Young residents 'count down the days' to move out of the Heights

Students complain about housing and crime; landlord gives his perspective

The Spectrum

Daniel Brody was sitting on his toilet when a liquid from the upstairs bathroom began leaking on his head.

He hopes it was just water.

It took his landlord about a week to fix the leak, he said.

Landlord issues are just one of the problems students experience in the University Heights. Many want out.

In 2012, 26 percent of issues brought to Sub-Board, Inc., were landlord and tenant issues. Daniel Shonn, an SBI legal assistance attorney, said 60 percent of all issues students bring to him are from those who live in the Heights.

Twenty-30 percent of issues brought to Shonn from the Heights are regarding security deposits and leases. Others include repair problems and code violations landlords promise to fix.

Brody's landlord, who asked to remain anonymous and refused to tell The Spectrum how many homes he owns, said a lot of his tenants' problems stem from students misunderstanding and miscommunicating with their landlords. He said Brody and his seven roommates don't treat their West Northrup home with respect.

Still, parents are worried about their kids who live in the Heights - not just in the houses but also with the area's frequent burglaries and crime.

Brody's physical housing issues and his landlord's perspective

Brody, a junior business major, and his seven housemates said their landlord promised renovations like installing a security system and a new dishwasher and never followed through. They said they frequently call or text him with complaints about leaking pipes and inconsistent electricity, and he takes at least a week to respond.

They said they are all moving out of their three-story home after this semester because of him.

"Everybody should get a security system," the landlord said. "It's not necessarily the landlord's responsibility; it should be the tenants' responsibility because the people choose to live in these homes and they can make it a criteria when they move in."

When Brody and his roommates found a mouse in their home, they immediately called their landlord. They never got a response, so they spent $30 out of pocket to buy mousetraps.

Their landlord told The Spectrum he knew nothing about that.

The landlord said a huge issue with his tenants on West Northrup is their lack of communication with one another. He said many talk to him and don't let the other housemates know.

Shawn Kobetz, Brody's housemate, insists he calls his landlord regularly but doesn't get immediate responses.

Kobetz, a sophomore communication major, said their electricity went out at least 20 times during the first semester this academic year, and he had to sleep at a friend's house three times because of it. Now that he knows how to use the circuit breaker in the basement, he fixes the issue instead of leaving.

For the first two weeks, there was no hot water on Kobetz's floor.

"He'd finally answer and say, 'Yeah, I'll get on it,' or, 'Yeah, I'll send a handy man,'" Kobetz said. "And it still didn't happen. We were showering in other spots for two weeks. Finally, a handy man came who's not even a plumber, who's his dad. And he fixed the pipe and showed us how to turn it on."

Kobetz said the hot water goes off about once a week.

Their landlord blames the students. He said they leave doors open or break windows, which cause the hot water pilot light to go out.

"I've been there a dozen times to relight their pilot lights, and finally they figured out how to do it themselves," he said.

Kobetz, Brody and housemate Dylan Jaloza said they've seen their landlord approximately six times since they moved in in August.

"I'm over and about on days that they don't realize, or they knew I was coming [and] just no one was there," their landlord said. "I come and go and do things that they don't realize."

Kobetz said the quality of life in his Heights home is "very poor" and ranks it as a "two out of 10." Next semester, he is moving to apartments near North Campus, located in Amherst, where housing violations are few and far between and crime rates are twice as low as South Campus, according to Amherst housing inspectors and the Amherst Police Department.

Crime that affects students in the Heights

Dan Kelly, a senior community mental health major, left his Winspear home last year to escape his absentee "slumlord" who left a giant hole above his mattress in his bedroom unattended for two months, causing him to find a place to sleep elsewhere.

He and his girlfriend, Brooke Weiler (who is not a UB student), moved to Lisbon Avenue beginning last semester, where they've left housing violations behind but instead have found an increase in violence.

"We've literally been counting down the days 'til we get out of here, because it's been so bad," Weiler said.

She and her boyfriend have heard gunshots approximately 10 times since they moved there almost a year ago. Last Monday night, they heard nine deafening gunshots in a row from their living room.

They have witnessed young neighbors outside playing with knives and pretending to stab each other. One almost stole Kelly's bike. His bike was actually stolen a few months ago at his job located on Winspear.

"Dan's graduating in May and then we're out of here," Weiler said. "I just feel bad for the next people moving in. I almost want to be like, 'Don't do it!'"

Weiler doesn't feel safe living on Lisbon.

"It's supposed to be student housing," Weiler said. "We used to live on Winspear and that's considered off-campus housing, and it's not safe. We have cop cars rolling down our street with their lights on almost every day. And then hearing guns like that, it's just crazy. Terrifying."

Kobetz's house was one of the six homes burglarized in the Heights during winter break, he said. Burglars stole at least two TVs, an Xbox, Wii, videogames, controllers, an iHome, cologne, sneakers, alcohol and money.

In 2012, Buffalo Police logged 118 burglaries in the Heights. Burglars deduce where students live, said Dan Ryan, director of Off-Campus Student Relations. They target their homes when students are away on Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break.

Kobetz was so scared when he arrived home from winter break that he stayed in a hotel for two days.

"We worry all the time that he's there," said Rebecca Kobetz, Kobetz's mother. "We don't feel that he's safe and I can't wait for him to move out."

Weiler said she feels unsafe living on Lisbon, where there are more families than students.

"You hear about some stupid idiot throwing a broken bottle in the street or something, but it's not like the kids are the ones firing off the guns or beating each other in the road. It's the grown people," Weiler said.

Whether it's landlord issues or fear for personal safety, some students like Kobetz await the day they can move out of the Heights.