Haven only knows

Students left confused after apartment construction delay

Editor’s note: While reporting on this story, Life and Arts Editor Laura Figi made numerous attempts to contact Haven management and was refused official comment each time over the course of a week.

Each year, students leasing at unfinished complexes have to scramble to find places to temporarily stay after move-in promises fall through. The most recent, Haven on Thorpe Lane, has caused quite the uproar.

The Haven apartments, located on 1351 Thorpe Lane, management team promised an August 26 move-in for its prospective tenants—even in advertisements placed with The University Star—but when the date came and went, students and parents grew suspicious. Even worse, some students were left without a home, still tied to a lease for an apartment with no concrete answers.

After a week of attempting to contact the Haven office via phone and email, PR Director Mark Evans via phone and email, Asset Living Regional Lease-Up Specialist Ryan Soderquist via the Asset Living office phone and via direct phone, The University Star was unable to interview anyone affiliated with Haven.

Jerretta Pate, mother of a student who leased at Haven, created “Haven on Thorpe is a Joke!!!” Facebook group so students and parents could convene. The group now has 71 members.

Pate said even though her daughter is not currently living there, the family was still required to pay rent for August and September. They did so in hopes of making it easier to break the lease.

“We just want to be released,” Pate said. “I do not understand what they’re getting from this in not releasing anybody. It’s like a game with them.”

According to the June Multi-Family Project Status Report, Haven will not be completed until 2020. However, Haven staff maintains their Sept. 16 move-in date. Now, students and parents are waiting to either move in or break their leases.

Pate took her daughter’s lease to a lawyer, who reportedly told her it was “the worst lease” she had ever seen. The agreement explicitly states the Haven is “not responsible for the delay” if it is due to construction, repairs, cleaning or previous residents. The lease is 48 pages long.

“My daughter is homeless,” Pate said. “When she’s sleeping on somebody’s couch I don’t even know, that she just met because they’re a friend of a friend, that’s pretty much homeless.”

Students who leased were offered a move-in agreement that stated, “You’ll move in on time. We GUARANTEE it.” Students were allegedly told if they were unable to meet that promise, they would receive a refund of signing fees, a check equal to a semester’s worth of rent and the option to break their lease.

April Lorenz Burke, mother to prospective resident Keegan Lorenz-Ochoa, said she was continually updated about construction and was told by the complex he would still be able to move in on-time.

Both Pate and Lorenz Burke said they were turned away and told separately by Soderquist the move-in agreement was a “marketing ploy” that would not hold up in court.

“I can absolutely see how kids would believe them,” Lorenz Burke said. “They’re being offered this move-in guarantee, they’re being told it’s done and all it lacks is permits; here’s this great guarantee. Why would you not believe them?”

Instead, leasers were given two options: stick with the lease and be put into temporary housing—which could be at various complexes including The Edge and potentially The Woods—or choose their own temporary housing and Haven will waive two months’ rent.

Additionally, leasers could sign a form to allow the unit to be subleased, which still leaves them liable for charges until the unit is filled and relinquishes the right to sue. Furthermore, students were reportedly unable to read the lease agreement before signing it on the payment portal.

Both Pate and Lorenz Burke said they were advised by lawyers not to take either option and instead continue to shoot for the move-in guarantee.

Pate has a background in construction and realty and said she does not anticipate the complex to be completed by the September deadline.

“It’s just so deceitful,” Pate said. “What (the Haven) is telling us is lies. We’re not signing any forms, we’re not doing anything. We’re going off of our move-in guarantee.”

Residents were sent a construction update Sept. 3, which stated floors two, three, four and five were “clean complete.” As of Sept. 6, construction workers could still be seen on the fifth floor and there was trash on at least one balcony from every floor.

Lorenz-Ochoa, chemistry senior, is currently living in an RV park because he chose not to take either of the two options. While he said RV life is not bad, he does not have WiFi, which makes it tough to do school work. Living in an apartment would make his studies much easier.

“No one is living (at the Haven),” Lorenz-Ochoa said. “There is not a single soul living there because you can’t. It’s unlivable.”

Another Haven complex is under construction in Huntsville, Texas, near Sam Houston State University. The building is still unfinished as well and projecting the same problems. Additionally, Asset Living manages a complex called The Ridge in Denton, Texas, which had a floor collapse November 2017 during a party.

“I don’t think they realize how crazy it drives us,” Lorenz-Ochoa said. “Someone has to do something because this is just going to keep happening where these companies come in and scam us.”

Correction: the original story printed the address as 316 N Edward Gary St.  suite D, which is actually the address of the office. 

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