LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A Purdue student is speaking out against Granite Management in Greater Lafayette. The company took him to court for damages he said he didn't do.
Now that a jury has sided in his favor, he thinks it's time other students fight back too.
Granite Management has a reputation for taking tenant matters to court. Attorney Duran Keller thinks he knows why.
"They're suing and the attorneys who are asking for attorneys fees work for Stuart Gutwein, who is an owner of the Gutwein Law firm but he's also an owner of Granite Management." said Keller. "So, this is how the rich stay rich."
Keller took Umar's case because this student was willing to fight. He asked us not to use his last name for this story.
"Most students don't show up to court because they don't realize their rights," said Umar.
Granite claimed Umar flushed sanitary wipes down the toilet of his apartment in the Varsity building on Andrew Place. Their proof? Maintenance found Clorox wipes in his apartment.
"As if I was the only one that had Clorox wipes in the building," said Umar.
He refuted the charges and continued to pay rent.
"They would not count my rent even though my rent was paid," said Umar. "They would literally convert the rent payment to this bogus charge."
And then charged him ten dollar late fees per day.
"So, it came to about almost $3,000 by the time I moved out," said Umar.
Granite sued Umar in January of 2017. He finished out his lease and counterclaimed against the company.
"I think when you are in a situation of bullying people all of the time, you don't see what it is going to look like when somebody pushes back, and they saw it in this case," said Keller.
Granite offered to settle the case if Umar cut them a check.
"I had to pay them," said Umar. "I had to pay them $20,000. This was in November of last year, 2017."
So, Umar took his case to a jury instead.
"It wasn't about money, it really wasn't for me, it was mainly about doing what's right," said Umar.
He only asked the jury for vindication and one dollar.
"The thought was we take that dollar and we put it in a frame and it says look this is an experience in my life where I fought back against the big guy and I won," said Keller.
Granite failed to convince the jury Umar was responsible for any damages.
However, the jury did find Granite liable for breach of quiet enjoyment and failure to maintain basic levels of habitability. They ordered the company to pay Umar more than $5,000.
"Their theme of the trial was, this is an old building you know what you are getting into, and I don't think anybody agreed with that," said Keller.
While living at Varsity Apartments, Umar said he was constantly without water.
"We would have to take showers at the Co-rec, go over to our friends' places," explained Umar. "It was a little embarrassing."
He took videos showing how Granite failed to clean up water in a timely manner without any wet floor signs. Umar said he saw several people slip and fall. He also worried about mold and mildew in the building.
"I don't think anybody would agree that you can pay $725 a month for rent and not have hot water and not have heat," said Keller.
Umar hopes students learn from his case and defend themselves.
"Show up to court, say your piece and do what you feel is right," said Keller.
"My dad taught me to stand up to bullies, you know? These guys were trying to bully people into submission and I realized that was what was happening with me," said Umar.
Granite declined to go on camera and answer questions about this case. However, they did send a statement.
"Though Granite disagrees with the outcome of the case and believes the jury's determination is not a correct application of the law, the appellate deadline litigation is still pending and we feel it is improper to comment further at this time."
Granite has not yet filed any notice of an appeal.
Coming up on News 18 Friday at five and six, we'll talk about Umar's contract and why his attorney believes there's a need for legislation on this topic.