Students allege leased properties not maintained

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Second-year health science major Mimi Massie lives at 49 Symphony Road, one of 25 leased properties used by Northeastern. / Photo by Emma Rapp

By Alyssa Lukpat, news staff 

At almost 3 a.m. every night, Jake Lopez, a second-year communication studies major, hears something scurrying in the floorboards above his bed. He reaches his hand up to hit the ceiling and hears a pause before small feet scatter away.

“There’s mice in the apartment everywhere. And in the beginning when we moved in, there were flies everywhere,” he said. “Someone knocked on our door one day and asked if we left food out because of all the flies. We said no.”

The water in Lopez’s sink at 49 Symphony Road has a strange odor. His shower drain clogs with hair that doesn’t belong to him or his roommates. He runs into strangers who let themselves into the lobby, with no proctor to stop them. Lopez lives in one of 25 properties around Northeastern’s campus that the university leases.

These properties are owned by Alpha Management Corp., a real estate management company. The company is so notorious for renting dilapidated apartments to thousands of Boston tenants that the Boston Globe Spotlight team investigated them in 2014. Northeastern pays Alpha millions of dollars every year to lease apartments to students because of the university’s housing shortage. The leased properties often house both Northeastern students and Boston residents.

Leased properties were the last place William Bonaventura, a biochemistry major, wanted to live in his second year of college. However, his high lottery number left him without housing options. Northeastern Housing and Residential Life did not assign him an apartment until one week before the start of school.

“They didn’t give us any info during the summer and kept saying, ‘Wait, wait,’” Bonaventura said. “They dropped a bomb last second of where we’d live. For my roommate, it was difficult because he wanted to know where he was living and how much he’d have to pay and whether he’d live in an apartment or need a meal plan.”

Jennifer Silva, a third-year chemical engineering major, lives at 132 Hemenway St., a leased property. She is frustrated with the work request system because Northeastern forwards her requests to Alpha, and the company takes a while to send a repairperson. Oftentimes, Northeastern neglects to care for leased properties at all, she said.

“The heat was out for two days in a row once,” Silva said. “Instead of offering electric heaters, the residence director sent an email telling us to find alternative housing on our own or to stay with friends.”

The residence director of leased properties, Christine Feil, left Northeastern before the end of the fall semester. Residence director Daniel Minchoff took over Feil’s duties in addition to managing housing on Huntington Avenue, St. Stephen Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

Minchoff did not respond to requests for comment, and Northeastern Housing and Residential Life declined to comment.

Tianrun Gao, a first-year computer systems engineering master’s student, had to step around piles of white powder as he climbed the stairs to his apartment at 49 Symphony Road. He covered his head with his hands to protect himself from water dripping from the ceiling.

“We get cockroaches at least three times a week. We have to keep buying spray to kill them because we don’t want to pay for an exterminator,” Gao said. “I’m definitely moving to another apartment next semester.”

Bonaventura was surprised to learn about the additional expenses that come with living in leased properties. Northeastern laundry dollars don’t work on the machines in the building, and he has to pay most of his own Wi-Fi and cable bills.

“We’re far enough off campus that we don’t get NUwave, so we pay for our own Wi-Fi,” he said. “They give $100 to help at the end of each semester, but it only covers a third of it. So it’s not the biggest help there.”

Lopez is unhappy with mail services in leased properties. He once ordered a package and could not find it. When he finally discovered the package stuffed into his small mailbox, he also found other residents’ private mail.

“Not only was my mail in there, but everyone’s mail was in there, too,” Lopez said. “There were bills and jury duty notifications. I don’t know why they chose my box to put everyone’s mail in. They probably just shove it in and walk away.”

However, not everyone who lives in leased properties is unhappy with their living situation. Shivam Sharma, a second-year electrical engineering major, is glad to be living at 97 St. Stephen St., a leased property, because it is a bigger space than his room in Stetson West last year.

“This is obviously way better than living in a tiny dorm because it’s an apartment and you’re not living in one tiny room with another person,” he said.

But Bonaventura feels like he missed out on a normal on-campus experience by having to live in a leased property this year.

“We’re required to live on campus for the first two years,” he said. “They just made leased housing as part of being on campus, but it really wasn’t. We kind of felt robbed.”

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