We lived at The Sanctuary of Lake Villa, a self-touted "luxury" apartment community ("It's not just a home, it's a lifestyle!") for just under three years. After starting our family in 2009 and buying our first single-family home at the beginning of 2010, we moved out of The Sanctuary. This is when we confirmed the rumblings that leaving wasn't easy, and the heavy-handed and extortive tactics from Gary D. Buschman (owner/builder of The Sanctuary) and Co. began. After being gone for three full years, Mr. Buschman's cronies have emerged to harass us once more.
Before I go further, let's look at a few publicly available pieces of information: The Sanctuary of Lake Villa currently carries an "F" Rating with The Better Business Bureau. Yes, the BBB has slapped The Sanctuary with it's worst possible rating, and this is no surprise. It's a 1-Star Review on Merchantcircle, a 2 out of 5 on Yahoo, a 63% on Apartment Ratings (where obvious "plants" are trying to balance all the 1-star reviews), and some even compare the company to a certain political group that ruled Germany for a time in the early 20th Century. Think that's bad? How about alleged discrimination against a female tenant with Breast Cancer by Gary D. Buschman himself? The Chicago Tribune covered the story in detail.
We moved into The Sanctuary based on a recommendation from my sister, who at the time was also a tenant. The property itself is beautiful, and the facility - particularly the clubhouse (where we held the baby shower for our first daughter) - is exceptional. The actual apartments themselves... a little questionable. They look great, but upon close inspection - they don't seem to be built all that well. If anything, the insulation isn't very good, as we lived on a ground unit (corner) and could hear everything from the neighbors above. The first batch of neighbors upstairs provided us with the sonic equivalent to a bad cable skin flick on a regular basis. This was aside from the normal stuff. They opened/closed a kitchen cabinet? Heard it. TV on? Heard it. Toilet flushed? Heard it. Then an older couple moved in, and I believe it was their teenage grandson that was living with them. He'd partake in receiving some oral satisfaction from his girlfriend on the balcony above our porch regularly. Yes, it's what you think - and right out there in plain sight for all to see. Mentioned it to the staff of The Sanctuary and they did nothing. Still, not enough "bad" for me to really knock the property. The additional fees? That's another story.
When we moved into this "luxury" facility, they informed us that the local cable companies (AT&T and Comcast) were not allowed to service their units. Instead, they said they had "an agreement" (which I later found out was a complete fabrication) with Dish Network for non-HD satellite service. Standard-def - filled with static, and if it rained, no TV. In addition to paying Dish Network, you actually had to pay an additional fee to The Sanctuary of Lake Villa for use of the shared dish and internal wiring. Eventually, they added DirecTV's HD service as an option (funny how that previous agreement didn't apply), but you'd still be paying twice for that as well. In fairness, 'Ol Gary Buschman himself waived my additional fees on that for a bit. Still, shady. Pay for the unit... sure. Pay extra for a storage closet... sure. Pay extra for a garage... ok. Pay extra for the cable wiring in the building? Shyster, I say.
Despite several neighbors complaining to me about their experiences with the staff of The Sanctuary, we never really had any issues. They were always nice to us, and I'd see them often. I was already working-from-home, while still doing the acting thing for a bit and traveling to auditions and out of town for work regularly. They had "free coffee" in the office of The Sanctuary, and I drank it often. Sometimes I'd have to make it myself (if I arrived to find it empty or not made), but it was cool. Even Buschman would be friendly when I'd see him, usually telling me how he'd brag to friends that "The Wendy's guy" lived in his building. I never thought that these smiling faces would become as bad as I'd heard, but it happened. As soon as we notified them that we were buying a home and would soon be moving out.
It was time for us to go. We'd been living in an apartment with two dogs and a new baby. Our "grownup" life was in full-effect, and a real house was our next move. We'd paid a full-month's rent as a security deposit along with a few hundred bucks extra a piece for each of the dogs. As customary, you'd expect any post-move-out expenses to be deducted from all of that (a couple grand), and honestly - I expected that they'd just keep it all. We'd been there for almost three years... and after painting the apartment (we asked for permission), and living on a carpeted ground unit with two dogs, we knew the carpet (that cheap, beige, "contractor grade" stuff) would likely have to be replaced. If you have small dogs, a couple pee-pee accidents kind of come with the territory... and we paid for it. I did the walk-through with property manager Jennifer Walker (aka "Jennifer Fergus" - a longtime associate of Buschman that had been brought over from Buschman Homes after quite a turnover in The Sanctuary officies) and was on my way. We'd agreed that the security deposits would be kept.
