By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – In an unusual turn of events, Yolo County Judicial Officer Catherine Hohenwarter issued a warrant to West Village UCD, LLC after the company failed to respond to a default judgment and failed to appear multiple times, most recently on June 5.
The Vanguard was first contacted in late January by Jacob Derin, a law student, and former writer with the Vanguard at UC Davis student publication.
“For some months now I’ve been involved in a legal dispute with Sol At West Village,” he explained. “West Village initially signed a lease with me for a private room, then told me that if I wanted that room I’d have to sign an amendment doubling my rent.”
Eventually, Derin continued, “I was forced to do this.”
He attempted to work out the problem informally by calling and asking to speak with a manager and sending messages to the management.
“They ignored these requests,” he said. “I then went to speak with an employee at the leasing office who responded to my complaint by saying, ‘We’ve always sold units at that price so what’s your problem?’”
When he emailed the manager directly, the manager “responded by ignoring all of my complaints and confirming that unless I signed the amendment I could not have a private room.”
He filed a suit in small claims court. West Village failed to show, thereby defaulting. The court found that the company had illegally coerced Derin into the agreement.
The Vanguard was forwarded a string of complaints that were lodged over email in response to a survey.
“Sol lacks respect for their residents and relies on the highly competitive housing market in Davis to continue their business over the years,” one said. “The rental agreement is oppressive enough, the least staff could do is respect our time and the fact that we pay for a certain standard of living.”
They added, “No one should live in filth and no one should be having to live in a hotel due to mold.”
Another said, “Both the property and the treatment I received from the staff have been terrible from the start.” They added, “First, the move-in date you assigned me on the lease was incorrect. This left me homeless, which as an exchange student in a foreign country left me in a very vulnerable situation. When I brought this up with the staff, I did not receive any excuse or compensation, even though this was clearly your mistake.”
Another listed five complaints including: “Unprofessional management,” “Unlivable living conditions,” “False advertising,” “Unresponsive to maintenance requests,” and “Bad reputation for being reluctant to give security deposit back when moving out.”
Another noted, “My roommates and I have lived in the same apartment for two years. During this time we have had numerous issues with management and maintenance. We quickly realized after moving in that the management and maintenance are NOT prioritizing residents.”
For Jacbon Derin, he told the Vanguard, “I never expected this issue to get taken this far. It’s truly incredible to me that it has. I was able to fight for myself. I’m a law student — I know how. But I continually asked myself, ‘What if I wasn’t?’”
He noted, “What sticks out to me is the story of the foreign exchange student who was left without a place to stay because of West Village.”
Derin was hopeful that a settlement would be finalized.
The Vanguard reached out to the attorney representing West Village UCD, LLC, “The litigation in this matter is ongoing; as such, I cannot make any comment at this time.”
Andy Fell, from UC Davis News and Media Relations, told the Vanguard, “Landmark Properties is a private landlord with a ground lease on West Village. Under the terms of the ground lease, the landlord is required to lease housing to UC Davis students, and to maintain the property in first-class condition. “
He was unaware of the small claims judgment and associated bench warrant, and declined comment.
However, he said, “We are aware in general of complaints and issues raised by residents and we are considering our options on addressing these under the terms of the ground lease with Landmark.”