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Tenants fear loss of deposits

Van Oosterhout, K. Aaron | Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Justin Funk, a tenant of nearby Turtle Creek Apartments, echoed the sentiments of many off-campus residents as summer vacation draws near and apartment leases terminate and residents prepare for the worst in terms of charges assessed for cleaning and damages done to leased property. “The apartment’s pretty much taken a beating,” Funk said. “I’m pretty much assuming we’re not gonna get [our security deposit] back.”Although details vary from one apartment complex to another, landlords generally charge tenants for excessive cleaning and property damage with security deposits. Tenants pay these deposits in order to establish their lease, and oftentimes in addition to other tenant charges, such as first month’s rent, or first and last month’s rent. The size of these deposits range from $300 per unit at Castle Point to $985 per unit at College Park Apartments, and appear to rise proportionately to the complex’s “party reputation” among students.Indeed, this week many Turtle Creek residents are preparing for tonight’s “Rally in the Alley,” just one in a slew of widely attended parties at the complex. As fits the trend, Turtle Creek’s security deposit is highest, weighing in at $300 per student, or $1200 per townhouse. This year the complex ran a special, however, dropping the deposit to $200.According to Jackie Hackett, Assistant Manager of Turtle Creek Apartments, of that $300, $25 goes toward “application processing,” $75 goes toward non-refundable cleaning such as painting and carpet cleaning, and the final $200 is refundable depending on the condition of the room at the end of the lease.”For the most part, everyone gets their deposit back,” she said. “At least part of it.”According to Hackett, “malicious damage” would constitute a breach of contract, and money would be taken from the refundable $200 portion of the deposit to cover the cost. For instance, “holes in the wall, complete and utter destruction of the carpet,” she said. “Sometimes there’s a divider between a dining room and a living room,” and removing it would ruin the carpet and the ceiling.Walking through the alley at Turtle Creek, one can see what might constitute “excessive damage,” whether malicious or not. Approaching the apartment of senior Ryan Crochet, a windowpane, now broken and missing a circular slice near the bottom, looks out over the front lawn. “I’m not really sure how that happened,” he said. “We have a couple of holes in the ceiling from parties. We’re gonna try and plaster them up.”Funk claimed that he, too, would try and avoid charges this year by replacing the divider that he and his roommates removed. “It would cost $1400 or something like that” for Turtle Creek staff to replace, he said, and added with a grin, “We’re going to put that back together.”Some residents felt that Turtle Creek management was simply being fair in not returning the full deposit. “I would assume that most people do not get [the security deposit] back,” said senior Joe Bollini. “It’s a result of the occupants and not the landowners’ stinginess.”Crochet concurred, saying that he had not heard of any abuse on the part of the management. “Not that I know of,” he said.Many other residents, however, did not share these sentiments and cited stories of rampant excess charges and suspicious dealings. “I’ve just heard from people that no one ever gets it back,” Funk said.Assistant Manager Hackett disagreed, however, and said, “We’re not out to get anybody.”On occasion, the charges assessed at the end of the year exceed the security deposit, and the resident is charged the surplus amount. Hackett claimed that these instances were rare.In response to these excess charges, many tenants have filed complaints with Turtle Creek staff. Most notably, 2003 graduate Jeff Baltruzak, in his November Letter to the Editor, “Beware of Turtle Creek,” claimed that the management had overcharged him $480 for carpet replacement.Baltruzak stated that he had shampooed the carpet prior to moving out, but that Turtle Creek had replaced it anyway, and did not take pictures of the damage to prove Baltruzak’s undue wear-and-tear.According to Marianne Loftus-Heon, co-general manager of Castle Point, her apartment complex does not suffer these same complaints. Whether at Turtle Creek or Castle Point, however, all residents will be cleaning and repairing whatever damage has accumulated throughout one year’s worth of life. Said Funk, gazing at the mysterious reddish stain streaking down his glass sliding door, “It definitely won’t be spotless by any means, but we don’t want to be fined.”