Some MiddleTown Property Group tenants may see some monetary relief after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced a settlement agreement this week with the property management company. According to Rokita, MiddleTown will pay $35,000 to cease allegedly unfair and deceptive business practices; it is unclear how the funds could be distributed.
The action follows a year-long investigation by the Ball State Daily News wherein dozens of MiddleTown tenants shared ongoing problems they were experiencing with the property management company.
Issues ranged from invasions of privacy, use of deceptive redecoration fees in place of a security deposit and repeated failure to deliver safe, clean rental units, among other complaints.
Melissa Bass, founder of the “BSURentals/MiddleTown Mgmt Complaints” Facebook Group, said the issues violated basic living needs; especially when MiddleTown’s actions seemed to disproportionately target low-income residents.
“When you take someone’s housing, and you put them in a position where they can’t be comfortable in their own homes where they’re paying to live, that’s one of the worst feelings in the world,” she said.
Bass was one of the original tenants profiled in the Daily News’ investigation.
The state investigation determined MiddleTown Property Management LLC and MiddleTown Property Group LLC have been using the unregistered trade name “BSU Rentals.” The attorney general’s office said this could confuse consumers, leading them to believe the company is associated with Ball State University.
In addition to the attorney general’s actions, Ball State officials announced a new initiative Aug. 9, intended to give students a so-called “quality housing” list of off-campus rentals.
The university initiative also followed the Daily News’ investigation.
State Rep. Sue Errington, (D-Muncie) voiced her support for the state’s actions.
“In Muncie, some property management companies have been using predatory practices to make a profit. They’ve targeted our more vulnerable groups, like college students and the elderly. This is the start of change, it’s a push forward, but there’s still a lot to be done,” she said.
Bass moved into her rental with her three kids in July 2021. She described herself as being one of many tenants who were subjected to vague fees, unannounced entry from MiddleTown workers and neglected plumbing issues.
Alexandria Clark, who was also interviewed during the Daily News’ initial investigation, said her first response to the agreement was a chuckle.
“They’re finally getting what they deserved,” she said. “That was my first reaction, but then I was also like ‘Thank goodness something is finally being done about them.’ There are so many people getting screwed [by MiddleTown], more than what happened to me and my husband.”
Bass believes that this is a step forward in ending most major issues with MiddleTown.
“I’m happy that they will no longer be able to charge people that redecorating fee and the bogus cleaning fee…I’m happy with the part where they said that they [were] not giving proper notice to go into people’s homes…but I am not happy with the fact that they didn’t get any hefty fines and the restitution amount is extremely low,” Bass said.
When Bass felt her initial complaints were not being heard by MiddleTown groups, she started the popular Facebook group for tenants who had similar experiences, as well as organized multiple protests outside the office.
“If you see somebody being done wrong, or you’re being done wrong, stand up because you just never know where it can end up,” Bass said. “This has went all the way to the top from me standing outside with a protest sign by myself. So just don’t give up. Always stand up for yourself and others and hold people accountable.”
Lifestyles Editor Hannah Amos contributed to this story.
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