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Ohio State off-campus living risks landlord issues

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

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With the off-campus housing fair coming up in November, a lot of students are starting their hunt for the perfect place to live. But finding the right place to live, with a reliable landlord, is a challenge that Ohio State student Corrine Ruffin said can be deceptive.
When Ruffin and her roommates found an eight-bedroom house on 19th Avenue available for rent through University Manors, a property management company which owns off-campus OSU properties, they thought they had found the perfect match.
“First (the landlord) was really nice. It was one of those places where we thought, ‘He is going to be a great landlord,’ and he would help us out with whatever problems we had,” said Ruffin, a fifth-year in human development and family sciences. “But then, once we moved in, things started going wrong. We noticed really quickly that, that wasn’t the case.”
Ruffin said one day someone threw a cinder block through their basement window five minutes after one of the girls left the room, so no one got hurt. Although they filed a police report, Ruffin said the landlord, Brian Grimm, blamed the girls for the damage, and he seemed unconcerned that one of his tenants could have been hurt.
Right before summer semester, prior to the end of their lease, Ruffin said Grimm renovated the house, even though the girls were still living in it.
“He told us they are going to work with two walls in the living room, and we agreed upon a small project for a few days,” Ruffin said. “But then for two months we had those construction (workers) around.”
As the construction workers followed their orders, Ruffin and her roommates found themselves in what appeared to be a construction site, she said.
“We didn’t have walls for four weeks. They completely ripped out the walls,” Ruffin said.
Along with the dust that covered their furniture and belongings, the eight tenants were worried about their safety, since every worker was wearing a mask against the dust layer, and the tenants were not.
“We talked with (Grimm) about concerns and he just did not want to hear it. He was redoing the house for the new tenants coming in, and that was his goal: to complete before they move(d) in,” Ruffin said.
After they moved out, the girls were denied their security deposit and, in addition, they had to pay for the electricity bill that almost tripled, which Ruffin attributed to the construction.
The Lantern made attempts to reach Grimm for several days by phone, but wasn’t able to reach him. According to a representative from University Manors, Grimm is no longer in charge of the buildings.
“We realized that there may have been some issues, and he does, and that’s why he wanted to go a different direction headed up from the kids, and wanted to find something else to do. So he is no longer with University Manors,” said Steve Moberger, the new manager and part owner at University Manors.
Moberger said there have been instances in which he and other University Manors employees were told that Grimm wasn’t acting professional, which he said gave people a bad impression of University Manors.
“I am not saying Brian was perfect by any means. Brian was down here for 30 something years. It’s a long time, and I think he just got tired and wanted to move on, and I think that’s what he needed to do,” Moberger said.
Under his management and with new employees, Moberger said he wants to steer the company in a different direction and provide students with the best service he can offer.
“I want to be fair and play by the rules as we should,” Moberger said. “It’s a two-way street. We want them to treat us with respect, and we are certainly treat(ing) them with respect ’cause they are the customers.”
Ruffin and her roommates moved out of their apartment during the summer when their lease expired, and said they aren’t planning to take any legal action against Grimm or University Manors.
According to reviews in an Undergraduate Student Government 2010-2011 renter’s guide where students reviewed off-campus reality companies, Grimm received several negative reviews that called him “the absolute worst” and “nothing but terrible.” Reviewers complained that Grimm had ripped them off, charged unnecessary fees and was hostile during confrontations.
The guide reviewed University Manors’ aspects of the rental relationship such as property condition, rent, the move-in process, and maintenance. The company did not place first or second in any categories ranked.
To protect students from such situations, a nonprofit organization called Student Legal Services works with OSU to provide students with information regarding lease contracts.
Once a student has found a place off campus and would like to lease it, Student Legal Services is available to step in and assist them.
“What we most specifically want is that when they (students) are going forward with the process, whenever they are doing it, that they are well-informed of what their legal rights and responsibilities are,” said Molly Hegarty, office administrator at Student Legal Services.
Students are able to schedule an appointment online or can call the office to get specific advising.
Looking back, Ruffin said she wished someone would have warned her about the landlord when she was looking for places on OSU’s off-campus living website.
“When Ohio State lists those managements, they should check into those complaints being made,” Ruffin said.

 

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