waive her lease-breaking fees, but having no record of the agreement, Scott Brown Properties could not break the lease.

Brakefield said breaking a lease is a very difficult process because the tenant signed a legal document agreeing to pay rent until the term is over. He said the typical process is to ask the tenant to find a new tenant for that property, and then the lease could be broken. “We’re very personable people up here,” Brakefield said. “I mean, what’s to stop anybody from coming through that door and saying, ‘Hey, I need help.’ We’ll do our best to help out anybody.”

The duplex on the 600 block of Amarillo has since been off the market. Brakefield said the property is not currently being rented out due to foundation issues, and leasing agent Maggie Quam said the house is currently going into “pretty heavy construction” and does not know when it will be available to rent out again.

More concerns from more tenants

Pratt and her roommate said they had been to the Scott Brown Properties offices several times before and met people with the exact same problems as her. She said one time in particular, she arrived to the offices to find a line out the door of tenants, all of whom were looking to voice complaints.Wheeler shared similar objections about his time with Scott Brown Properties.

“The previous tenants were just terrible. It was really, really gross,” Wheeler said. “They hadn’t moved out yet at all. We walked in and it was still lived in, they just weren’t there, and it was disgusting. It looked like they had five or six cats and they just peed everywhere all the time. It smelled awful.”Wheeler didn’t stress about the mess because he knew it would be cleaned before they moved in. For the most part, according to Wheeler, it was cleaned upon move-in.

This is because, according to Brown, the company conducts a “make-ready” on each property to prepare for a new tenant. He said they do about 300 make-readies during the summer months – their busiest time of the year. But even after the make-ready, Wheeler said other issues, including mold and a damaged bathroom, were things he had to fix himself due to lack of response from Scott Brown Properties. “We tried to get that at least looked at or fixed pretty much from the get-go whenever we first moved in,” Wheeler said. “But that never got looked at, I don’t think, once.” However, he couldn’t fix one particular incident. He believes Scott Brown Properties lost one of his rent payments.

Mold grows behind an AC unit in a Scott Brown Properties home. Renter asked to remain anonymous. Hannah Breland | Staff Photographer

Mold grows behind an AC unit in a Scott Brown Properties home. Renter asked to remain anonymous. Hannah Breland | Staff Photographer

After checking with his bank and confirming the rent check had been withdrawn from his account, Wheeler still received a notice in his mailbox from Scott Brown Properties, warning of missing rent. Wheeler said he had to pay rent for a second time and later received a call from Scott Brown Properties that said they would refund his missing check combined with his security deposit.

But a month and a half after moving out of the house, the solution went awry.

“It was strange because they divided up the security deposit three ways, because there were three people living there, and I think he also divided up the money he was going to pay me back,” Wheeler said. “So I never really got all of my money back for that, but I just stopped caring. It had been such a long time.”

Overall, Wheeler said his time with Scott Brown Properties wasn’t “that bad of an experience,” but still found drawbacks and failings on their part.

UNT senior Maddie Migis said her time with Scott Brown Properties has been good, saying she’s had only good experiences, feels her rent price is “more than fair,” and the maintenance have been “good, quick, and polite.” She added she has nothing negative to say and that she “absolutely love[s]” Scott Brown Properties.

A “First Class” company

With all of these problems that some of Scott Brown Properties residences have, many previous customers have made it clear that they would never rent from the company again and added that they would not recommend them to new tenants.

Scott Brown himself sees a problem with previous tenants leaving properties messy and said those are usually the people with the most complaints.

“It seems that the tenants that pay their rent late or don’t pay and then they party and tear the places up, they’re the ones it seems like with the most talk,” Brown said.

Brakefield added Scott Brown Properties is doing everything “within [their] limits” to keep their properties in the best condition possible, but admits “there are some bad rent houses out there.”

Brown said he feels that “without a doubt” his staff adequately manages the properties his company owns and manages. He said his office is “first class.”

“I’ve worked since I was 17 building all this stuff, and I’m doing the very best I can do and I care about people,” Brown said. “If they’ve got a problem, they come sit right here and talk to me.”

He said his work is made more difficult by these types of situations, and that he wants to do everything in his power to keep his tenants happy.

“I mean, [if] the tenant’s miserable, we’re miserable,” Brown said “We don’t want mad tenants. I don’t want any tenant leaving us unhappy.”

Featured Image: 609 and 611 Amarillo St. Graphic Illustration. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

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10 Comments

  1. JML
    JML July 09, 10:40

    In reading this story, it doesn’t seem as though the tenants have utilized the free legal services offered by the school for student issues such as this.

    http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/student-legal-services

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ciello
    Ciello July 23, 12:45

    The entire Brown family seems to be a plague in Denton, and the surrounding DFW area.

    Scott has two brothers as well Todd and Rodd Brown, both of which are con artists as well. Just google their names and you will see what I mean.

