When most students signed a lease at The William apartments, they were promised a brand new, luxury student apartment complex with state-of-the-art amenities, a location within walking distance of campus, and “life avant-garde student.

The resort, located on North Finley Street, ran a strong social media marketing campaign after setting up its @lifewithwilliam_ Instagram account in April 2021. Using a range of freebies and a feed full of highly filtered photos of University of Georgia students, the resort highlighted fun college moments to fuel its promotion.

But as the end of the 2021-2022 school year neared and summer began to drag on, students grew concerned about the pace of apartment construction, which many residents said appeared to be behind schedule.

Now, a few weeks into the fall semester, student tenants still haven’t moved into the apartment complex. Many are displaced among downtown hotels, upset by months of what they called a lack of communication, transparency and honesty.

First signs of trouble

On July 26, nearly three weeks before the start of fall classes, residents discovered that the move-in date had been postponed until September 7, nearly a month after the planned August 14 move-in and two months after the planned construction completion month. July. Residents were placed in five downtown hotels: SpringHill Suites, Hyatt Place, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express and SpringHill Suites West.

Jake McGhee, a young political science student at UGA, said he chose The William because it was significantly cheaper than prices at other downtown studios and walking distance to campus was very attractive.

But McGhee said he and his parents were increasingly concerned about the timing of the move in and ongoing construction, and were assured by the then manager, who left in April, that the project was moving forward. and would be completed in July.

McGhee, who signed his lease in early December 2021, said he made sure the lease included a housing clause in case of delay.

A version of a lease – of which residents said there were several – obtained by The Red & Black, includes a section for delayed occupancy and moving in the building addendum.

Under the moving section, the lease states “[the] the landlord, at its sole discretion, must relocate the resident to another apartment in the apartment community that is not affected by the repair, renovation, improvement or construction or must provide suitable comparable accommodation for the resident . »

Although suitable comparable accommodations are not defined in this section, in the special provisions section it is stated that the resort is not responsible for any construction delays and that hotels with a monthly rate comparable to the unit rate will serve of “alternative accommodation”.

Still, residents didn’t expect to spend their first weeks of the semester living in hotels, with some paying for storage units to store their belongings.

“I could never have imagined something of this magnitude,” McGhee said.

For some students, like journalism major Morgan Quinn, the signing experience was different than for students who signed earlier in the academic year. Quinn signed in July after another apartment failed and wasn’t surprised to learn of the first delay after seeing the construction site.

“Me and my family, when we signed, we were fully aware that it wasn’t going to happen. [on time]said Quinn, whose parents live in Athens. “My thought process was right, if we’re delayed two or three weeks, it’s not a big deal for me.”

On Wednesday August 31, a week before the originally postponed date, the move-in was postponed again to September 18. The resort cited required inspections as the reason, according to an email obtained by The Red & Black. Residents had until 2 p.m. on Friday, September 2 to choose an option: find accommodation and receive a $500 gift card and $30 a day or live in a hotel room, possibly with another resident, receive the above offers and 20% off September Rent. Those staying with another resident will receive a $1,000 gift card.

Instead of the previously scheduled move-in date of September 7, the resort indicated in the email that furniture installation should begin at that time.

The management of The William declined to comment, passing The Red & Black to parent company, Asset Living. Neither Asset Living, a national property management company, nor any of the five hotels responded to The Red & Black’s requests for comment.

Lack of options

While many students in Athens had already moved into new apartments and started preparing for the fall semester, tenants of The William continued to live in hotels, unsure of their accommodation for the year. current school. According to an initial email from The William on July 26, tenants had the option of terminating their tenancy after the first deadline, but were told they had to sublet their place.

Hayden Odum, a fifth-year computer science major, said he and his girlfriend were drawn to the resort because its distance was marketed as being a few blocks from the UGA campus. Now they live together in a hotel.

“I take 17 hours of senior classes, I’m also in [the Redcoat band], so it reduces a lot of time I can spend after school hours,” Odum said. “It’s definitely an added layer of stress, I’ve been missing classes due to issues.”

This sentiment was also echoed by several other students, particularly in the wake of the new limited office hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and sporadic email communications.

“I got way behind the first two weeks of class because I was so busy talking to the rental office, talking to the company, talking to all these different organizations trying to come up with answers… or so I could get out of my lease, talk to the lawyers,” McGhee said.

Odum further expressed his frustrations with Asset Living and their management of the property, but said he believed those working in the office did the best they could with what they received and could only really act in an “administrative” capacity. “.

“It’s been more of a lack of communication from the companies,” Odum said.

After notifying residents of the first delay, the resort offered them gift card options, as well as payments of $30 a day, according to an email sent to residents.

Residents listed problems with incentives. The gift cards, which start at $500 in value and expire within the next six months, were difficult to access and are essentially only usable for online purchases, McGhee said.

The $30 daily installments were also “not well received by people”, said Odum, who used the money to eat almost every meal because he has no kitchen to use. Like gift cards, they are also difficult and restrictive to access.

“I guess if you eat Wendy’s three times a day, you might be able to get under $30. But the three meals a day, $30 isn’t really enough,” Odum said.

Just another 50 page lease

One of the biggest problems in a situation where tenants feel trapped by their lease is confusing the terms of legality with such a dense document, according to UGA Law School professor Elizabeth Grant. They’re often written by lawyers who have “tried to think through all the things that could happen in the landlord-tenant relationship,” Grant said.

Lease language carries more weight legally than any verbal promise, Grant said. This is the lease to which the courts will turn in the event of a dispute.

The lease spans nearly 50 pages and lists several endorsements, with legalese that people may have trouble deciphering.

“Many of the landlords that students will deal with in Athens will be resort owners, business owners, or landlords who own many units. And therefore having a lease like this, i.e. 50 pages or more… is very typical,” Grant said.[The] takeout is thinking about how our state, our city, our country, how could we help renters be better informed and better protected consumers? Because there really is a power imbalance.

The second delay came as no surprise to many residents who drove past the construction site in the days and weeks leading up to August 31. While the option to stay in hotels is still valid, students are left in a state of uncertainty.

Odum said he had been looking for other options for some time and had another apartment for himself and his girlfriend.

“Living in a hotel is a bit stale. It had a big impact on our mental health,” Odum said.

McGhee chooses to stay at the hotel after a back-up plan fails.

“If they had told us in July the true extent of the delay, I certainly would have found something else when other things were available,” McGhee said.