512 Living is notorious, but is the criticism warranted?

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Tucked near the bottom of 512 Living’s website is a small banner of rotating quotes, each featuring a snippet of glowing praise from reviews on Yelp and Craigslist. Of the three featured quotes, two were taken from Yelp — a bold choice for the property management company that has an overall rating of 1.5 stars. 

In terms of ratings, 512 Living isn’t an exceptional case. On Yelp, it’s not even the lowest-rated property management service operating out of West Campus. As weathered student renters know all too well, realty companies have a reputation for deceptive practices and taking advantage of students’ inexperience. 

512 Living is, however, the lowest rated company relative to the number of reviews. I did some simple math, and found that when compared to nine other services on campus with similar ratings – between 1.5-2.5 stars – 512 had 133 more reviews on average. Accusations of sleazy practices abound in these reviews — accusations that can, in part, be explained away when considering the lease terms. 

As students, it’s easy to get swept up in reviews claiming wrongdoing. While we should consider these warnings, we must first read our leases thoroughly and then evaluate negative reviews in light of these terms.

I reached out to Rohan Sikdar, an aerospace engineering senior who gave 512 a one-star rating on Google reviews. Elaborating on accusations of unprofessionalism, Sikdar, who rented a unit in Plaza 38 during the 2017-2018 leasing season, said his realtor failed to inform him of the complex’s single utility meter. This meant that utilities had to be divided between the tenants according to each unit’s square footage. 

My first inclination was to be outraged by this revelation. How could a business with any conscience charge tenants in this seemingly arbitrary way? However, after doing a little research, I found that this is how Texas law requires 512 to divide its patrons’s utilities — something that is stated in the lease.

But Sikdar also felt robbed of his security deposit, which was his main grievance. He said he complied with 512’s move-out guidelines, which require students to hire an approved maid service to clean the unit. Still, he was charged over $100 for “dust on fans.”

“It’s kind of like double jeopardy,” said Sikdar, referring to the charges associated with moving out.

Though Sikdar was eventually refunded in full, he was disappointed in the company’s original reasoning behind the charge and the lengthy process involved in repealing it.

Daniel Herrera, a former tenant of  District 53 — another property 512 manages — also complained that he was overcharged upon receiving his final move-out bill. Herrera sent me a copy of the itemized receipt, on which he was charged $25 for a “trash haul — 1 bag” and $17 for “1 heat lamp bulb replacement plus labor,” among other fees.  

At first glance, these charges seem absurd. On closer inspection, though, the high fees can be accounted for in labor rate, which is set to compensate the cleaning service 512 outsources.

In an email statement, 512 Living said their goal is to “help all our residents understand the terms of their lease.” They claim to “own up and repair (mistakes) in a timely manner.”

I don’t believe 512 is criminal. That being said, students should remain wary and keep an eye out for discrepancies. Document everything, get acquainted with your lease, learn about your rights as a tenant. If you still feel you’re being treated unfairly by property management, take advantage of the resources provided by the Austin Tenants Council — then rant on Yelp. 

David is an advertising sophomore from Allen.