‘Its not been fun’: student struggles living in shoddy SLO apartment
A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed by a Cal Poly student against the landlord of a large apartment complex located at the corner of Santa Rosa Street and Foothill Boulevard in San Luis Obispo.
But one student, Cameron Troost, said his apartment still has gross plumbing problems, faulty electricity and a hole in the wall with wires sticking out.
Cal Poly student Cameron Geehr filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Home Sweet Home, the owner of The SLO apartment complex at 1050 E. Foothill Boulevard, which recently was settled.
Home Sweet Home must ensure the property is compliant with housing health and safety codes and pay a total of $700,000 to reimburse some of the rent money to about 500 students who lived there between August 2017 and July 2018, said plaintiff lawyer Joseph Ferrentino, of the Newport Beach-based firm Newmeyer & Dillion.
Tenants can file a claim to get a portion of their rent back for their hardships, including unsafe conditions, and the construction they endured to fix the problems in their homes while they were living there, Ferrentino said.
Ferrentino said those seeking compensation from the lawsuit should go to the website sloapartmentsclasssettlement.com to learn how to file their claim. The deadline to file a claim is Feb. 11, Ferrentino said.
“To their credit, the landlord recognized they had problem and acted fairly quickly,” Ferrentino said. “The city of SLO stepped in and compelled the landlord to get the buildings up to code and get the proper permits. .... We don’t believe the problem is as widespread as before.”
In the lawsuit, the Woodland Hills-based property owner was accused of adding unpermitted structural walls, failing to provide proper firewalls and altering plumbing and electrical in units. The property owner added partitions to have more rooms to rent to students, Ferrentino said.
Tenants reported broken showers, power outages and overflowing toilets. Despite the lawsuit resolution, it’s unclear how much work is still to be done.
One resident hasn’t seen many changes.
“There are still a lot of problems in my apartment,” Troost said. “The sink fills up with (backflows) of brown and black liquid. It smells like rotten eggs. I have a hole in my wall with wiring sticking out. And the electricity will go out in one side of the wall if I plug into a socket on the other side.”
A city inspector visited the apartment Friday afternoon, Troost said.
Thomas P. Pattenaude of Home Sweet Home told The Tribune by phone that the housing issues have been resolved and 99 percent of the work to upgrade the apartments has been completed.
“We dispute the lawsuit claims, but we have resolved it amicably and we’re moving forward,” Pattenaude said. “We are meeting or we have met all of the city requirements. ... The vast majority of the students living there are happy.”
Home Sweet Home has worked with the city to bring the apartments up to the code, which was required by the city before the 2018-19 school year began, according to Newmeyer & Dillion.
“This was a safety concern more than anything,” Ferrentino said. “The apartments were at risk in the case of fires and earthquakes. There were plumbing problems, leaks and things.”
Ferrentino said Home Sweet Home conducted much of the initial unpermitted construction in the summer of 2017 when many students were away on summer break.
“It was extremely inconvenient for the students to have all these repairs going on while they were living there,” Ferrentino added.
At his apartment Friday, Troost showed The Tribune his claims about the plumbing and wiring, with hardened dirty water collected in the sink.
He said the disgusting dark water collects in the sinks three or four times per week, particularly on rainy days. Additionally, fire alarms have gone off in the middle of the night, including three separate times around Christmas when he couldn’t reach an apartment maintenance worker. Troost called the fire department multiple times to come out to shut off the ringing.
Pattenaude said the remainder the upgrades includes a new fire alarm system.
Troost also recorded construction in the early morning hours of the night on video, sharing clips of drilling at 2 a.m. He also doesn’t have a mailbox and has to collect his mail at the complex office during weekday business hours, which has been an inconvenience, he said.
“I feel trapped,” said Troost, 24, who grew up in foster care on the Central Coast and takes online courses at Sacramento City College. “Since I don’t have parents to co-sign for an apartment, it’s very difficult for me to find housing.”
Pattenaude said Troost should contact the maintenance office, Asset Campus Housing, which contracts with the owner.
Troost said he has worked with the maintenance staff, but he isn’t satisfied with the fixes that have been tried, saying the problems still linger.
“I just want a fair shake,” Troost said.