Taylor Bend, an apartment complex that primarily houses University of Mississippi students, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, leaving current residents in limbo.
Residents have repeatedly reported unresponsive management, poor living conditions and numerous water and power outages.
Deunte Ragland, a junior business major at the University of Mississippi, lived at Taylor Bend from August 2020 to June 2021 and had countless issues with management.
“It was horrible,” Ragland said. “The managers never answered the phone…my air conditioner and dishwasher broke in April and never was fixed. We filed several maintenance requests and even called them and got no reply.”
The Taylor Bend Apartment complex on Old Taylor Road was scheduled for auction on Aug. 4 due to foreclosure, according to The Oxford Eagle. But Nelson Partners, the owners of Taylor Bend, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 30 minutes beforehand.
Nelson Partners has not responded to repeated requests for an interview.
According to the United States Courts, Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code generally provides for reorganization, usually involving a corporation or partnership. A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time.
During the year Ragland lived there, he was never able to access the gym or the pool. The pool at the apartment complex is a murky, green color. Ragland also stated that the complex was always covered in trash and the grass was never cut.
Jertonya Mays lived at the complex for over two years and when she began having issues with an unstable roommate who made her feel unsafe, her requests to change roommates or rooms were ignored. Even though it was property management who had originally placed them together, she was told by the management there was nothing they could do.
“The management is poor and the property manager and the assistant really don’t help,” Mays said.
This past July, the severity of the situation made itself clear to residents when all 80 units lost water and power.
“We tried for weeks in early or mid July to reach out to the Taylor Bend Apartment complex regarding delinquent bills, which were two months past due. We received no response from Taylor Bend,” Rob Neely, the general manager of Oxford Utilities, said.
On July 21, Oxford Utilities disconnected water, sewer and sanitation services to the apartments and single office building at Taylor Bend. A few hours later, Oxford Utilities was informed that there was a potential new owner of the complex and that a payment would be made.
“We restored water service on the same day, July 21, before noon. Payment was made in full shortly after that,” says Neely. “It turns out that there was not a new owner, but the utility payment was made by a bank with a financial interest in the complex.”
Despite water services being restored, residents still reported having no power. Nichole Lloyd, a resident at the complex for a year, claimed that she did not have power for an entire month.
Alderman Brian Hyneman met with residents to provide them answers about the status of the complex prior to the owners having declared bankruptcy. Hyneman assured the residents that, despite the complex not paying their utility bill, the utilities for the complex would stay intact.
“It is my understanding that the property owner has done nothing in the way of communication,” Hyneman said.
Adam Lalejini lived at Taylor Bend from August 2020 to August 2021 and said that management made no attempt to contact the students about the ongoing issues.
“The only communication the residents received from property management was an email saying Taylor Bend was ‘under construction,’” Lalejini said. “It was not until Alderman Brian Hyneman met with residents that they received any information about what was happening.”
Residents of Taylor Bend in its final months were continuously left wondering what was occuring in their apartments and what the future would hold.
“That was the most information that residents had received from anyone to that point,” Lalejini said, “but it left many of us incredibly nervous about what implications that would have for our leases, especially since my roommates and I had renewed our contract in January for the 2021-22 academic year.”
On Aug. 10, Lalejini heard leaking coming from the A/C unit. After opening the A/C unit closet, “the damp earthy smell of mold was overwhelming.”
The board of plywood underneath the unit had soaked up all of the water, resulting in excessive leaking.
“Moisture had spread over the walls and into the carpets. Soon after, there were actually mushrooms growing through the floorboard and out on top of the carpet,” Lalejin said.
Lalejini began to feel physical effects from his contaminated unit and says his eyes constantly burned. After putting in an emergency request, he received no response from management.
“The repairs needed to be made were substantial,” Lalejini said, “All the while, the rest of the property was falling into increasing disrepair. Several other units in our building were trashed, abandoned and left unlocked. Garbage was piled high on balconies, stairways and scattered throughout the parking lots.”
Lalejini and his roommates sought legal advice and were successfully able to terminate their leases on the basis of health and safety concerns. They were also able to find an apartment complex with a vacancy.
“We were fortunate, but I can’t help but sympathize with all of the other residents who tried to move out over the next week, who likely had nowhere to live other than Taylor Bend’s neglected apartments,” Lalejini said .
Desiree Hensley, the Director of the Housing Clinic at the University of Mississippi, said in an email that she had received multiple calls from residents at Taylor Bend. The Housing Clinic assists individuals or families facing eviction or foreclosure.
Residents’ claims of poor management have predated any indication of foreclosure or bankruptcy. Reviews on Google for the property dating back to two years ago reveal reports of mold, uncleanliness and a difficulty with getting management to respond to maintenance requests.
Nelson Partners owns 20 student housing complexes across the country with residents complaining of similar issues. Google reviews for The Alpine Flats apartment complex located near Utah State University revealed that residents did not have internet access or hot water for weeks at a time and maintenance requests almost never got completed.
“Maintenance requests are not a priority, even when made as an emergency level request,” Lauren Broadhead, a previous resident, wrote in a Google review.
According to a May 18, 2021, New York Times report, Nelson Partners has been accused of running a “ponzi-like scheme” with the Skyloft Austin Student Housing complex, one in which investors were impressed by a shiny high-rise. Investors told The New York Times they were “taken for a ride by a group of professional real estate investors who raised tens of millions of dollars from people like them to finance the purchase of the student dorm.” The investors told The New York Times that they don’t know where the money went or who owns the building today.
In a statement to The New York Times, Nelson Partners denies any wrongdoing and blames the firm’s financial difficulties on the pandemic and the hedge fund company that financed the building.
Hyneman said that he has had multiple calls from parents of students who had leases, but wanted to backpedal after seeing the condition of the complex. He said that many residents have left the complex, although he has no exact figures.
“Although in bankruptcy, the complex continues to operate, however poorly that may be. If a resident chooses to stay, the lease must be honored,” Hyneman said.