Students express concern over off-campus housing conditionsBy Sonya Haines | 10/16/2017 12:34pm
What was supposed to be an exciting time turned into a time-consuming ordeal for many students who moved into off-campus housing in August. Students arrived at their apartments to find unsatisfactory conditions and many received little to no help from their apartment complexes. Some students went weeks without their furniture, being forced to live out of suitcases, while others battled bugs and garbage that had been left behind.
According to the Housing and Residential Communities Division of Student Life, the University houses approximately 9,600 students on campus, including the residential communities and those living in Greek Housing. This leaves upwards of 28,000 students to seek housing off campus.
Students and parents alike found themselves frustrated and called various news outlets, as well as posting their frustrations on Facebook. ABC3340 picked up the story and reported the issues that took place, specifically at Campus Evolution Villages.
“My son was moved from his four-bedroom apartment that he had been in for over a year to a two bedroom that is disgusting,” said Michael Craig, a parent of a UA student on ABC33/40’s Facebook page. “He has no furniture, missing kitchen drawers, and the carpet is nasty.”
It took more than a month for Craig’s son, Caleb Craig, a junior mechanical engineering major, to receive furniture. During that time, he still had to pay for a furniture package, Michael Craig said.
Jeff Gillis, a first-year graduate student studying sports business management, signed a lease at The Strip located at 500 Grace St.
“After speaking to the manager who sent me pictures of the apartment I was supposed to be leasing, I decided to go ahead and sign the lease, even though I had never actually seen the property in person,” Gillis said.
Spaces Management, who manages The Strip apartments, urged Gillis not to sign a lease without coming down and seeing the actual apartments, a leasing agent for the management company said.
After working out all the details with the property manager, Gillis was told that someone would be at the complex to meet him to let him in when he arrived on Aug. 6. When he arrived, not only was there not someone there, but he could not reach anyone either.
“Once I finally got into my room, I found the complete opposite of what I was expecting,” Gillis said. “The fridge didn’t work and the freezer smelled terrible, plus there was a lot of mold in the kitchen sink. The room that I actually got was not the one that was pictured, and there were no vents in the bathroom, only big holes in the ceiling.”
Once the management company learned of the issues, they began attempting to rectify the situation.
“Upon arrival for move-in, Mr. Gillis did not want to move in the unit and had a list of issues he wanted done,” said Andy Turner, the owner of Spaces Management, in a statement he sent to The Crimson White. “The owner came to the property personally to make the repairs and modifications that Mr. Gillis requested.”
Gillis met with the owner and had the opportunity to voice his concerns as well as list his expectations of the apartment.
“The owner did not feel like he was going to be able to meet all of Mr. Gillis’ requests and agreed to allow Mr. Gillis to terminate his lease, and he was not required to pay any termination fees,” Turner said in the statement provided to The Crimson White.
The management company allowed Gillis to move into another one of the apartment complexes that they owned, The Nine, where he has had a much better experience.
“We work very hard to provide excellent customer service, and we did everything possible to provide a good resolution. Which in this case resulted in Mr. Gillis living in a brand new unit,” Turner said in the statement provided to The Crimson White.
Kelsey Hagan, a sophomore finance and economics double major moved into The Cottages at Lake Tamaha, formerly The Retreat and found a different experience.
“Moving in, I expected the same move-in environment as the dorms, but they were great,” Hagan said. “There were people in the clubhouse helping out, they had food and drinks for everyone and they just really made me feel welcome.”
Hagen said the staff is helpful and is great about following protocol, which makes her feel safer.
“My dad overnighted me some legal documents and they would not allow my roommates to pick them up for me,” she said. “I had to physically go into the clubhouse and show my ID to pick it up. I’m so glad they do that because while I trust my roommates, it would have been awful if my mail would have accidentally gotten lost.”
Lacie Penny, a sophomore biology major, moved into Campus Evolution on Aug. 19 and found that her apartment was not move-in ready.
“When I arrived, I walked into my apartment to find that my mattress was on the floor, and none of my furniture was in my room, even though my lease was for a furnished apartment,” Penny said.
Campus Evolution Villages said there were issues with furniture vendors that are to blame for the mass amounts of missing furniture in the apartments.
“The vendors that we were using with certain items were not ready to be able to be shipped in a timely manner,” said Johnathan Garlington, the regional property manager for Campus Evolution Villages.
She also found dirty carpet in her room, but when she contacted the office, she was told that her carpet wasn’t considered dirty enough to be cleaned before move-in.
The apartment complex blamed on-site management at the time of move-in for both the issues with the condition of the apartment and the problems they encountered with the vendors.
“[They were] not able to facilitate the situation and ensure that we had a plan of action in place to make sure rooms were walked properly [and that] things were done such as painting and cleaning, [as well as] carpet cleaning,” Garlington said. “There is no excuse, that is what happened and we are owning up to it.”
Campus Evolution takes ownership of their issues and has ensured residents that this was an isolated issue.
“The incident that took place is an incident that won’t happen again,” Garlington said. “We can ensure that management has taken the proper steps to bring a peaceful environment in a community that will live up to our standard company policies and standards, and that we are truly sorry for the incident and hope that if there is anyone left that has any pending issues or outstanding issues to please make sure they reach management so that we can resolve those issues.”
While Penny admits that she feels like she is lucky considering what some of her friends have gone through, she wishes she got what she was paying for.
“They keep promising stuff that they don’t follow through on and it’s just frustrating and unprofessional,” Penny said.