    Here are a few excerpts of what you may find on Rodd and Todd:

    “This is not a man who simply cannot pay; he (Rodd) is a con artist with a lengthy history of stealing services from others via the Internet.”

    “He (Rodd) does not keep his word and cannot be trusted. He does not know how to handle things professionally and blows up and yells at me on the phone when he gets upset. He has anger issues and is like an adult child. Do not work for him and do not trust him or his wife.”

    “Todd Brown has been scamming investors and subcontractors for years, I believe it’s time to get the word out and protect others from these crimes. His wife Shannon Brown is also involved, and he has to run the money through her name or he asks to be paid in cash because a Chase Branch Manager closed his business account down due to check fraud. ”

    “BEWARE!!! This guy, Todd Brown, is a total con artist and thief. He convinced us to give him 90% of the money for the project within the first week (our fault for being so gullible!) and then basically disappeared leaving the house unfinished and with no intentions of returning or completing the work. We now have 2 subcontractors threatening us with liens on our house and almost no recourse.”

    Rodd is believed to be currently operating out of a warehouse in Denton at:

    214 Bolivar St, Denton, TX 76201

    If you are an artist, beware, as Rodd has been on a spree of hiring artists and never paying them.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Kevin
    Kevin August 03, 11:33

    Leased a house from Brown’s dad back in 1991-1992 on Bonnie Brae, at the back corner of what used to be the golf course over there. We didn’t have any problems.

    (I think Scott was the one who came out and mowed the lawn back then.)

    Anyway, the house was pretty old, even back then. But, we didn’t throw parties, kept it clean – which was amazing enough: three college guys living in a house, but keeping it clean (my girlfriend did pitch in mopping an vacuuming once a week).

    I think part of the problem is, many students who are living in a house for the first time on their own don’t realize what it takes to keep a house clean. Most of their lives, their mom did it for them. Then, they lived in a dorm, where crews kept the bathrooms clean and they had no kitchen or laundry area to keep clean.

    Living in a house takes effort ( and money for cleaning supplies) on your part. You have to keep up with it week after week. Houses don’t clean themselves.

    It doesn’t matter how old or new a bathroom is, for example. If you don’t clean the grout, after a while it will become dirty from the water running off of it. Mold comes from water and oxygen. You have to keep area that get wet regularly clean or mold will appear.

    You can’t wait for mold to appear, then complain. If mold has appeared, then you haven’t been cleaning the area regularly. It’s that simple.

    Also, follow the rules. If the lease says you can’t have parties there, don’t throw parties there. If the lease says no pets, don’t have pets there. It’s pretty much common sense, folks.

    One part of the article talks about fleas. Well…I’m guessing the prior tenants had pets there (dumb idea, anyway, for college students; but, that’s a discussion for another day).

    Now, for Brown’s part, if he’s leasing houses that prior tenants have not kept clean, that’s a problem. Cleaning crews need to be hired before new tenants arrive. The house we lived in when his dad leased to us 25 years ago had only one problem – a wasp’s nest in the parking area.

    Also, to Mr. Brown and the owners for whom he manages properties, if tenants tell you something is broken and they are later injured because of it, you are liable. It’s that simple. If they put you on notice, you are legally on notice. Please, get things fixed before tenants move in and while they are in it…again, if they give you notice. Tenants, you do need to give quick notice if something is wrong or broken.

    Well, we went to the store and bought wasp spray and that was that. Common sense.

    So, two things here:
    (1) Tenants, take care of the property while you are there. You don’t have a mom or cleaning crew to pick up after you anymore. If you think you are responsible enough to sign a lease, then be responsible enough to clean up the house or duplex regularly while you live there. Follow the rules of the lease. It’s called being an adult and respecting the owner of the property.

    (2) Mr. Brown, your dad was a tough, but fair landlord for the year we lived in that old house off Bonnie Brae. But, if you are leasing houses that cleaning crews haven’t prepped yet, you’re going to get bad press and word of mouth like this. In 1991-92, there was no world wide web for people to complain. Now, you’ve got to keep the customer happy more than ever because even a local forum is able to be seen anywhere, anytime.

    Everyone working together on these problems, Mr. Brown as well as current and future tenants, can get them solved. If feel for both sides – and, an sickened by both sides, a bit.

    Love,
    Kevin the Former Tenant of Scott Brown’s Dad.

    P.S. – We did get our deposit back from Old Man Brown…because we did keep the house clean while we lived in it. Thanks, again, mainly to my girlfriend at the time. Thanks, Sharon. What a sweetheart!

    P.S.S. – Scott or tenants, I’m available for free advice about these things because I’m in the risk management business these days and have many customers who own tenant-occupied properties. Both sides have responsibilities. I can help any of you, and would even mediate if you wish – free, too, because I love a good excuse to visit Denton!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Kevin
    Kevin August 03, 11:34

    Also, I wrote in paragraphs, but for some reason, when you submit your comments, it mashes all the sentences together. Sorry. NT Daily, can you do something about that?

