Unfinished apartments: Were they worth leasing?

By Nicola Crean

High-rise apartment buildings have been the latest trend to hit Campustown. However, unfinished apartments and upset residents seem to have come hand-in-hand with the newest developments to Champaign-Urbana.

Dave Cosentino, senior in LAS, was supposed to move into The Distillery, a building managed by JTM located on the corner of Oak and John Streets, by Aug. 15, but has yet to move in.

“We had to live in a hotel for the first month and a half of school,” Cosentino said. “We ended up signing a lease at Park Place and are still deciding about what to do next semester.”

He added that although the management company has paid for their hotels, they are now looking for displaced residents to pay rent for apartments that they have yet to move in to.

“We signed an addendum about what happened if they were not ready on time,” Cosentino said. “We don’t owe them any rent according to our interpretations and our lawyers.”

JTM did not return phone calls to comment.

After getting a tour of the condo-style units last week, he said he expects the apartments to be completed next semester.

Cosentino and his roommates are still deciding if it is worth it to go to court to get out of the lease or if negotiating the possibility of cheaper rent for next semester is a better route to take.

“It will be a cool place to live in, but it wasn’t worth all of this,” Cosentino said. “It ended up being a big dent in our senior year.”

Lisa Neal, sophomore in Education, was able to move into Burnham 310, located at 310 E. Springfield, on Nov. 15.

“There were times that we got frustrated when they weren’t available to answer our questions, but they are handling things a lot better,” Neal said. “It was kind of a pain originally, but it ended up benefiting us.”

She said that Marquette Management has agreed to subtract the rent tenants had paid at the other properties they were living at from the total rent they were supposed to pay at Burnham 310.

“Because of the reimbursements they are providing we were able to upgrade to a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment,” Neal said. “I don’t regret my decision anymore. Any problems we have had since moving in have been fixed right away.”

Marquette Management did not return phone calls to comment.

The largest building in the city of Champaign, the 309 Green complex, still remains under construction while residents live in the building.

“It will be sometime in January and February when the building will be fully completed,” said Dustin Neiswender, assistant manager at Roland Realty. “But everyone that has signed a lease is living in their apartments. Delays in move in weren’t as long as people had assumed.”

He added that residents are currently only living on floors eight through 16.

The company stopped leasing on the higher floors in case there were issues with completion.

Residents received double the daily rent while they were displaced, and Roland credited another month’s rent to their account.

“Basically everyone got two months rent knocked off immediately,” Neiswender said.

He said that the construction noise has been the biggest complaint of the residents.

“No one necessarily likes that,” he said. “Some residents are very happy to be moved in because of everything the apartments have to offer while others are really bothered by the construction noise.”

Roland Realty will be managing another property that is set to be completed by August 2009. The apartment building, located at 907 S. Third St., will be a five-story building containing 24 units of both two and four bedrooms.

“This project is a building that expects no delays because it is much, much smaller; about one third of 309 Green’s size,” Neiswender said. “The last update I got said that there was little to zero concern that it wouldn’t be completed on time.”

He added that there were students who were concerned about the project’s completion.

Esther Patt, coordinator at the Tenant Union, said students are taking a risk with signing for an apartment that is not finished.

“I always advise people that are considering signing a lease on a place still under construction to rethink their decision,” Patt said. “New construction is often not ready on time and the final product may not be what they expected.”

She said students must be aware that any promises made has to be in writing in their lease or it is not a legally binding promise.

“Landlords can put anything on their Web sites or orally promise that it will be ready,” Patt said. “But what matters is what your lease actually says.”

Neal said students should know what they are getting themselves into when they sign a lease.

“Look at how much of the building is actually done before you sign a lease,” she said. “If you find out what they still need to do and they still have a lot of work to do, don’t sign.”