‘We were scammed by Parker 301,’ students say

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‘We were scammed by Parker 301,’ students say

Audrey Harper, Contributing Writer

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Parker 301, formerly known as Campus Way, is a student apartment complex near the University of Alabama campus. Its website boasts that it’s “the perfect choice for Crimson students looking to get the most out of their college years” and “the best off-campus student housing in Tuscaloosa near UA.” 

Its residents say otherwise. 

Nataleigh Dang, a senior studying creative advertising, has lived at Parker 301 for three years. Starting in April 2019, Dang experienced a mice infestation in her unit. 

“I would hear scurrying in my laundry room, and I saw them running around in my living room, so I contacted the office about it,” Dang said. “All they did was put traps, but once they get in there, you have to call maintenance to come to get it. I have a dog, so I have to keep the traps away from them.” 

While the traps helped get rid of some of the mice, they found their way into other parts of the apartment.

“I had left the lid to my laundry machine open,” Dang said. “I keep a bag of my dog’s food on the dryer, but I wrap it up and seal it. But they were coming on top of it and chewing through the bag, and there was mouse poop everywhere and it smelled really bad. They would always get stuck in there, and there were 10 of them and they were eating each other. That was the last straw for me.” 

While they replaced her washing machine, Dang said there was still an underlying rodent issue in her apartment.

“The mice had chewed through the wall and got on top of my fridge and ate all of my snacks and left scat, so I had to throw everything away and heavily clean my apartment,” Dang said. “They chewed through my couch. When I first went and talked to the new general manager, he did give me and my roommate a $10 Chick-fil-A gift card, but that’s not enough for all of this that has gone on. I was expecting reduced rent, but I did not get that.”

Dang emailed Campus Advantage, the student housing management company that owns Parker 301, in late June and was told that the regional manager or the vice president of operations, Christy Shorter, would contact her. Dang followed up on July 8 and has not gotten a response. Dang said she was going to call the Alabama Department of Public Health if measures were not taken by the time she was back from a week-long vacation. While she was away, the shooting of Anthony Killings occurred.

“I am scared to live there after what had happened,” Dang said. “I am afraid to go to sleep every night there.” 

According to a report by WBRC, Krisshod K’tyse La’Nard Fritz and Demarlio Wayshawn Robertson were charged with the murder of Anthony Killings as the result of firing firearms in the commission of a robbery. Killings was shot on Aug. 4 by a single bullet that went through the wall of his apartment while he was asleep. He was not found until Aug. 7 when his friends came over to the apartment to check on him. 

A source, who requested to remain anonymous for safety and legal reasons, told The Crimson White that the blame should be placed on inadequate security at the housing complex. 

“The night of the shooting, only one of my roommates was home,” the resident said. “She was woken up by police and ambulance sirens, and a police officer came to our door telling her not to leave the apartment because our building was an active crime scene. The night the victim’s body was found, we were woken up to police lights and his family crying and screaming about their lost cousin. His death was completely senseless.”

WORDS FROM THE AUTHOR

After the death of Killings, many residents reached out to management about breaking their lease, including myself. I signed my lease at Parker 301 earlier this year and was planning to move in on Aug. 17. 

I called Campus Advantage on Aug. 7 and left my name and number. I received a call from Dan Oltersdorf, the chief learning officer, on Aug. 8. Oltersdorf told me he was flown in after the shooting to do damage control. He explained the precautions that would be taken to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again, such as added security and more accountability for visitors. 

However, he said that he would approve my request to break my lease without penalty. He told me that they were not advertising this and that it would only be for a limited time, but they did not decide on the cut-off date. 

After making sure I had somewhere else to move in, I called Oltersdorf the morning of Aug. 9 to break my lease. Oltersdorf said that noon on Aug. 9, less than a day after he told me that he would allow people to break their lease, would be the cut-off date. However, Parker 301 residents who were still trying to find living arrangements were not aware of the cut-off date and were bound to their lease. 

Information about breaking a lease was passed around in a GroupMe group chat, “Scammed by Parker301,” in which former and current residents aired their grievances about the apartment complex, divulging stories of mold, stolen goods by maintenance, lack of security, inadequate roommate pairings and pest problems. Unbeknownst to the members of the group, Oltersdorf was in the group. 

Terrill David, a student studying exercise science, is a former resident of Parker 301. David said his car was robbed multiple times at Parker and experienced issues with broken appliances. 

“They never closed the gates,” David said. “I have asked the office to increase security, and every time something would happen, it would be between the hours security wasn’t there, so that doesn’t do us any good. You get what you pay for. It’s pretty cheap, and the buildings are pretty old.”

BACK AND FORTH

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, The Crimson White reached out to the leasing manager at Parker 301, Oltersdorf, and Brianna McKinney, who handles communications for several complexes including Parker 301. McKinney forwarded a list of responses to the following complaints: 

Resident Concern: maintenance stealing from residents

Parker 301 Statement: “We take this allegation very seriously. We have not had any reports of maintenance stealing from residents. On a potentially related front, there were some concerns shared during move-in preparation about painters leaving windows and bedroom doors open for paint to dry, and we remedied that with the contractor as soon as this was reported. We encourage any crime to be reported to the police and to the Parker 301 management team so we can address it.”

Resident Concern: entry gates left open

Parker 301 Statement: “Our rear gate was vandalized, leaving the lock inoperable. As soon as this was discovered, it was repaired. Our front gate was struck by lighting over the weekend of August 24/25, which caused the call box to go down, so we had to leave the gate open temporarily until it was repaired Monday morning. Because the gate had to be left open to wait for repairs, Tuscaloosa Police manned the gates on Saturday and Sunday.”

 Resident Concern: no response regarding a rodent issue

Parker 301 Statement: “We were made aware of rodent issues affecting two residents, which have been resolved.”

Resident Concern: mold issues

Parker 301 Statement: “A common concern we hear from residents is regarding cleanliness of the caulking in their tub. In these situations, we take the time to educate residents on how to properly clean their tubs with bleach to resolve the issue. Mold, on the other hand, is something much more serious, and we therefore address any issues of mold immediately and respond with professional remediation as necessary. We encourage residents who suspect any mold or other maintenance issue to report it to us by submitting a service request or contacting the office.”

Resident Concern: inadequate roommate pairing

Parker 301 Statement: “While we make every effort to match up roommates based on preferences indicated on applications, we cannot and therefore do not make any guarantees regarding roommate compatibility. Our team has been and is available to assist in the case of any roommate conflicts or concerns, including providing mediation where it is desired. “

Resident Concern: cut-off date not announced

Parker 301 Statement: “After the tragic incident that occurred at our community, while not legally obligated to do so, we felt it was fair to temporarily honor proactive requests from residents who came forward with concerns for their safety and therefore wanted to be released from their 2019/2020 contracts. Once law enforcement confirmed the safety incident had been resolved, we discontinued allowing for these exceptions at 12 p.m. Central on Friday 08/09/19. Those individuals to whom we extended this offer were given until Monday to make a final decision. We will continue to take active measures for the well-being of our residents, and look forward to serving all of them this year.” 

Nataleigh Dang works for The Crimson White’s advertising team. She did not contribute to the reporting of this story besides serving as a source. 

Audrey Harper is a CW news reporter covering education. News editor Rebecca Griesbach contributed to some reporting in the column and fact-checked Harper’s original reporting.

Editor’s note: this story has been updated.