I agree with a lot of your points made. The issue I had with these property management people was it was their way or the highway. I brought up a couple small issues while living there for almost 6 years and I learned quickly that it was a waste of time because they just ignored the request. So what I did was just make my own small repairs which probably cost me around $80 over the years. For example I had to fix both my Toilets there by installing new flappers on both of them. Those ran about $8. I also installed a towel hanger in the bathroom for about $20. It was much easier then going to them and asking for help or having a Toilet that didn't flush all of the time.
A couple other horrifying experiences there was when a neighbor broke my window by accident when he was on drugs and I had to pay for it, which was a pricey $150. He was a friend of mine at the time so and he was broke so I knew he wouldn't be able to pay for it, but still. Also when I moved apartments I was at the final inspection and the guy said there wasn't any issues, then 6 months later I received a bill for around $200 for repairs that needed to be made which was taken out of my deposit for moving into the 2nd place.
So I think if it's a small repair that you can do yourself for under $10 or maybe even $20, just do it yourself. Unless you have good landlords that will actually fix these minor things for you.
BTW, I brought up the $200 bill to them and they basically told me that there were repairs even though they weren't repairs they were upgrades and they were in the same condition that they were before I moved in. But the issue is how do you prove it. Or why would I spend the money on a lawyer over $200. The only thing to do is take it on the chin.
Blue Moon, I can easily relate to your situations. I've acquired lots of experience in apartment renting in my younger years. I agree with you that the best thing to do, no matter what the lease implies, do any minor repairs yourself if you are capable of doing them. Most things, such as replacing the toilet's flapper or installing a new towel rack are quite easy to do, and you simply have to follow the instructions on the package. It's a good idea for renters to keep a toolbox handy, filled with the basic tools of hammer, a variety of screwdrivers (especially flat-head and Philips), a set of wrenches (open-end and sockets), a tape measure, a variety of screws,nails, bolts and nuts, duct tape, and electrician's tape.
From the description you gave of the situation, I'm wondering if the manager had just told you the wrong apartment number the first time. Since the lease agreement contained the wrong number and the key didn't fit, maybe the manager meant to give you the second apartment originally. Either way, it sounds like you were dealing with some pretty inept, unethical property managers. And you were put into a situation that many people are forced into, which is paying for "repairs and/or cleaning" once they have moved out, despite having cleared the final inspection with no notice given of unsatisfactory conditions.
Which brings up the point of what a renter should do to help prevent this from happening. During the pre-move in inspection (and exit inspection), the renter needs to write down every little thing that they notice: every hole (no matter how small), every dent, every scratch, every chipped or flaky paint, every paint splatter, every piece of filthy equipment (especially the stove and refrigerator), every stain and every loose or missing screw, or missing/broken part. Despite the manager's verbal assurances that these things will be fixed, have the manager put it in writing and sign the statement as to when these things will be fixed or that they have at least been duly noted and that you will not be charged for these damages in any way. Also take good pictures of the place while doing the inspections. You can use your phone's camera if you don't have a video cam handy. But make copies of the pictures and have the copies placed in the manager's files along with your rental agreement. Then if the management tries to claim you owe them for those damages, make them prove it. Knowing that you have proof of what damages and cleanliness existed, compared to their lack of proof will usually prevent the management from trying to rip you off. If they withhold the money from your deposit, you don't necessarily have to take it to court. You can go over the manager's head and file a complaint with the property owner directly, threatening to expose their dishonest business practices in the local news media.
Always keep a copy of the lease, list of damages at pre-inspection, exit inspection, as well as the photos for the rest of your life. Because you can then refuse to pay the damages. The property management may report the lack of payment to the credit bureaus and you will have to use the documentation to clear your credit records, repeatedly. But neither way necessarily has to involve going to court. However, if you are notified that the apartments are taking the case to court or mediation proceedings, show up for the hearing or mediation session to present your side of the story.
But you also brought up another common problem renters have too. Many tenants can live in a place for years without having any trouble with the management. Then as soon as they make a complaint, they find themselves being harassed by the management to such a point that the tenant either voluntarily moves or gets evicted without much noticed or on trumped up reasons for eviction.
The other interesting point you brought up was who should be responsible when damage is done to a unit by a third party, such as when your friend broke the window. You never gave the details as to how the window was broken, so I can only give the various scenarios as to who should have been responsible for the repairs. Scene #1: Your friend was visiting you and the two of you were engaged in some type of activity that led to the window being broken. As a guest in your home, you were responsible for any damage done to the apartment by your friend, whether he was on drugs or not. Scene #2: Your friend was not visiting you at the time he broke your window. As a tenant of the complex, it is his responsibility to pay for the window replacement, since he agreed not to engage in any activity that would endanger other tenants and/or the property as long as he lived there. That is a clause in any standard lease. Disorderly conduct and illegal activities, such as being on drugs and causing a public commotion, is also the grounds for eviction in most rental agreements. If you were both on drugs at the time, and in your home, then most likely both of you would have been evicted if the management had been notified of the broken window incident. Because that would be considered a breach of contract by both, you and your friend.
But for the window's replacement, your legal options were to 1) have the window replaced at your own expense, either by the management or a private company of your own choosing; 2) have your friend replace the window at his expense, in whatever timely manner he chose; or 3)replace the window yourself and arrange for your friend to repay you; or 4) report the incident to the management, who by law would have had to replaced the window immediately. And then the management would charged either you or your friend for the repairs.