A not-so sweet home?
Handful of students in off-campus complex have dealt with roaches since August
Jennifer Ruffin set down her bag as she got ready for her human physiology class. A roach scurried out of the backpack's opening.
Ruffin inadvertently brought the problem from her off-campus apartment to class. She had seen roaches on the stove, in the oven, crawling in cupboards and on counters, navigating through air vents and into bedrooms - and, now, one scurrying across the floor in front of her classmates.
Some students living in building three of the University Village at Sweethome have been dealing with roaches since they moved in during mid-August. The situation has improved since the start of the semester and management is "aggressively" addressing the pests, according to Dan Barry, the regional manager of American Campus Communities, which owns the Sweethome complex.
But tenants are still disgruntled by the situation.
"There's no way in hell I would have lived here knowing it had a roach issue," Ruffin said. "I just want people to know, Sweethome ain't so sweet."
The apartment is not constantly crawling with insects, but Ruffin last saw "a few" on the stove Saturday morning. She and her three roommates - who are all at UB for one year in a pre-medical school program - are frustrated with the pests. They say the apartment has an ant problem, too. Ruffin described the number of roaches since August as going from "worse to bad."
Rent at the complex, which is located just outside North Campus, ranges from monthly installments of $634 to $994, depending on floor plans, according to the Sweethome location's website.
About 800 residents live at Sweethome within nine buildings, and this issue is affecting less that 1 percent of residents, according to Barry.
Barry, who described the situation as now "isolated to two units," said exterminators were visiting the inflicted apartments weekly between mid-August and October and then switched to bi-weekly treatments when exterminators "were finding less or no activity."
But Ruffin and her roommates question the legitimacy, regularity and extent of the sprays. Ruffin said she put tape on the seal of the bedroom and bathroom doors on a day the apartment was notified via email exterminators were coming. When she came home after the treatment was done, she said the tape was still intact.
Exterminators are now treating, inspecting and logging information weekly, according to Barry. The bedrooms, bathrooms and common areas are all being treated "as we have in the past," Barry said.
Shane Boyle, a senior psychology major, lives on Ruffin's floor. He first discovered roaches when his mother helped him move in during August. The roaches were in the closet, on the walls and "even on the couch," Boyle said. He said last semester, he was seeing roaches every day - now, he's seen "a few all together" since classes resumed.
Boyle said exterminators have visited his apartment "only twice" this semester.
"If cockroaches are still being seen - which they are throughout the building - well, then obviously the exterminator needs to do something different," Boyle said. "But I have yet to see it."
He thinks the building needs to be evacuated and "bug bombed." Ruffin's roommate Kayla Lewis bought her own industrial-sized roach spray.
"I can't take it anymore; I don't do bugs," Lewis said, adding that people who pay less money for rent aren't dealing with bug problems. The tenants have noticed the roaches generally come out at around 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.
All the tenants said they've been spending their own money on traps, sprays and cleaners.
Barry said the students were not notified about the problem prior to signing their leases because management wasn't aware of it until mid-August, after lease signing. The problem originated from one unkempt room, and that room no longer has roaches, he said.
Boyle said a maintenance worker told him and his mother the roach problem existed for about a month before he moved in, which was around the time Ruffin and her roommates moved in.
"From what the maintenance people said, the problem was noticed in July and I was never notified of the situation," he said. "The fact I pay $619 a month to live here, I deserve to know and that's what really makes me mad about the situation."
Amanda Hoyte, who lives with Lewis and Ruffin, woke up from a nap on her first day in the apartment to roaches on her headboard. The women notified management and have wanted to break their lease since September, but have been unable to.
The girls have removed all the food from their cabinets and countertops, where they noticed the roaches are most attracted, and onto their coffee table and shelves in their living room.
"I feel a little better because I can see it," Hoyte said, explaining she preferred food out in the open than to not knowing what was behind closed cupboard doors.
Though Ruffin feels she's been treated unfairly, not all tenants share those sentiments. Evangelia Tzelios, a fourth-year occupational therapy student, has lived in the complex for two years. She said she was never notified about the roaches, but she has seen exterminators come in to do preventative sprays - Barry said those happen once a month.
Tzelios feels Sweethome is the "best" out of all options she found for student housing.
"The rent is actually inexpensive considering the apartments come furnished and we get great amenities," she said. "In my experience, it's been managed pretty well and I don't think I could have asked for a better student living situation."
Barry said the roach situation is "unfortunate" and is being dealt with "diligently." He said he understands the affected students' frustration and why some of them reached out to health inspectors. He said he'd do "the same thing in their shoes."