A couple of months later, a bill showed up certified mail at our new home. All of a sudden, Gary Buschman was looking for an additional $800 to cover painting, carpet, and "repairs." They hounded us a couple of times about it, and after a heated phone call with Jennifer Walker (or Fergus, or whatever her name is), I emailed Gary Buschman directly on September 1, 2010. It was ignored, so I emailed him again on September 3 with my cellphone number and a request for him to call me. Moments later, the phone rang.
I spoke to Gary Buschman on the phone for nearly an hour. We agreed that the fees being asked for would be cancelled. It appeared that all was well. Neither my wife, nor I, had heard from Gary Buschman or any representative from The Sanctuary of Lake Villa or Buschman homes ever again. That was until this week... nearly three years later.
A collection agency called my wife's phone and failed to leave a message. I looked up the number and found out what it was. Concerned as we're not behind on anything, she answered the next time they called - and found out that they didn't have the wrong number, but were collecting "back rent" from The Sanctuary of Lake Villa. We never owed any rent... but they were looking for $800, the same amount we'd been getting squeezed for three years ago. Maybe it's because the housing market is still not what it used to be, but Gary D. Buschman had gone back on his word.
I don't take kindly to being squeezed. I also have no tolerance for despicable human beings that have no honor in their own words.
If anything, I made the mistake of not demanding the waiver in writing (not that this scumbag would've sent it anyway), but after three years they decide to come at us again for something we don't owe? Not acceptable.
If this is how Gary Buschman runs a rental business, I'd hate to know how he handles those who use his other company for construction or remodeling work.
Yesterday, I emailed Gary Buschman and Jennifer Walker/Fergus/Whoever respectfully asking them to call off this collections agency, but promising them that I will take aggressive and appropriate action against them should they choose not to. Today I received an email from Gary, the first line of which is "Frankly, I don't remember." First response of a shady individual usually is to "play dumb," and Buschman certainly didn't disappoint. He added the following:
Of course, "recommend" that I pay him his extortion fee, then take him to court. I'm not a fan of the legal system (too many bullshit lawsuits in this country - especially for $800), so I'm not wasting my time with "a small claims lawsuit" or "an arbitrator." I am a fan of honesty and integrity, and it's been made crystal clear that this guy has none.
Guys like Gary D. Buschman are the poster children for why it's now frowned upon to be successful in America. It's because they find "success" by taking advantage of others. We've seen it on Wall St. We've seen it in big business. Private business is no different. This is a man who will smile to your face, and then jab a knife into your back.
So here we sit... it's Thursday and while my oldest is at preschool and my youngest is taking a nap, I spend my morning typing over 2000 words about unethical trash. I emailed Gary and Jennifer back this morning in regards to the "pay-and-then-sue" response...
"Based on your current response, I will accept your decision as an act of hostility and act accordingly. The collection company will not be paid – based on principle alone.
If you fail to act upon my request within 24 hours, my response will be swift to take effect. I have no tolerance for despicable human beings, and if that’s what you choose to be, you will suffer the consequences.
The $800 is really no issue – but the principle of your business ethics. I will cost you time, which is priceless."
Yes, I could drive back to The Sanctuary of Lake Villa today, drop eight $100 bills on the office desk and walk out and be done. Hell, maybe I still will... if only because my time is priceless. But after three years, these people think that they're going to pressure us into paying for nothing - and threaten our credit ratings as well? I'm not going to be quiet about it.
Making good on my promise to give Gary Buschman 24 Hours to do the right thing and call this nonsense off, this article has been set to auto-post at 10:05am CST on Friday, March 22, 2013. That's exactly 24 hours from my last email to him. If you're reading this, then you know that I am a man of my word. As I promised, my response was swift... and you're reading it right now.
Still considering renting an apartment at The Sanctuary of Lake Villa? Still considering doing business with Buschman Residential Management, LLC or Gary D. Buschman of Buschman Homes/Interior Craft of Gurnee, Illinois? Please visit the following links to read more about them:
- The BBB - Better Business Bureau
- Yahoo! Local Reviews (note the review from 7/4/11 where a renter was asked for an additional $700 when they moved out)
- Review from 7/14/2012 noting more charges on move-out.
- Review in which Buschman Homes takes user to court.
- Chicago Tribune Story about Discrimination against a Breast Cancer patient by Gary Buschman
- 2007 Review calling Buschman "a pompous and greedy man."
What do you - the readers think I should do? Pay up to make this asshole go away, or keep fighting?