More student tenants have come forward with complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions at properties owned by a University-area landlord. The students are the latest to join a tenant association that formed in February demanding that Syracuse Quality Living promptly and properly address maintenance complaints. SU graduate student Emily Kraft says nothing appeared wrong until she moved in.
"I would say our first issue was our cabinet falling off the wall. We had all of our dishes and plates in that cabinet and my roommate was right below it, I was also in the kitchen and everything just shattered all over the floor. And no apology from the company, didn't even replace any of the items."
Benjamin Goode is an OCC student in the Biology Program. He and roommate Mawupe Avoseh found filthy conditions.
"Urine stains around the toilet, old used rags in the sink in the bathroom, mice droppings underneath the sink, moldy food in the refrigerator. We complained about it and we left the house so that maintenance could clean the house, the same day, and when we returned, nothing was done, " Goode said.
"Right now we're dealing with ant and mice infestations. At night when you're sleeping you hear the mice running around in the walls, it's really bad," Avoseh said.
Emily Kraft says her building doesn't seem structurally sound.
"My dad put a pepper shaker on the floor and it immediately rolled inward because our whole building is just collapsing in the center. We've noticed doors are shifting and just the general apartment building is shifting, and I'm genuinely concerned if it is going to be safe."
The tenants say they want out. Benjamin Goode says he and police suspect a maintenance worker with a master key might have entered the apartment and stole some items.
"In just three months everything that we've been through, we're kind of uncomfortable to stay in SQL, so our hopes if for them to terminate our lease, reimburse the stuff that was stolen, so we can just really part ways. It's just a wake up call for them to get on top of their game."
Emily Kraft hopes they see results.
"We hope that this is not just a one and done situation, and creates a snowball effect for change."
SU grad student Lynn Smith says it doesn't have to be like this.
"I don't think everything should be addressed through demand letters time and time again. They can't just keep having a tenants organization come after them. It's not responsible as a company."
Smith and the others were joined by two former SQL tenants in a march to the leasing office to deliver demand letters. Benesemone Simmons and Susima Weerakoon were among the first group to complain back in February about rodents, sewage backups, and more. After much back and forth, Simmons says they were able to get their leases voided.
"What seems to do the trick is collective action. There are tenants today who are complaining about the same issues that we were complaining about. Some are asking for voided leases. Some are just asking for maintenance repairs. But there's a clear pattern, and there continues to be a pattern," Simmons said.
"When we banded together, and joined our voices together, that's when stuff started moving, things tarted happening," Weerakoon said. "We got community supporters. We got in contact with other tenants, and we were able to put pressure on SQL to either fix our houses or void our leases so we can live somewhere safer."
SQL owner Ravi Saluja declined an interview, but did tell WAER News he believes a handful of tenants are exaggerating their complaints in order to get out of their leases. He says he’s hired more maintenance personnel, and are staying on top of tenant concerns. Syracuse Quality Living owns about 50 properties with more than 400 tenants.