Landmark Properties UM student housing remains unfinished

University of Miami student Amanda Muhammad has been living in a hotel for a month. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Mohamed, a second-year journalism major, was waiting for the construction of her one-bedroom apartment in Cloisters to be completed. She, along with hundreds of other student residents, had planned to move in on Aug. 18 — until Landmark Properties, the project developer, sent a last-minute message about construction delays at the 115-unit complex.

Now, parents of Cloisters tenants say they fear walking away from their leases if the giant developer takes legal action against them.

The two-part complex at 5830 and 5840 SW 57th Avenue in Coral Gables includes new townhomes and renovated apartment units, with a total of 296 student bedrooms. Amenities include a pool and fitness center, the complex’s website shows.

Since alerting tenants and their parents of construction delays, the Atlanta-based developer has paid to house students at the two luxury Biltmore and Theses hotels near the Coral Gables campus.

Frustrated parents of Cloisters residents have taken to social media to share information with each other. They’ve created a Facebook group — The UM Cloister Cluster — where parents share photos of the site and intermittent communications from Landmark.

“We have all been scammed,” parent Michele Palisino wrote.

Units are not as advertised

Landmark was able to secure county approvals for the townhomes on September 1, and moved residents into the townhomes that weekend. When they arrived, parents said they found the units were not what they had promised, with some laundry machines and furniture missing, and fire alarms going off. Photos show that the pool, grounds and other common spaces are still under construction and far from complete.

“Move-in day can often be chaotic, but our maintenance team and general contractor worked closely with residents to quickly address any issues that were not satisfactory on move-in day for residents,” Atlanta-based Landmark said in a statement. . That these issues be resolved.”

The developer also apologized for the delay in communicating with residents.

Apartment renters, like Mohamed, are stuck living in the thesis, in the meantime. Fortunately for her, she said she eventually got off the waiting list for a mini-fridge and microwave.

While apartment residents remain holed up in the hotel, photos of the units have parents worried they won’t get the “fully renovated” units they were promised. The Cloisters website has been quietly changed to remove that language. “Most of the fixtures, appliances, finishes, flooring and furniture have been upgraded to new throughout the renovated units,” Landmark said in a statement.

Thorny necklace

Meanwhile, some parents want to cancel the leases they signed, saying Landmark has failed to deliver on its promise. But the finer details are not that simple.

“We’ve all hung ourselves with the lease,” said Geoff Buttrick, the father of a prospective Cloisters resident. He refers to the 56-page document signed by the tenants and their guarantors.

The contract allows Landmark to house students in “alternative accommodation” while it works to deliver the units. Alternative accommodation includes hotel rooms, according to the agreement, although there is a big difference in livability between a hotel room and an entire apartment.

The language of the lease states that tenants have the right to cancel the contract after 30 days if the unit is not delivered. However, if Landmark provides alternative accommodation, such as hotel rooms, this right will be revoked.

Parents say Landmark is rushing to get approvals and move students out this Friday because Saturday is the 30th, when tenants gain firmer ground to terminate the contract. Local lawyer Jacqueline Salsens confirmed that she represents a number of Cloisters parents.

Patrick didn’t wait until the 30th to make his decision. He moved his daughter, Jenna, into a different apartment and refused to pay Landmark’s August and September rent.

“We didn’t collect a penny from their food compensation. She didn’t stay at the hotel. We didn’t do anything to collect a penny from them,” he said. However, getting out of the lease was difficult. According to Buttrick, Landmark insisted that his daughter find someone to take over the lease. Rent it.

This has proven difficult. They found three potential tenants for Landmark, but each backed out after seeing the site in person.

“It feels a little scary,” one previously concerned tenant whom Buttrick declined to identify texted Wednesday, citing ongoing construction. “My parents don’t feel confident signing.”

Buttrick thought he knew what he was getting into when he signed his daughter’s lease with the Cloisters earlier this year. She lived in another Landmark student housing complex last year, Standard, and had a great experience.

“The other one was beautiful,” he said. “It was clean.”

However, Patrick’s experience with Landmark at the Cloisters is unheard of.

Delay, hotel, salary, repeat

Landmark, led by CEO Wes Rogers, is one of the country’s largest student housing developers, with $11 billion in assets under management. It has student housing complexes across the country, including Knoxville, near the University of Tennessee. Landmark completed construction of the 234-unit, eight-story apartment building in Knoxville in January 2017, a full semester late, Knox News reported. Landmark followed its own playbook in Knoxville, placing students in hotels and providing them with food stipends on Visa gift cards, according to the post.

That same fall, construction delays continued at the Standard at Boone in North Carolina, according to the High Country Press. The students were placed in hotels and given Visa gift cards, then moved into the building in late December, the outlet said.

In 2019, the Tallahassee Democrat reported construction and move-in delays at the Standard Hotel in Tallahassee. And in 2021, students who moved to Standard University in Austin, Texas, found rats, trash, dirty water and shorted electrical outlets in the newly completed building, according to KVUE.

While parents of students at the Cloisters wait to hear if the complex will receive a temporary certificate of occupancy, there are still concerns about moving in when the site is under open-air construction and has none of the promised amenities. In a statement, Landmark refused to provide any rental concessions, referring to the hotel accommodations it provided, in addition to per diem allocations for food, laundry and storage.

Patrick just wants out. “I’m not looking to sue them. I just want to be done with them,” he said. “The least they can do is let the kids out of the lease.”

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