Some students at the University of Connecticut said they routinely face problems with the facilities and management of off-campus housing options advertised by the university.
“(I) had a pretty awful experience,” Ariel Fleyshman, a senior actuarial science major, said about her experience in Hunting Lodge Apartments where she lived this summer.
Fleyshman said she filed a complaint about her “rotten” ceiling when she moved in and complained about the issue every day for three weeks until management came in and put duct tape over the ceiling.
“They attempted to fix a broken ceiling with duct tape…but it didn’t actually fix the problem,” Fleyshman said.
Fleyshman said that money was taken out of her security deposit to pay for the repairs.
Last year, students living in Cedar Ridge Apartments were without drinkable water in their residences for months.
Josh Sherman, a UConn student who lived at Cedar Ridge for two years, said he has still not gotten his security deposit back after moving out several months ago. He said he was told that this was because someone who used to work at Cedar Ridge stole the security deposits from multiple tenants years ago.
“I just let it go because it would cost me more time and money to chase down the information and get it back than it’s worth at this point,” Sherman said.
Both Cedar Ridge and Hunting Lodge properties are currently listed on UConn’s Off-Campus Student Services website.
John Armstrong, the director of Off-Campus Student Services, said that if a student files a complaint about his/her housing, they will investigate the claim and work to remedy it. This office may also encourage students to make a report to the Eastern Highland Health District which can perform services such as testing water and reporting on its quality.
“We follow-up on all of those (reports). We track those for future reference,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that if a student asks about a property’s history of problems, his office will respond honestly, but they will not make the information public.
“To make it public can make it challenging for properties we work closely with and it’s also not our information to make public,” Armstrong said.
Information regarding a student filing a complaint is part of that student’s personal record with his office, Armstrong said.
Salma Yousif, a UConn student, posted a picture showing the yellow water in her Cedar Ridge apartment last September, sparking outrage and disgust on the Buy or Sell UConn Tickets Facebook page. Yousif said the issue was cleared up only when the property came under a new manager.
“It’s…super yellow, banana yellow. It’s really bad,” Yousif said when describing her water.
Alexandra Valenta, another student who lived in Cedar Ridge last year, said the water issue was resolved by the second half of the Fall 2016 semester.
“The new property manager has been really great about tending to tenant issues (and) concerns and they were very quick to resolve the issue with the water,” Yousif said.
Over the summer, Amber Dickey, who graduated with her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2017, created a post in Buy or Sell UConn Tickets advising other students not to rent from Lineage Properties.
“They (Maplewood, Oakwood, Knollwood, Clubhouse and Millbrook properties) went under new management in November and are not fit to rent,” Dickey said in her post. “The apartments are falling apart, and the management is both incompetent and sneaky.”
Following a Daily Campus story about the problems, which included rotting floors, sparking electrical outlets, issues with heating and mold and asbestos in the walls, according to residents, the off-campus housing office worked with Lineage Properties to remedy the issues.
Armstrong said this responsiveness is characteristic of his office’s relationship with most landlords and property managers.
“We have a wonderful relationship with all the property owners,” Armstrong said. “When a complaint is brought to (their) attention, they respond to it very well.”
Armstrong said that if there are persistent issues with a property, whether it be with facilities or health concerns, or with landlords taking undue freedoms with entering a students’ residence, his office may remove it from their website.
“Our concerns would be if the response to those concerns were not being dealt with because our first priority is (determining if) the student’s living (is) environment safe,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said his office has never had to remove a large property like Cedar Ridge or Lineage Properties from its website. He said persistent incidents that resulted in removal have been limited to single-family rentals.
About 33 percent of UConn students live off-campus, according to the UConn 2017 Factsheet.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said between 67 to 72 percent of undergraduates have been housed on campus over the past several years, but that this number has decreased since the Oaks on the Square Apartments opened in 2012.
Fleyshman said she thinks students need to be better educated about finding housing and leasing contracts in order to avoid being taken advantage of by landlords in light of her own experience.
Armstrong said his office works with students to make sure they understand their rights as renters, emphasizing that Connecticut Fair Housing laws establish specific rights for tenants.
“Our point with any student living in any property is (that) they have rights,” he said. “Every tenant has rights.”
Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com. She tweets @ZarraAnna.