Copper Beech residents complain

Students are concerned about the town homes' mold, bugs and parking.

Residents of the Copper Beech Townhomes are threatening to revolt against their landlords if problems in their units are not remedied.

"I'd love to move, but at this point, I'm assuming it's pretty hard to break a lease," Copper Beech resident Matt Rebackoff said. "We're at least here until the end of the semester, which is a hassle."

Rebackoff, a freshman, is the founder of a Facebook group called "Official Copper Beech Petition (Withhold your rent!)" As of Monday night, the group had 115 members. Although originally the members planned to withhold their rent from Copper Beech if their complaints were not addressed, Rebackoff said a lawyer had advised him against it.

"I was going to just have people withhold rent because it makes me sick to pay $400 a month when it's like this," he said. "The lawyer said that would be drastic and result in legal action. He said to bring in list of complaints, and tell them they need to be fixed."

Columbia Apartments Association President Bonnie Fischer said that before tenants withhold rent from their landlord, it is important to check their lease.

"Read the lease, and make sure that they are following what to do in the lease," she said. "It will be stated in the lease if they can withhold rent in case of a problem or if they can't."

Fischer said often requests need to be made in writing.

"They need to put things in writing for the property manager, and keep a copy for themselves," she said. "If nothing is done, I suggest that they go to the Protective Inspections Department in the city, which issues rental properties a certificate of compliance."

Rebackoff said that in his apartment, there was mold in his closet, and that when he gave the Copper Beech management his list of complaints, they came and cut the piece of wall out and have not yet repaired it. There were also problems with insects in his basement room.

"There were roly-polies and beetles and stuff running around, and they said they're still trying to get a bid on an exterminator," he said.

Despite these problems, Rebackoff said the main issue the residents have is with parking.

"The parking situation is insane," he said. "For the first three or four weeks, there were no assigned spots. It wasn't a big deal except on the weekend. Now there are assigned spots. I live in a three-person townhouse, and we get two spots but have to pay for a third. Two of them are in front of the unit, and the other is across the neighborhood."

Rebackoff said there is no visitor parking, and when he asked what to do if he wanted to have friends over, he was told by management to go get them, have them park on Bearfield Road, double park, or park in the fire lane and hope Columbia police won't see it and tow them.

He said there were also problems with water pressure and holes in the showers.

"Management says what they think you want to hear, and the problems don't get resolved in a timely manner," he said. "They do whatever they can to get off the phone or out of the office."

Rebackoff said he and his roommates have talked to Copper Beech management more than 30 times.

The Web site for Copper Beech Townhomes' corporate headquarters only lists a general information e-mail address as a contact.

Rebackoff said he's not sure what he'll do next about the situation with the apartment.

"I don't really know what to do. We just paid this last month's rent, and I'm not really sure what our options are," Rebackoff said.

Representatives from Copper Beech Townhomes in Columbia could not be reached for comment.

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