Tenants at Aspen Heights Towson, an apartment complex that has a lease agreement with Towson University to offer housing for college students, still have no answers on when they’ll be allowed to move into apartments that a county inspector said in September were not yet fit for occupancy.
The 13-floor building at 101 York Road still has not passed its fire alarm or final occupancy inspections, property managers updated tenants in a Saturday email. They’ve blamed the number of available county inspectors as well as the limited schedule of the fire marshal for the delays, but said Saturday in an email they expected another inspection this week, and now anticipate some tenants assigned to live on floors 3 through 6 will be able to move in Oct. 5.
Baltimore County “has repeatedly inspected this site,” and the Fire Marshal’s Office has found “multiple violations regarding the site’s fire protection system, including a violation during an inspection today,” said Sean Naron, county spokesman.
“County inspectors are continuing to work with the company to alleviate all issues and ensure the safety of the building,” he said. "Due to the size and number of floors in the building, inspections have been completed in phases by floors, as in all buildings this size.”
The company has said construction will continue past Oct. 5 on the 10th through 13th floors, but has not given an estimated completion date. It also said it has passed inspections for individual floors 8 and below.
Aspen Heights Towson, one of about 19 student apartment buildings in the Midwest and Southeast managed by Breckenridge Property Management, notified tenants in an mid-August email that they would not be moving in on their scheduled move-in date eight days later because “of a minor delay from Kinsley Construction,” the contractor, due to the coronavirus pandemic that postponed final inspections.
Some leaseholders, like Gina Shkodriani, the guarantor of her son’s lease, are not convinced.
“They’re not gonna be moving in Monday,” she said. “We’ve been through this four times.” Aspen Heights Towson has given several other anticipated move-in dates this month.
Matt Rinker, regional director of Aspen Heights Partners, did not respond to a Wednesday email.
The company is still requiring tenants to pay rent, reminding tenants in emails that “installments are still due as outlined in your lease agreement,” terms that a consumer protection attorney and tenant rights advocate say violate state law.
“I feel like I’ve been fooled,” Shkodriani said. When she asked leasing agents in February about a contract clause that stipulates a tenant will be obligated to pay rent even if the company fails to deliver their property, she said she was assured the provision was a nonissue.
The management company has stopped charging tenants for parking and some other extra amenities.
On Oct. 1, Shkodriani will have paid $2,650, three months of rent for her son’s room in a two-bedroom apartment, “but we’re not allowed in the building,” she said. Renters were charged a full month’s rent for August, but their lease terms began Aug. 22.
Her son, a Towson junior, has been sharing a hotel room at the Sheraton Baltimore North with a roommate since late August, an arrangement for which Breckenridge Property is required by state law to pay.
Rinker said that 84 tenants chose to find their own living accommodations, and that those residents have been credited back rent, minus $500 given in a gift card to renters who found their own living arrangements in August.
The company has put up the other 54 residents in the hotel.
Shkodriani has received a $250 gift card offered by the company for tenants who chose to room with someone in the hotel.
She was sent a second $250 gift card, an option given by the company after sustained delays. Breckenridge also said tenants could credit $250 toward their rent, but has not refunded or credited money already paid.
“They keep saying ‘you chose to move into a hotel,’ kind of like they’re holding that over your head,” Shokodriani said. “We’re paying rent for ... a small hotel room.”
She felt the terms were acceptable when she was given them in late August, but “now we’re going into the third month [of rent payments].”
“It doesn’t apply anymore,” she said. “We need a new option.”