    Reply to this comment
  5. FFT
    FFT August 04, 11:20

    I lived in a Scott Brown property for two years. Not only did I also have black mold, and monthly eviction notices despite paying rent on time every time, I had to seek legal advice. This was due to a huge cleaning bill that was applied upon move out – a bill that went beyond the total of the deposit. Not only that, but maintenance guys would come an mow the lawn without notice and bill $50 each time. That price is exorbitant. One time they mowed over my garden. My story is not special. I am not the only person who has experienced such impunity from a company that owns a great deal of property in Denton, and I believe that’s evidenced by this story. When I finally did seek help, my legal advisor indicated this was “typical Scott Brown” stuff. Now I tell everyone I know not to rent in a Scott Brown property. So, for me, Scott Brown doesn’t care if you clean the property after you move it. They will try to get you to pay unnecessarily for things they do not provide. They will leave you in the cold when your heater goes out during a snow storm and they will leave you in unsafe heat when your air conditioning goes out in the summer. Both of these things occurred in the time I lived in one of their properties. They will accuse you of negligence when in actuality it is they who are negligent. I’m saddened to read the above story Kevin submitted, because it’s disappointing to see that a company that could have been an honest family-run business has been run into the ground. It won’t take long for people to realize that Scott Brown Properties can only provide a very difficult and sad lesson for new arrivals to Denton: that those in power will sometimes do whatever they want and neglect those they are supposed to serve – their customers. I have worked in leasing, and even though the company I worked for owned expensive properties, they did whatever they could to accommodate their customers. Their units were like new after a make-ready and they ensured that repairs were done in a timely manner. They did not accuse their tenants of negligence when there was none, and they handled every complaint with the utmost calm and consideration. Shame on you, Scott Brown Properties!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Caleb
    Caleb August 09, 15:44

    I lived in 609 Amarillo from June 2015-June 2016 and it was living hell. My living room floor caved in during the first few months and the maintenance guy told me they weren’t going to fix it and I wasn’t getting my deposit back. My heat never worked and the mold was so atrocious I to be hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection. The shower drain also oozed this black sludge. The conditions were unsuitable for healthy human life I stayed on friends couch for the last half of my lease. My advice to Zoe Pratt would to get a space heater, thick socks, air purifier and a George Foreman Grill (the stove followed the theme of the house, inadequate).

    Reply to this comment
  7. Anna
    Anna August 15, 15:21

    I lived in Denton 3 years and moved 4 times in the area while in school. Each time, the landlords got worse and worse. The entire city needs to sanction these people – they take advantage by renting ridiculously-priced slums to unsuspecting students, who pay the price out of desperation for a place to live and study.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Pay Day
    Pay Day August 16, 14:16

    I also had a terrible time as a tenant when Scott Brown Properties took over management of the apartment that I lived in. Unresponsive to reasonable requests (a/c unit stopped working in the summer), tried to overcharge for blinds on move-out, and damn near impossible to catch anyone on the phone at SBP. If a tenant is messy or leaves a mess – charge them via their security deposit, but there’s absolutely no reason not to completely deep-clean, de-bug, and sanitize a property before someone moves in. SBP is a blight on Denton and if these problems really stem from owners and having so many properties…then don’t take on as many! They clearly care more about profit than their tenants – and sure, this is capitalism, so that’s fine, but these are also the places that people live in on their own for the first time. Sure, this is my anecdotal experience, but he’s the worst landlord I’ve ever encountered.

    Also, regarding sentence 5 – I don’t think a house or building can be “distraught.”

    Reply to this comment
  9. None
    None August 19, 10:23

    I agree with some of this. Things I was told be done to my apt. They just ignore me on two of the subjects. Too many problems. I am so ready to move

    Reply to this comment
  10. SJW
    SJW April 06, 09:07

    Scott Brown Properties is incredibly hard to deal with. My favorite part of this article is the part where Brakefield claims they’re very personal people and anybody can walk through the doors for help…. Not only do they never return phone calls or emails, they also keep those front doors locked at all times so they DON’T have to help anyone. I live in a SB Property and I literally cannot put down a bowl of cat food without roaches immediately appearing to try to get at it. I’m incredibly clean and sanitary so I think the above comment about young people not knowing how to keep things clean because their mom always did it for them is ignorant. It’s gross in this slum because SB doesn’t care, the owner doesn’t care, and you’re stuck here in a lease that’s very hard to break. Mine says I can break the lease, pay a reletting fee, as well as full months rent every month for the remainder of the lease for as long as the apartment sits vacant. If that last part wasn’t on there I’d gladly pay the money to haul me and my children out of here. The neighbors are horrible, the property is horrible, the management is horrible.

    Reply to this comment

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