Students in hotels after apartment fails to open

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Dan Shah

Delayed construction of the new Campus Property Management building has forced students to find housing elsewhere.

Students, who signed a lease with the company for an apartment at the building located at 512 S. Third St., arrived on campus to find their apartments unfinished. The building was supposed to be completed for the school year.

Campus Property Management spokesperson Michael Jay blamed construction for the opening complications of the 512 S. Third St. building.

“It was a construction delay,” Jay said. “We are anticipating opening it shortly.”

Campus Property Management declined to comment any further.

The Tenant Union heard about the issue from worried students around the beginning of August.

“We got a flood of calls from students and parents at the beginning of August freaking out and not knowing where they were going to go,” said Esther Patt, director of the Tenant Union. “They were pretty unhappy about not being able to move into their new place.”

Campus Property Management reserved a block of hotel rooms at the Urbana Historic Lincoln Hotel to house their tenants. The hotel only serves as a temporary solution because of its lack of amenities and its distance from campus.

“They are getting a $30 per day per person credit so that’s enough to pay for two people to share one cheap hotel room with no kitchen facilities,” Patt said.

Heather Page, junior in LAS, who leased one of the building’s apartments, said the management is crediting her account, but it is still expensive.

“We have to pay out of our pockets now,” Page said.

The Tenant Union cannot take actions against the company because they have not done anything legally wrong. The contract stated that the apartment building might not be finished by the move-in date. The lease also stated that students couldn’t terminate the contract until Oct.19.

“I always thought that when they put that clause it was only if some drastic tragedy or event occurred,” said Kevin Barry, sophomore in LAS and resident of a different apartment owned by Campus Property Management. “I didn’t think they could do that if they simply didn’t finish construction. I don’t understand how they can do that.”

Some tenants said the management was not upfront to the tenants who signed a contract with the unfinished apartment complex.

“We went to talk to CPM (in July),” Page said. “They said as far as they knew, it would be ready to move into. CPM did not tell us till August that we couldn’t move in right away. They said it would be ready (August) 20. Then they sent us a letter saying it would not be ready until the end of September.”

The delay is disheartening to students who took it upon themselves to sign a contract near the end of last year in hopes of living in a new building.

“It was disappointing,” Page said. “They told us all yearlong that it would be ready to move into.”

Students do not have the option of re-signing with another company unless the building is not completed by Oct. 19.

“They can’t risk leasing somewhere else because the building might be ready by Oct.19,” Patt said. “Anyone who signed a lease somewhere else will be stuck with two leases for 10 months.”

The Tenant Union warns against signing a lease on a new building since construction can often be delayed. They also warn students to read contracts thoroughly.

“It’s something for people to look out for,” Patt said. “No matter what you feel you were given, all that matters is the written contract … Most students imagine that the delay might be 2-3 days and not 2-3 months.”

Campus Property Management is one of the largest rental companies on campus and has a history of construction delays. During the 1994-1995 school year, their apartment building at 202 E. Chalmers St. took nearly five months after the scheduled complete deadline to finish building, according to the Tenant Union’s record.

“This has happened at least a dozen times in the last 20 years (with CPM),” Patt said. “Almost every year there is a (CPM) building not finished. Students can wait anywhere from three weeks to five months.”

Data provided by the Tenant Union showed that the management has had a total of 91 complaints filed against them between 2000-2004. Forty percent of landlords on campus have not received any complaints during that time period, according to the Tenant Union.

The incomplete apartment building is not the only complaint about the company that the Tenant Union has received this year. The balconies at the company’s 106 S. Gregory St. apartment building in Urbana had to be shut down. According to the Tenant Union, the city inspector told CPM last December that the balconies needed repair. Although the company applied for a construction permit in May 2005, work hasn’t started yet. On Aug. 29. the city issued a notice to the company that the balconies were unsafe and had to be boarded up, Patt said.

“They haven’t said anything to us,” said Dan Reitz, senior in Engineering and resident of the 106 S. Gregory St. apartments. “We just saw a guy taking down the balconies the next day and (saw) a board across the window.”

Some residents are not angered by the repairs but are disappointed that their landlord knew about the problem since last year.

“It’s not a huge deal,” Reitz said. “We didn’t go out on (the balcony) much. As long as it gets fixed quickly it will be fine. But if they knew about this since December, they should have fixed it over the summer or something.”

During the last seven years, balconies have been closed down at five Campus Property Management’s buildings. In June 2000, a balcony fell off the building at 105 S. Wright St. and smashed two cars.