Booth gives FAMU students the boot

Several Florida A&M University students could be out of a home soon because a local student housing company faces possible foreclosure by its mortgage holder.

Residents of seven student housing apartment complexes, formerly owned by Booth Properties, were informed they would have until Oct. 12 to move out of their apartments on Sept. 12.

Jamie Thomas, a representative for Asset Campus Housing (ACH), a management company hired to handle the properties while it is going through the court system, said the properties were taken into receivership. He said the properties are in the process of foreclosure and have been turned over to the bank that originally financed the mortgage for Booth Properties.

Thomas said the bank then hired a receiver to handle the property and they hired his company.

After reviewing the property, Thomas said they made the decision to close the properties and cease all operations.

“We do not think it is conducive for students to be living in those (apartments),” Thomas said. “I did walk in University Gardens II and Annex,” Thomas said. “Some issues are just not cosmetic.”

Thomas said residents who owe a balance will be forgiven the debt and released from any rental obligation if they move out within the 30 days.

He added that because the property is in transition, he does not have all the financial records for all the residents.

“We are working on getting deposits back [to the students who do not have a balance],” he said.

A representative from Booth Properties said she did not agree with the decision ACH made.

“Booth Companies has made a business decision to exit the Florida A&M University housing market,” said Camaray Sherwin, marketing and leasing director for Booth Properties, in an e-mail sent Tuesday.” “The new management company, ACH made the decision to close down all operations at the seven communities located off South Monroe.”

“Booth Properties did not approve or agree with the decision made by ACH to ask the residents to move within the 30 day time frame,” Sherwin wrote in an email.

Thomas said Booth Properties had no control over the decision made.

“They stopped decision making once it was taken over by the bank,” Thomas said.

Sherwin said Booth Properties has offered students the option to move into some of their other properties and they would be able to transfer their lease and term.

“The staff at Booth Companies is ready and able to assist the residents with finding apartments at other Booth locations and to make this move as easy as possible,” Sherwin wrote in the e-mail.

However, students are telling a different story.

“The first person to address us was the Florida Highway Patrol,” said Frederick Simmons, 23, a political science student from Hernando.

The residents were given a letter from Thomas that informed them of the situation and of a meeting that would be held Thursday at Southgate Campus Centre.

Simmons said neither he nor any of the other residents he had spoken with had any contact from Booth Properties.

Thomas also said to his knowledge the residents have not been contacted by Booth Properties.

Thomas said Booth Properties was invited to attend the Thursday night meeting.

“They called at 3:30 p.m. and said they would not be attending,” Thomas said. “I can only imagine why.”

Deirdra Solomon, 20, a pre-med student from Wildwood said there was a camera crew from a local T.V. station at the meeting but they were not allowed to film the meeting.

“They said it was because they didn’t have our consent,” Solomon said. “I believe they didn’t want the rest of Tallahassee to see that everyone in the room was African- American.”

Solomon and other students who met in Student Body President Monique Gillum’s office Tuesday, said their trash had not been collected and their lawns were overgrown among other problems.

“This makes operating a business difficult, regardless of the affiliated school or location,” she said.

Monica Jones, 23, a senior business administration student from Chicago has been living in a Booth property apartment since 2003. Jones said she consistently pays her rent on time.

“Our rent is always paid on time,” Jones said. “Not everybody didn’t pay their rent.”

Jones also said she felt like the apartments on their side of town are neglected.

“All you have to do is go across town and those (Booth Property) apartments have fresh coats of paint and their lawns are mowed,” she said.

In an effort to organize together, students decided to meet with Gillum, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor and Henry Kirby, dean of students, Sunday evening to decide what action should be taken.

Gillum said the main goal is to get their students into housing.

“It hurts my heart really,” Gillum said. “I wish we could take them in and give them housing on campus but we are full to capacity so we are having to lean on other people.”