Management of Alton Park housing sites restricts payment types

Management of Alton Park housing sites restricts payment types

July 19th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Residents of the Villages at Alton Park no longer can pay rent with money orders.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Villages at Alton Park

The management of Villages at Alton Park has said that residents who previously paid rent with money orders now must use moneygrams.

"It's just a mess," said Rosemary Porter, president of the Villages at Alton Park Neighborhood Watch.

The change means residents must pay higher fees to get a moneygram rather than a money order.

Instead of walking across 38th Street to purchase a money order at the local branch of Church Koinonia Federal Credit Union, as they did in the past, Alton Park residents now must travel four miles to the closest Walmart in Lookout Valley for the least expensive moneygram.

Residents can purchase a moneygram at CVS on Tennessee Avenue, only a mile away from the Villages, but the fee there is up to $5, which is $1.65 more than the $3.35 charged at Walmart.

Residents formerly could pay 75 cents for a money order at the Church Koinonia Credit Union, Porter said.

And because the Bethlehem Center was across the street from the Villages at Alton Park, residents didn't have a problem with transportation, she said. Several residents at the Villages don't have cars, she said.

But Pennrose property officials argue that paying with a moneygram is more convenient because, unlike a paper money order, a moneygram is an electronic payment and decreases paperwork for the property manager.

And because the payment is electronic, a resident may purchase and send a moneygram anytime that Walmart, CVS or other stores make them available, instead of being restricted to paying rent only during Pennrose Property management hours.

"Residents can pay at any time that, for example, Walmart is open," said Rachel Summers, spokeswoman for Pennrose Properties.

To inform residents of the change, Pennrose sent the following notice in June:

"In our continuing efforts to provide the most convenient services for our residents, we are improving the way we collect your rent," said the letter signed Pennrose Management Co. "As of July 1, 2011, we are no longer accepting money orders in your community office."

"[The decision to pay by moneygram] is definitely not for the residents' convenience," Porter said. "It's like paying someone to pay my rent."

Porter also noted that Pennrose had no discussion with residents before changing the policy.

"Maybe they should have had a meeting with all of the residents first to let us know what was going to take place and try to prepare people for it," said Porter.

The change was discussed with residents at June's monthly resident meeting, Summers said

Residents also can pay online with a credit card, but not all residents have a computer, Porter said.

There also is a convenience fee for paying with a credit card online, according to Pennrose.

Contact Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.