The Province accused of nickel-and-diming students

by Eric Ginsburg

by ERIC Ginsburg

Residents at a student-housing complex in Greensboro say their is squeezing them for all they’ve got. While it appears that the Province and property manager Edwards Student Housing Management are abiding by student leases, some are saying the fees they’ve incurred are unfair and unethical.

Students said they are frequently expected to pay fees and fines they didn’t expect to be charged with, ranging from mulch, scuffed walls and any damage identified in quarterly inspections. Even though utilities are included, some reported being routinely charged for electric overages.

Rising NC A&T University junior Brandon Harris said he signed a lease and his aunt paid the August rent without a guarantor. After he was unable to find one, Harris was told he couldn’t move in but would still need to pay rent until he found someone to take over the lease.

“As of right now I am moving in with a friend until I can find another place to live,” he said. “I can pay rent and everything it’s just my guarantor. I can’t pay [rent for] both.”

Edwards assistant manager for the Province Greensboro, who refused to give her name, wouldn’t say how often the same thing happens to tenants, but confirmed it does occur.

“One you sign the lease you are binded by the lease after 72 hours,” she said. “We do require a guarantor to move in. Most people don’t have high enough credit so we require that as a backup. We haven’t had that many that weren’t able to find them.”

The 696-bed complex on Spring Garden Street was constructed after College Hill neighborhood residents fought a battle to keep the site from being rezoned to allow increased student housing. The Province exclusively leases to students, requiring proof of enrollment to live there.

Like Harris, UNCG student Andrew Larson said he moved to the Province because it was close to campus and oncampus housing was full. Larson said people like him were wooed with free food and the amenities to get him in the door, but said he and his parents have been nickel-and-dimed with excessive fines and constant electric overages.

“We’ve tried to talk to them and they just find legal ways out of it,” Larson said.

Larson said he and his three roommates each paid $25 for an electricity-usage overage one month, but the Edwards assistant manager said the overage is usually lower.

“Normally the overages are a dollar, two dollars unless they are crazy using their electricity,” she said. “Duke Energy sends us the bill and we relay that to the students.”

She would not say how widespread the overages are, but said the allotted electric amount varies by the size of the apartment, adding that a four-bedroom apartment was allotted $100 a month before crossing the threshold.

Anthony Sumter, a rising senior at A&T, said he’s been charged electric overages about every other month, but because of the vigilance of him and his roommates, he said it usually comes out to around $3 a person.

“We made sure that we tried to keep an eye out on lights because we already knew that they were bullsh**ting us,” Sumter said. “They charge for everything. They even charge us for mulch.

Why would you charge us for that?” Larson’s apartment, coated with flat paint, has scuffs on the walls that he said were considered damage instead of normal wear and tear. Brown cushionedstools that came with the fully furnished apartment rubbed off on the kitchen island, and Larson’s red pillowcases colored the walls.

For the pillow marks alone, Larson was charged $100 after an inspection. The Edwards assistant manager said the damage sounded like normal wear and tear but that fees are assessed by the maintenance supervisor.

“That’s crazy that it’s $100 to be honest,” she said.

Sumter wasn’t charged for any damages to his room, but inevitable wear and tear cost him and his roommates “an arm and a leg” he said, running them around $160 each.

Edwards Student Housing manages all of the Province’s six national locations, which are pegged to nearby college campuses including Eastern Carolina University and Florida State University. Edwards maintains other properties as well, a spokesperson said, but not in Greensboro.

Online reviews, almost all of them anonymous, seemed to agree that different Province housing complexes suffered from the same problems, especially constant overage charges for electricity, including during winter break when students were absent.

“We are charged electric overages every single month yet the office refuses to show us the electric bill to verify the overages,” said one reviewer at the Florida State Tampa complex. “I have not had internet for over three months and although I was told I would be compensated, I have not been despite my multiple phone calls.”

A reviewer at the Eastern Carolina Greenville complex said someone hung Christmas lights outside and everyone on the floor in multiple different apartments were fined $50 as a punishment.

A reviewer living at the Province near the University of Dayton reported being charged $3 for a burned-out light bulb and claimed it wasn’t actually out. The Edwards assistant manager said tenants aren’t responsible for light bulbs or other small things like air filters, but Larson said his roommate was charged $5 for an electric socket cover plate that was broken.

Larson and online reviewers said the facilities were poorly built and maintained, contributing to things falling apart, leaks and mold.

“Every one of our towel racks and toilet paper holders fell off the wall within the first week because they were attached to the wall with painter’s tape,” said a reviewer at the Province near Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Greensboro residents and some reviewers said that maintenance was slow to respond to requests, even urgent ones.

When a ceiling vent in one of his apartment’s bathrooms started leaking water — three bucketfuls daily — Larson said it took three weeks for maintenance to fix it, and damage to the ceiling is still visible.

The Edwards assistant manager said maintenance response times vary based on the time and type of request, but said requests are typically filled much more quickly and only take longer when specific part needs to be ordered.

Sumter challenged the assertion, saying he put in a work order for a new screen in April and it still hasn’t been fixed. Someone stole his laptop through the window, breaking the screen in the process, and he said the repair is a matter of safety.

“That’s unethical,” Sumter said. “It’s not supposed to take that long.”

He said other work orders have taken too long as well, saying his roommate waited three weeks to have the lock on his bedroom door fixed. Sumter and Larson aren’t alone in their assertions of work order delays.

“They are all about nickel-and-diming everyone for any little thing, but they won’t go out of their way to help with actual problems,” a different reviewer in Tampa said.