Dispute arises between students, landlord

Only five months into a one-year lease agreement, landlords George and Barbara Holmes and three St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine students have found themselves at the end of a broken contract.

The two-bedroom two-bath West Bay condo owned by Mr. and Mrs. Holmes rented for CI$3,300 to three students under the condition that the den be turned into a third bedroom.

This May, after leaky toilets resulted in a $2,300 water bill and several late rent payments, the students decided to try their luck elsewhere, and moved out.

‘They let the toilets run and run and didn’t tell us,’ said Mrs. Holmes. ‘We don’t enter the apartment, how are we supposed to know?’

Of the late payments, Mr. Holmes reported that after January, every payment was late except for May, in which they received nothing.

According to the lease agreement, the Holmes are entitled to a $75 late payment fee for payments made after the fifth of the month, a five per cent charge on any overdue amounts and the right to keep the security deposit of $3,300.

‘There is a large resistance developing to students as tenants,’ reported Alister Ayres, author of the lease and real estate agent for Mr. Holmes. ‘I also know of one other serious incident involving students and landlords.’

One of the students, Sankrant Reddy, in an email to the CaymanianCompass, expressed his discontent at the state of the house.

‘The first day we moved in, we found a scorpion in the kitchen and ants everywhere,’ he said. ‘We also were told that the den would be enclosed to resemble a real bedroom by the time we got in, but it wasn’t.’

As to the leaky toilets, the students assert that within the first week of January they noticed the leaking and reported it to the landlords who had it fixed.

An agreement seemed to have been reached when Mr. and Mrs. Holmes paid the water bill, and charged each student an extra $50 per month to cover the expense, however the students disagreed.

‘We are students and all our money comes from loans; we didn’t factor such a large bill into our loan money,’ explained the students.

‘I think it is very reasonable of George and Barbara to split the bill,’ said Mr. Ayres.

When asked about breaking the lease, the students said it was a decision that had to be made on the spur of the moment.

‘The (cheaper) place we wanted was available immediately and we couldn’t pass it up. They also kept our security deposit of $3,300, which we knew they weren’t going to give back to us for breaking the lease.’

‘My husband and I feel totally abused in this situation as we feel it was their plan to leave all along,’ said Mrs. Holmes.

When confronted about moving out the condo, Mr. Ayres was told by the students that it was under the advice of the student advisors at St. Matthew’s.

However, the students refuted this statement.

‘St. Matthew’s has nothing to do with these petty issues and is a great institution for this island,’ they said.

Dr. Stephen Heller, Dean of Student Affairs at St. Matthew’s agreed.

‘I have never advised a student to move from an apartment prior to a lease running its course, nor have I advised a student to break any contract or law in Cayman.’

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