UB students paid Campus Living $53,000 worth of damages last year

Ever wonder what the messiest room on campus looks like?

It may be hard to say for certain, but Hadley Village 108 would probably be last semester’s lead contender.

The room had more than $3,500 in damages once it was inspected at the end of May, according to documents The Spectrum obtained from Campus Living through a Freedom of Information request.

And those students, who UB wouldn’t identify, aren’t the only ones who racked up damage costs – though they owed the highest amount.

Campus Living charged students a total of approximately $53,000 last year – that’s more than the cost of two students’ in-state tuition combined.

Campus Living houses 7,531 undergraduate and graduate students. The $53,000 was billed to students who lived in the Ellicott Complex and the five on-campus apartment complexes: Hadley Village, Flint Village, South Lake Village, Flickinger Court and Creekside.
Yet, students in Governors, Goodyear and Clement Halls avoided any damage costs completely, said Andrea Costantino, director of Campus Living.

Campus Living supplied photos of the rooms with the highest damage and mess costs. When Hadley 108 residents moved out, they left behind a milk carton in the refrigerator and food in the freezer. The kitchen cabinets were full of cereal boxes, canned beans and tuna and peanut butter and the counters were covered with detergent bottles and garbage.

Old sneakers were tucked behind a TV stand and empty shampoo bottles lined the shower wall. The residents paid Campus Living for painting, wall replacement, garbage removal and excessive cleaning.

But that isn’t the norm.

No other rooms on campus were billed more than $1,000. A great number of charges came from small marks on the walls or minor extra cleaning. But the small things were a large part of the big bill, showing many students don’t realize how the little things can add up.

“A lot of people don’t know how to use command strips,” Costantino said. “They pull them off the wrong way and leave a mark on the wall that we have to charge them for.”

When students incur these small damages, they don’t necessarily realize how much they’ll be charged.

Some students say there’s a lack of communication between Campus Living and residents. There are students who said they were aware they were charged for damages but aren’t sure of the price or what the damage was.

“The main problem is they don’t tell us the charges until after,” said Madeline Marsack, a junior environmental engineering major. “I got charged for having silly string [everywhere] and we knew we got charged but never knew the amount.”

Students’ damages are charged to their student accounts.

Other students say they pay too much for room and board to be charged a lot for what may or may not be damaged room. Room and board in residence halls and apartments on campus can range from $6,324 – $11,148 for an academic year.

“The rooms are pretty crappy and we pay tons of money for them already,” said Veronica Kreutzer, a junior environmental engineering major. “And the rooms are so public that the damages could’ve been from someone else and not you.”

There are also those who understand why they’re billed, but are annoyed about paying for a damage they didn’t cause.

Show Bamba, a senior electrical engineering major, lived in Fargo Hall during his sophomore year. In his residence hall, the shared bathroom became a problem for his entire floor. Campus Living found blood all over the bathroom and all of the males on his floor were charged $50.

How much could this cost me?

Campus Living has more than 5,000 students in residence halls, and fewer than 100 were billed for damages, according to Brian Haggerty, senior associate director of Campus Living.

“For the relatively small number of students who are billed, most bills are under $50,” Haggerty said.

The most common charges are wall repairs and excessive cleaning – which means cleaners had to throw out litter left behind and sweep the floors. .

Inspectors often find towel bars that need to be tightened or a dresser drawer that is off its track, he said.

In the residence halls and apartments, students are charged $100 for leaving a refrigerator in their room and up to $450 for a broken window. They pay up to $154 for a key replacement and up to $400 for room, wall, ceiling, closet and door repairs.

A repair for a single pane glass window is normally around $75, a blind repair is between $30 and $40 and a broken handle on a door costs about $75, according to Bill Suraf from A&W General Contractors in Buffalo.

Campus Living charges students the cost to replace an entire item, like a desk or lamp.

Haggerty said the vast majority of rooms are left clean and undamaged. When there are items in need of repair, it is usually from wear and tear and less often a result of damage done by students.

How can I avoid being charged?

After a student’s departure, a member of the Building Services and Maintenance Team enters the rooms to do an initial assessment. When inspectors find damage, a Residential Life staff member verifies the occupants and determines whether billing is needed.

To avoid charging students for damages they didn’t cause, students are advised to review the condition of their room at check-in time and notify their residential adviser of any pre-existing damages, which inspectors note in the room’s condition report.

Haggerty said students are responsible for leaving the room in good condition.

Students should not nail, drill, glue or paint anything to ceilings or walls. No permanent fixtures should be placed in the room, such as lighting and ceiling fans.

“Most [students] understand their responsibility for the damages found in their rooms, with only some seeking to dispute the charges,” Haggerty said. “We work hard to avoid charging students, but in some cases, there is blatant disregard for the facilities and we charge students so as to avoid passing the cost off onto other students.”

Campus Living inspects the rooms regularly. Campus Living conducts two or three health and safety inspections throughout the academic year and in the residence halls when they close for breaks.

A pre-inspection is conducted before the end of the academic year in the residence halls to find any visible damage before students leave, which helps Campus Living determine if a particular individual is responsible.

When damages are significant, Campus Living takes pictures to document the damage. This allows them to show students the condition the room was in – like with Hadley 108.

“We want students to enjoy their time in the halls and the apartments, and encourage students to make these spaces their home away from home,” Haggerty said.

Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at gabriela.julia@ubspectrum.com