COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new apartment building that's popular with Midlands students is hearing an earful from some former residents. The Hub at Columbia opened its doors to student residents last fall semester, and now, some are moving out disappointed.
With a rooftop pool and a modern design, the Hub apartment building caught the eyes of student Jake Cooper.
"Really cool amenities, rooftop pool, hot tub. You know, it's a high-rise in the middle of Downtown Main Street. You know, brand new and futuristic looking," he said.
So Cooper signed a lease at the popular spot. But now, he's moved out and won't be going back.
"Having that experience and seeing the way that I was treated and feeling like I was treated unprofessionally and treated like I was, you know, just a dumb kid that wasn't going to notice anything," said the junior at Midlands Technical College.
A lot of the hard feelings come from the bill Cooper said he got during move-out.
"I ended up getting a bill for like $300 - $500, minus our $250 security deposit," he said.
Cooper said the bill included a number of concerning fees. But his biggest concern was how much the building's management charged him to repaint his room.
"So I opened the bill, and I just happened to be right downtown as it was happening, it said $300," Cooper said.
"I deal with painters. I deal with HVAC guys. I'm in that business, and I know, from walking through the apartment, there was no damage in that apartment. There was one little spot in his room and to charge $300 for that is just ludicrous," said his dad, Michael Cooper.
Michael Cooper told WIS he had to threaten legal action to get Hub staff to do a walk-through of the apartment with Jake and him present. Even then, Michael said he never got the impression the one spot would cost $300.
University of South Carolina student Alex Funke said he had the same problem after moving out of the Hub and had to fight a $294 painting fee from Australia, where he's studying abroad.
"Painting a bedroom and painting a common area that are in great shape after one year is completely absurd in my opinion," said Funke in a Skype interview with WIS.
Funke said he's heard from 50 others who've moved out and faced the same problem. Funke said the Hub repealed part of his bill after he appealed the steep bill, and now, he's rallying the others to fight back too – others like Jake Cooper and his dad.
"I'm just trying to determine what is the best course of action," said Michael Cooper.
"My hope is that, maybe, once all of these people come out and say, 'Hey, we're having this issue. We're being exploited. You know, this is not something that can happen.' I'm hoping that somebody is going to come out and change something about it. Maybe we won't have to pay it. If we have to pay it, then we have to pay it," added Jake.
In a released statement to WIS, the Hub at Columbia said it's not exploiting anyone:
"Our goal is to make The Hub the best place for students in Downtown Columbia. While we have had some first year challenges, we are actively listening to the concerns of our residents. We are confident that solutions are being implemented as we head into year two. Most recently, we have been hearing from former residents that they are unhappy with charges assessed for painting after they moved out. So, we have reviewed what we were charged and the actual costs incurred to see if it is necessary to use a different approach to repairs in the future. What's more, we are reviewing move-out charges on an individual basis to make sure everyone is being treated fairly. We want to address and resolve these issues in the right way."
Additionally, the Hub's lease agreement says "reasonable wear and tear" is accepted, but it also says if Hub staff has to repaint the entire room, the damage present is not considered "reasonable wear and tear."
The students WIS talked to, though, say the rooms didn't need to be repainted in the first place and could have been painted much cheaper than $300.
The Hub said it's trying to make the situation right and wants to hear from former residents who are experiencing the problem.
Meanwhile, the apartment building seems to be facing a bit of a public relations crisis, as disgruntled former residents berate the Hub on social media sites like Facebook.