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September 5, 2013

 

Students forced to move out

Tompkins St. apartment house uninhabitable, college students say

StudentsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Roofers from A1 Contractors tear shingles from an apartment house at 117-119 Tompkins St. on Wednesday afternoon. Seven SUNY Cortland students who are tenants of the five-unit apartment building have moved out after finding a hole in the roof and other structural problems.

By STEVEN HOWE
Staff Reporter
showe@cortlandstandardnews.net

For students, the first week back to college can be stressful enough without living from your car and sleeping on friends’ couches. That unfortunate scenario was the situation for Dieter Treusdell, a junior at SUNY Cortland.
Treusdell’s living situation in a five-unit apartment at 117-119 Tompkins St. had deteriorated to the point that he, and six other roommates, moved themselves out. The issues with the residence included a hole in the roof, a squirrel infestation and various structural and electrical issues, he said.
“It made for a rough transition for the first week,” Treusdell said. “I know for me, I never want to see another student go through what I had to.”
The building’s roof allowed water from a rain storm to leak into the apartment.
There were no smoke detectors or carbon dioxide detector on the third floor, said Claude Treusdell, Dieter’s father. Dieter Treusdell said the walls were dirty and there were troubles with insects as well. One of the men in the apartment also complained of a gas leak.
Once code officers reviewed the upstairs of the building, it was posted as unsafe due to problems with the sprinkler system, forcing one third-floor tenant out of the house. Code officers have been to the house nearly everyday for the past week, according to Director of Code William Knickerbocker.
When the tenants reached out to the landlord, they were met with little to no response said Dieter Treusdell. The landlord refused to contact the parents, according to Claude Treusdell. Seven of the nine men left the apartment over concerns for their safety but two remained as they had no option for moving elsewhere.
The house belongs to Ravi and Bharati Desai, according to Cortland County Real Property Tax Services records. The property is assessed at $144,000. Repeated attempts to contact the Desais were unsuccessful. Ravi and Bharati Desai are the owners of the Best Western hotel under construction on Route 13 in Cortlandville next to the new Byrne Dairy facility.
The couple owns other student housing.
The Treusdells take some responsibility for the issues with the apartment, as they procrastinated in finding housing for the current school year. The Tompkins Street apartment was on the SUNY Cortland Off-Campus Housing List, which is a list of properties that are available and inspected by a New York State code enforcement inspection agency. As a result, Treusdell felt confident the property would have satisfactory conditions.
“I was wrong making the assumption that it was OK,” said Claude Treusdell, who lives in Corning. “It was shown in a misleading way.”
The house has since been removed from the SUNY Cortland list. A disclaimer on the college’s off-campus housing page states that the college does not “inspect, approve or supervise the premises described.”
Since the seven tenants moved out, construction work on the house has started. Workers from AI Contractors were removing shingles from the peak of the roof on Wednesday.
The problems with the Tompkins Street building aren’t indicative of the other landlord practices in Cortland, said Claude Treusdell. Dieter Treusdell has already relocated to a new apartment and there have not been any troubles.
Still, the Treusdell’s have paid out $3,150 for the semester’s rent, $60 for parking and a $400 security deposit. Claude Treusdell says they will be pursuing legal action against the landlord.
The matter was also brought before the Common Council at the Sept. 3 meeting, when Claude Treusdell spoke about housing situation.
“The city of Cortland has responded well to us,” Dieter Treusdell said. “Everyone here at Cortland has been really helpful. Our landlord needs to be held responsible.”

 

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