Syracuse University Students form a Tenant Association to Address Unsafe Living Conditions

Feb 7, 2018

Pictured from left to right: Phalande Jean, Susima Weerakoon and Benesemon Simmons
Credit Scott Willis / WAER

Current and former Syracuse University graduate students have formed a new tenant association in an effort to address what they say is a pattern of unsafe living conditions at dozens of properties operated by Syracuse Quality Living. Many of the students have been bounced from apartment to apartment, only to find conditions worse than before while paying sharply higher rent. Phalande Jean, Benesemon Simmons, Susima Weerakoon, and Eli Gebler shared their experiences.

Jean started by telling her move-in story: "When I moved in, the apartment wasn't clean, the toilet wasn't working, the shower head fell off, my furniture just got delivered and I had to assemble the furniture. I was without furniture for about three or four weeks, almost the whole month of January. I didn't have hot water for a couple of days, eventually they came and fixed that."

Simmons says she faced different problems: "Upon move in, it was filthy. I basically cleaned up mouse poop throughout the entire apartment, there was mold, the furniture was horrible. Shortly after we found that there was a mice infestation and eventually I found mice poop in my bed and inside my pillows, and so that's when I refused to stay there."

But that isn't all they found.  Former tenant Eli Gebler says conditions were simply unsafe:   "Every single sink leaked, the bathroom, the kitchen sink.  There are just structural problems, like the water damage, the sewage coming up, pluming, electricity, things that will harm you."  

And according to Weerakoon, they are not demanding much.  "We were just expecting safe conditions, we just don't want holes in our building. We're not asking for solid granite counter tops and luxury appliances."

This is only a partial list of the code violations at 1526 E. Genesee St.
Credit provided photo / Eli Gebler

Simmons agrees with Weerakoon, "We just want what the lease says we're entitled to as tenants, we're not asking for anything extra."

Weerakoon concludes with a statement that sums up their simple request, "Just safe living conditions, safe, clean housing, that's a human right."

The students say maintenance workers only make temporary, poor quality repairs, and never get to the root of the problems. And that's only after repeated calls, emails, and texts. They say they're speaking up for future tenants, some of whom are international students and might fear retaliation. 

Syracuse Quality Living owns and operates more than 40 properties.  Leasing manager Stephanie Brown was not available for comment, nor was the owner Ravi Saluja.