More than 20 Temple students have taken legal action against the management of Oxford Village in hopes of achieving lower rent, hiring attorney Daniel Hargreaves to consider a lawsuit.
Management of the facility was not available for comment before press time.
According to tenant Carla Goodman, problems arose at the off-campus housing apartments beginning on the August 16th move-in day. Renovation had been in progress for some time on the 1500 and 1600 blocks, but upon arrival students felt that the apartments were not yet ready to live in. Goodman noted that windows would not close and were without screens.
“I was going on vacation for a week near the end of August,” said Goodman. “I couldn’t leave my apartment with all my belongings in it with the windows wide open. That’s practically inviting robbers right in.”
Oxford Village had someone come and jam the windows shut, according to Goodman, rather than fixing it. She was told that the problem would be addressed later.
The apartment complex also lacked the laundry facilities that were promised in advertising brochures. They were not made available until six weeks after the move-in date. According to Goodman, the building’s management claimed that the Philadelphia Gas Works was “working slow” and never turned the building’s gas on. Thus, the facilities could not be used.
“They knew we were moving in on August 15,” said Goodman. “Yet they didn’t do anything about it. However, it didn’t stop them from accepting our money.”
In the meantime, Goodman and the other tenants wondered where they could do their laundry. When approached with these concerns, the management told them to take their laundry to the dorms of their underclassmen friends. Goodman firmly pointed out that she had none. The 21-year-old was able to drive her car to a Laundromat, but not all students had this luxury.
Over the course of the semester, students began investing their own money into areas that they thought Oxford Village should have covered according to their lease.
The apartments had been described as “fully furnished” according to the pre-lease brochure; Goodman moved in and found a kitchen table with two chairs, a bed, dresser, computer desk, and entertainment center unit. She was outraged to find no couch or means of sitting other than the two kitchen chairs provided. Management told her that the apartments were too small for a couch and that it was basically “either/or” between a couch and kitchen table. However, Goodman paid for her own futon and managed to make it fit into her apartment when management said a couch could not.
Security became a prime issue for tenants as well. In addition to the jammed windows, the front door locks were not dead bolts. They were interior locks, similar to bedroom and bathroom locks, and able to be picked open with a pin.
“My front door is on the first floor and can be seen from the street,” said Goodman. “I felt vulnerable to burglary with that simple lock.”
Management informed Goodman that if she was unsatisfied with the lock, she would have to have it replaced herself. She did so with $60 of her own money.
“People need to be treated like people,” said Goodman. “They treated us poorly with the services they provided. They treated us like ignorant college students who would not know the difference between safe and unsafe locks. They were not protecting us.”
Garbage became a prime issue for the students as well. Oxford Village did not provide trash bins for the tenants to place their full trash bags. They were not permitted to leave the bags in the hallway, and Goodman said that management told them they must be kept in their apartments until garbage pick-up on Monday and Thursday mornings. After many complaints, the entire 1500 and 1600 block was provided with one garbage bin, which was soon overflowing. Once the city’s Sanitation Department objected, Oxford Village set up a gated garbage area that was around the corner from the apartments. Tenants were still unsatisfied.
“I am paying all of this money for rent,” said Goodman. “Why should I have to go through the trouble of carrying my trash around the corner in the winter cold and snow?”
Oxford Village made another concession to the students, which was received unfavorably. Strict rules were mandated, stating that trash could be left on the curb Mondays and Thursdays only between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. If surveillance cameras caught anyone putting out trash outside of this time window, they would be fined $50.
Goodman suggests that management could employ a private sanitation company to pick up the tenants’ trash. That way, the students would not have to walk to the gated trash area, just set it out on the curb. She advocated that it would be “the right thing to do” to use their rent to pay the extra money for this service.
All these factors became too much for Goodman. She decided, with many other tenants, to seek legal representation. Two females who had already broken their lease with legal help referred the tenants to attorney Daniel Hargreaves.
Hargreaves is a Temple alumnus for his both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. While enrolled, he served as President of the University Honors Program for two years.
“The students seem to have been promised a lot of things, and a lot of them seem to have been taken out of the agreement,” said Hargreaves.
Hargreaves explains that Oxford Village is a “specialized market.” Its clientele is comprised of only Temple students, because other people would not be interested in apartments where rent-sharing with roommates was not permitted, and apartments are situated on Temple’s campus. Therefore, he feels that it would not be prudent for the management to jeopardize its relationship with the tenants.
Hargreaves said students have reported to him that Oxford Village management dictated that if the tenants do not pay their rent, they will fall under Temple University’s Code of Conduct and will not be eligible to register for classes. Hargreaves noted that this is apparently a false threat posed by management, as Oxford Village is not affiliated with Temple University, and thus cannot mandate such punishments.
“It seems that because of their questionably written lease, Oxford Village management does not have an attorney,” said Hargreaves.
Hargreaves is developing a case on behalf of all tenants based on unfulfilled promises on Oxford Village’s behalf. He hopes on settling for a reduced rent for the students. Currently, prices are $695 per month for a single and $595 per month for a double; both prices include utilities.
“We’re playing hardball from here on in.” said Hargreaves.
Jesse North can be reached at email@example.com.
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Attorney Daniel Hargreaves: