Construction leaves students stranded

By Meghan O'Kelly

When Danielle Cralle arrived for her scheduled Aug. 15 move-in at the new Village at Colbert Park townhouse and apartment community in Savoy, Ill., property staff told her she could not move in until the following day.

Upon entering her apartment, Cralle, junior in LAS, said that various appliances weren’t functioning properly, the kitchen ceiling was leaking, and cable and Internet were not working as promised in the lease.

“Every single person I’ve talked to has had a problem,” she said, adding that the residents had difficulty accessing representatives of Trinitas Ventures, property managers based out of West Lafayette, Ind. “It’s just ridiculous.”

Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union, worked with students filing complaints against the Village at Colbert Park. She warned against signing leases for buildings under construction for the coming year.

“They’re often not ready on time,” she said. “It’s so common for new construction not to be ready.”

Kerry Pimblott, graduate student, also had her move-in date pushed back and was frustrated when forced to live without cable and Internet.

Early last week, she wrote a letter to Trinitas Ventures, which was signed by 60 other residents, mostly undergraduate students at the University and Parkland Community College. The letter demanded contact from Trinitas Ventures by Aug. 29 at 5 p.m., three days prior to the September rental payment, and outlined five demands.

“I feel like they’re doing this because they’re dealing with people under 23 who aren’t going to look at a lease that closely,” Cralle said.

The tenants asked for compensation including pro-rated rent for the time they were unable to move in and rent reduction to compensate for amenities not provided as of Aug. 15, including gym facilities, computer labs, a game room and spa. Although a virtual tour including these amenities is available on the Village at Colbert Park’s Web site, construction is still under way, and the facility is not open to residents.

“When people were signing up, that’s the reason they signed up,” Pimblott said.

Trinitas Ventures defended its actions and answered the tenants Wednesday afternoon.

“Our lease provides for anticipation of construction delay,” Loren King, chief operating officer of Trinitas Ventures, said, adding that the clubhouse will be finished by mid-September. “The lease does provide for pro-rated rent.”

He maintained that staff has been on site every day working with residents to set up Internet and cable and respond to other complaints.

Although it took nearly two weeks from move-in day for residents to be contacted by property management, Pimblott said Trinitas Ventures has agreed to pro-rate rent for the time residents were displaced, but they will not receive compensation for the delayed amenities.

Despite her weeks of frustration, Pimblott is now satisfied after management representatives’ visits to individual apartments.

“Personally, I’m really happy about the fact we’re going to get one-day compensation for the rent,” she said. “But they’re right, it’s in the lease.”

Patt cautioned students to ensure that all amenities students expect are in writing in the lease. Advertisements, brochures and other communications are not legally binding, she said. She said one of the biggest problems in this particular situation is that things that people expected were not written in the lease.

“Many landlords write leases to protect themselves for liability for anything,” Patt said, advising students to bring their leases to the Tenant Union before they sign. “If the building isn’t built the day you sign the lease, assume it won’t be ready when school starts.”