SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — As Texas State University students head into winter vacation, dozens still don’t have the homes they signed up for.
The View on the Square, a new student apartment complex under construction, has promised a move-in date for their “current lease term” before classes start in August. A spokesperson told KXAN News that their first announced move-in date was August 2019.
But the building is still not ready.
Ferris Zughaiyir, a graduate student, said he signed a lease with The View in January 2020.
“They were close to campus and I wanted to be able to walk to campus so I had to worry about parking,” he says.
The city of San Marcos tells KXAN that the company still needs to resolve sprinkler issues before it can get its certificate of occupancy.
“Several factors have caused delays over time, with COVID being the primary reason,” wrote View spokesperson Michael Harris, regional property manager at CA Ventures.
Harris also pointed to supply chain delays and labor shortages, as well as the fact that the company needed to replace its original general contractor.
“In March 2021, the owner took a hands-on approach to completing the project by bringing in additional labor and being on site to oversee the completion of the project,” Harris said.
The View is not the only apartment to put students in this bind. In fact, another is currently being prosecuted for similar practices.
Russell Sloan is representing more than 40 people in a lawsuit against Haven at Thorpe Lane, another San Marcos student apartment company that gave students move-in guarantees… But didn’t allow move-in until nine months later after the last day of class.
“If you say August and you have every reason to believe you’re not going to do August, then that’s just a lie,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that the building’s landlord and proprietors, developer, manager and builder knew they weren’t going to meet promised move-in dates, but kept announcing them. Cited evidence includes internal emails between these project managers, as well as emails with the city of San Marcos.
Sloan said some of his clients were couch surfing or living in their cars while they waited.
Sloan said about 20 of his clients had experienced some degree of homelessness, and because Haven had told KXAN in the past that they had over 300 leases signed, Sloan thinks there may have been some degree of homelessness. more homeless students.
The US government has several definitions of homelessness, depending on the department and the program, and includes people who “have no fixed, regular and adequate night residence”.
A spokesperson for Haven in Thorpe said he could not comment on the disputes.
A recurring motif in San Marcos
“We currently have around 45 student apartment complexes. And I would say in 42 or 43 of them, the exact same thing is happening,” said San Marcos attorney Shannon FitzPatrick.
FitzPatrick worked as a student advocate at Texas State University for more than two decades.
“When you work … in the student attorney’s office, the number one problem they have is housing,” she said.
She thinks student housing is a bigger issue in San Marcos than in Austin, which is also home to a major university.
“Do they have any?” Yes. But there’s something for everyone like that, there’s another 50 that are regular traditional leases, so you don’t have to,” she said.
FitzPatrick says companies like to build student apartments because they’re rented by the bed, which means each roommate signs their own lease and pays their own rent.
This way, a business can make more money with a single unit compared to a traditional lease, where roommates are bound by a lease and a total rent amount.
“Apartment complexes like this don’t count on you moving in a year, they want you to stay. If you are a good tenant, they work to keep you,” she explains. “Rent by the beds don’t worry, because there’s always a new generation of 18-year-olds coming to town next year.”
Student housing leases have become such a concern that the City of San Marcos has dedicated a section in their development code back in 2017.
“If for some reason my room isn’t ready when it’s time for me to move in, then I can terminate my lease, or I can be given accommodations elsewhere,” said Amanda Hernandez, assistant manager. of San Marcos planning.
And, the code states that if a student chooses to terminate their lease, there should be no financial penalty, and the landlord must refund all of the student’s deposit and prepaid items within 10 days.
If those terms aren’t written into student leases, Hernandez said, the city won’t give the apartment company its certificate of occupancy, which is required before anyone can move in.
But here’s the catch: the rule doesn’t apply to any of the student apartments we currently see.
“The resorts that have, I will say, popped up since 2017 were well into the planning and permitting stages before this was passed,” Hernandez said.
She says the city can’t do anything right now other than to let callers know the actual estimated time it will take for their future apartments to be completed.
KXAN asked if the city could at least issue a public notice, such as a Facebook post, when deadlines announced by apartment companies do not match the city’s schedule.
Hernandez said that the city’s multi-family report does and is supposed to be updated quarterly.
At the time of publication, the latest report was from June 2021 and only mentioned the view as an estimated opening date for 2021.
Until new student apartment buildings are built under the new code, advocates fear students will continue to face the impact of potential delays.
“Generally, these are young people aged 18 to 24, and they do not necessarily know their rights. They don’t necessarily have the resources to be able to assert their rights,” Sloan said.
He said the problem isn’t necessarily that these companies are renting apartments before they’re built, it’s that they’re not being direct on the schedule.
“It’s not right, and you’re not going to do it anymore,” he said.
Sloan hopes their lawsuit against Haven at Thorpe Lane will at least inspire the developers to be simpler with their timeline.
Fitzpatrick encourages Texas State students to use free advice from on-campus attorneys. These attorneys cannot advocate for students, but can review leases and discuss possible risks.
Although she said the ultimate blame lies with the apartment companies, FitzPatrick said the university could and should do more, such as not allowing unfinished housing companies to participate in their housing fairs.
“It’s just an opportunity for companies to come in and sell their wares,” FitzPatrick said.
She also said the university should not partner with these companies — The View, for example — announces that they are a corporate partner of Texas State Athletics.
The university tells us that it receives dozens of calls every year about student apartments not being completed on time.
Zughaiyir said he sought advice from the student prosecutor’s office, but also wanted the city to do more to protect its students.
“That shouldn’t happen. They should make stricter laws,” he said.
The city of San Marcos says it has tried to encourage student apartment companies to set realistic move-in dates.
The students left with the after effects
Zughaiyir was one of the students who initially stayed with The View and stayed in a hotel for a few weeks until September when they were due to move in.
“And then those two weeks turned into months. And then they pushed it back a month. And then they pushed it back for a month,” he said.
Eventually, in an email, The View told Zughaiyir that he should leave the hotel and move to an apartment elsewhere with roommates or his lease would automatically end.
“During a pandemic, that was not an option for me,” he says.
So Zughaiyir decided to let his lease with The View end automatically and paid for a hotel room until he found a new apartment.
“It was extremely difficult to find a place… at the beginning of the semester,” he said. “I was lucky to find this place. I’ve been to about 30 apartment complexes and couldn’t find anything.
Zughaiyir said stress forced him to postpone his graduation and he is now paying an extra semester to complete his thesis research.
He’s also stuck with bills.
“We’ve let residents get out of their leases in the past without penalty or having to pay rent when reasonable accommodations weren’t found,” Harris said, adding that tenants who chose to find their own homes while waiting that The View open don’t pay rent either.
But bank statements show that Zughaiyir was charged rent. He seeks to find a lawyer to help him recover this money and finally close the door on his housing nightmare.
The View on the Square now says the move will take place on January 7, 2022, with 51 people currently registered to move in.
The City of San Marcos said after The View submits its paperwork, a final inspection would take at least a week or more to schedule, and would likely take at least a day to complete, but could not offer a longer timeline. detailed.