Residents at two student housing complexes, Timber Ridge and Copper Beech, have complained of spider infestations at the townhomes.
However, managers and owners do not take college students seriously, said junior Andrea Sims, a resident at Copper Beech.
“I feel like they think they can ignore us, and we won’t do anything about it because we don’t care,” Sims said.
Both Copper Beech and Timber Ridge were described as having a spider infestation and units that were in poor condition when clients moved in, according to reports by Sims and Thom Baker, a local resident and father of a Timber Ridge resident.
"It was quite obvious that the apartment itself had been neglected for quite a few months, like cobwebs in the corners and food left in cabinet shelves. The floors were gross. It was just bad."
Timber Ridge, in a statement released by their attorneys, said it had “resolved the reported situations (of spraying for spiders) in less than 24 hours as verified by the City of Columbia Code Enforcement Specialist.”
Baker went before City Council on Sep. 18 to have his concerns with the housing complex addressed. He did so not only for his daughter, but for all tenants, he said.
“Our recommendation to City Council was that all rental owners or managements must give a full disclosure of all property problems with any particular apartment,” Baker said.
This would be included in a “code of conduct,” which Baker said he would like the city to display on its website. The document would be signed voluntarily by building managers and property owners.
It’s important to read the lease and talk to those who have lived at the complex before, Sims said.
“(Reading the lease and talking to current residents) is really important because we didn’t really know anybody who had lived at Copper Beech before, so we’d just heard about it but not really about any issues,” Sims said.
Student legal services available to help with a housing decision in student life, said Dionne George, coordinator of Off-campus Student Services.
“I believe that if a student took the time to review the lease when red flags come up and (when) they’re not too sure what things mean, that’s a good time to set up an appointment and get some clarification before you sign,” George said.
It’s important to realize to be careful when looking for an apartment, George said.
“I know everyone is looking for the best deal,” George said. “I know everyone wants to be conservative in terms of how much money they spend, but not everything that glitters is gold.”
George advised students to avoid signing leases without reading them, especially if the language is confusing.
If the Off-Campus Student Services office receives enough complaints about a property, George said, the office is available to help students through the process of getting their complaints addressed.
“Sometimes, there’s really just a miscommunication or lack of communication on one part or another,” George said. “When students do come to us with their concerns, we really try to get them resources that they need to move forward. In the past (what we’ve done) is to reach out to some of these properties on behalf of the students to get clarification about certain situations.”
The problem is communication between property managers and tenants, and it needs to be fixed, Sims said.
“As far as what can be done, I just feel a lot of communication issues are a big deal,” Sims said. “They need to let us know what they’re going to do, especially when we contact them first.”
Olive Lefler, Copper Beech midwest regional manager, said in an email that Copper Beach regrets that some residents have had issues.
“Even though we are fully prepared for the lease turnover season, it is possible for items to get missed,” Lefler said. “We staff up for this time of year, and we have plenty of people trained to take care of issues that may arise. We also have cleaning services and other vendors on site that are contracted to help.”
Copper Beech representatives do not always hear from residents directly, but if tenants are having problems, Copper Beech is there to help, Lefler said.
“If any tenants are having problems or concerns, we are available in our leasing office daily and we have online methods for them to communicate their concerns as well,” Lefler said. “Our managers are always available to help quickly, once we are made aware of the problem.
George said this year, the office is in the process of planning off-campus housing information sessions which will take place before the annual housing fair Nov. 13.
“We want to educate them before that event so that they just know what are some good things to look for when planning to sign a lease,” George said.
The fair will have 35-40 housing complexes for students to consider, but leases will not be available to sign at that time.
“We are here to advocate for the students and then try to ensure that properties are providing the best service that they can,” George said.