Past and current tenants of 70 Howe St. are voicing dissatisfaction with their apartment housing company, citing unfair business practices that wrongly take advantage of graduate students.

Almost all of the residents of the building are Yale graduate students — particularly from the School of Drama and Law School, according to former tenant José Espinosa DRA ’19. Espinosa’s concern with the complex’s owner, Pinnacle Campus Living, prompted him to share his experiences in Yale’s Free & For Sale Facebook group on Aug. 14. He wrote that the company has conducted mandatory inspections with short notice, administered unauthorized apartment entries and charged exorbitant fees for routine maintenance — which resulted in 11 current and former residents responding with similar experiences.

“Since acquiring the property in 2017, the company has engaged in a variety of mercenary business tactics,” Espinosa said in an email to the News. “I would love it if this company could be exposed and held accountable.”

Espinosa first moved into the complex September 2016 and said he did not have issues until Pinnacle Campus Living began overseeing the building in the fall of 2017. Pinnacle Campus Living manages about 165,000 residential units across at least 30 states.

When Espinosa moved out of his apartment in July due to negative interactions with management and an increased rent, he said he left an unused bottle of dish soap next to his sink and eight hangers in the closet for the next occupant. He said that 15 days later, Pinnacle Campus Living charged $510 from his security deposit. Rather than providing an itemized list, the company cited “a few general areas” in the apartment that needed cleaning.

A spokesperson for Howe Place Apartments — one of the two New Haven residences managed by Pinnacle Campus Living — said that the company strives to be a great living environment for Yale University students. During move-in, each resident is given a handbook that outlines expectations for quarterly inspections, as well as move-in and move-out policies, according to the spokesperson.

“At Howe Place Apartments, we strive to make this a great place for students attending Yale University to live,” the spokesperson said.

Commenting on Espinosa’s Facebook post, Richard Riddick GRD ’20 said that he and his roommates were charged $195 even after leaving the apartment “cleaner than when we found it.”

According to Espinosa, after he wrote several strongly worded letters to the building management, Pinnacle Campus Living reduced their assessment to an $80 fee. In an August email to Pinnacle Campus Living, he attached the section of the Connecticut legal code that covers tenants’ rights. The code stipulates that security deposits can be withheld for major property damage other than “normal wear and tear” and unpaid rent. Espinosa said that the property managers did not return his deposit within the 30-day period they legally had to do so.

John Reese, a former tenant, said he and his roommate moved out because Pinnacle Campus decided to raise their rent nearly 200 dollars from their first year’s lease. Reese said that nothing in the building had been renovated, updated or changed.

Reese said that since 2017, building management began conducting “quarterly apartment inspections,” during which the manager and maintenance workers would inspect appliances in the apartments. Reese said that two of his friends were charged a fee of $100 for having a “dirty fridge” during one such inspection.

“I lived in New York for seven years before I came to school here, and not once did I have landlords or superintendents inspect my apartments quarterly,” Reese said.

The Howe Place Apartments spokesperson said that a requirement for quarterly inspections is outlined in the lease agreement. They added that the company checks for cleanliness, any damages and safety concerns, as well as any items for landlord repair. Each resident is then notified of anything that needs fixing and are given a minimum of seven days to rectify the issue.

Reese said that his troubles did not end when he left 70 Howe St.

According to the Howe Place spokesperson, when a resident is scheduled to move out, the building management issues a checklist 30 days prior to their move-out date that details all expectations the property has for the resident.

In addition to the resident handbook distributed at move-in, the company documents each unit with photographs to determined how much money should be deducted from the security deposit.

Reese told the News that he and his roommate were charged $185 upon move-out — $100 for “food in the fridge” and $85 for a light fixture being “all dirty.” Reese immediately contested these charges, emailing the apartment manager to meet to discuss the “ridiculous and exorbitant charges.” But the manager did not reverse or lower the fines, Reese added. After communicating with the manager’s boss, he was notified that he would be getting $110 of the $185 back.

According to the Howe Place Apartments website, the 70 Howe St. building is in 20th century–style architecture.

Ashna Gupta contributed reporting.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu