Returning UK students find water damage in unlivable off-campus apartment

UK water damage
Posted at 12:09 AM, Jan 02, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With the start of UK's spring semester days away, a group of University of Kentucky students face an uncertain living situation thanks to the recent winter storm, which led to pipes bursting in their off-campus apartment.

It’s something they didn’t learn about from their apartment complex, UK student Brie Bennet said. She, along with three roommates, lives in the apartment. One of them discovered bedrooms in disarray and a carpet saturated with water. It was clear a maintenance team had been there, but no one from the apartment complex had told anyone living there, Bennet said.

But it’s what she couldn't see that stung most.

“I can’t describe the smell, it's horrible.”

At one point, a maintenance team came in and ripped a hole in Bennet’s bedroom wall to access a pipe. She said she had shoes, rugs, and a laundry basket that were damaged.

She and her roommates reached out via email multiple times to their apartment complex 5 Twenty Four and did not hear a response, one of Bennet’s roommates said. Eventually, they got through to someone on the phone who told them their apartment wasn't livable and they did not know when it would be fixed, roommate Riley Feddock said. It was the first time they learned they couldn't live in the apartment even if they wanted to.

When they asked about getting the rugs ripped up, they said the 5 Twenty Four staff member said it was not their maintenance team's responsibility. The roommates have brought in their own dryers to dry out the carpets.

Their frustration centers about a lack of communication.

“There has been no communication about the incident and next steps,” Feddock said.

LEX 18 reached out to the apartment complex and their parent company and did not receive a response by Sunday night.

5 Twenty Four is one of an “unprecedented” number of homes and buildings in Lexington that had pipes burst during the dangerous cold.

The roommates' main concern is that the apartment won’t be livable by the time their classes start in a week. They aren’t alone.

On the University of Kentucky's campus, multiple buildings faced issues relating to burst pipes, including Haggin Hall. A UK spokesperson says a few dozen rooms in Haggin Hall received minor damages, mostly water on the floors.

UK says every resident at Haggin Hall was notified of the following:

    • On Monday, Dec. 26, a sprinkler line within the 5th floor Active Learning Room in Haggin Hall burst due to the sub-zero temperatures that impacted the region. 
    • As a result, water traveled down to the first floor, impacting several residence rooms as well as mechanical spaces.
    • Housing officials conducted quick visual inspections of each room. All inspections have been conducted by at least two housing officials. No one has or will enter a room alone.
    • Repair work, where necessary, was initiated quickly. A small number of rooms will not be ready for move-in and the first day of classes, Jan. 9.
    • UK is reaching out directly to any residents whose rooms were damaged because of this incident to help, where needed, including temporary housing and other provisions, as well as providing gift cards.
    • One additional residence hall – Donovan – experienced some water damage to a lobby area. Repairs are being made to that area and will not impact operations or living units in any way.

    Carole Rawlins, who has a daughter who lives in the hall, said she received an email from the university saying a burst pipe had impacted several dorm rooms. Rawlins, who works for LEX 18’s parent company E.W. Scripps, said a university staff member told her over the phone there was minor damage in her daughter's dorm room, but could not elaborate further.

    "The concern really is if there was water sitting or water in the drywall that could cause other problems if left unattended like mold," Rawlins said.

    She wants to know if the school is actively monitoring for things like mold, concerned that when her daughter moves back next weekend that they may discover something that prevents her from staying there. According to the university, their on-campus environmental safety team will conduct examinations for issues like mold.

    In a statement, UK says they had about three dozen buildings across the campus impacted by the sub-zero temperatures, winds, and power outage issues that impacted our state and community last week. With their current staffing, a UK spokesperson says they're in a "very good position" to have largely normal operations when staff return on Tuesday, and when students return for classes on January 9.

    "The vast majority of buildings are fully operational or will be by [Tuesday, January 3]," UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said. "As always, we prioritize safety, patient and student spaces, the campus and the idea of returning to normal operations as quickly as possible. That has guided us throughout this process."

    UK says most rooms at Haggin Hall that were impacted will be repaired and ready for students to move in on January 8 as scheduled for the first day of classes on January 9. Those students were called and received a follow-up email, according to the university. The impacted students will receive a $200 gift card and the offer of free laundry service should any items, like clothing that was left on the floor, need that service.

    Five rooms received more significant damage and will not be ready for January 8. Those students (fewer than 10, according to UK) are being relocated to other residence halls temporarily while repairs on their rooms are being completed. Those students will receive $200 gift cards as well as the offer of free laundry service. The university will also provide moving materials and connect them with a moving company to assist in the temporary move.

    "We also have offered a free overnight hotel stay for those students and their families if they want to come to Lexington to inspect their rooms," officials said.

    UK says they have around 200 members from one of their contractors, ServPro, on campus all week, working on these issues. They are recognized experts in flood and water damage and reconstruction.