in Life

The Village at Science Drive in Orlando, FL (and why you should never live there)

Never mind the horrible roommates I had – living at The Village at Science Drive has to be the most consistently aggravating living experience I’ve ever had. And yes, I’ve shared a small bedroom dorm at the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a roommate who felt the need to put up a wicker-weaved tri-fold privacy screen down the middle of the room. Freshman year is fun.

In an effort to release a whole lot of frustration (and hopefully stop others from making the same mistake I did), I’d like to share my detailed review of The Village at Science Drive.

The grass is always greener off campus.

It was two years ago when I decided that The Village at Science Drive was my new home. I took the tour and fell in love with the size of the rooms, the close proximity to campus, and the friendly and understanding office staff. I figured any living situation would be better than my closet-sized room on campus. After the $40 application fee, the $250 security deposit, the $150 administrative fee (what is that exactly?) and the $30 utility fee, I was well on my way to becoming a member of The Village family.

Long story short, it was the worst housing-related mistake I’ve ever made in my life.

I filled out the inventory checklist, noting where I saw problems and submitted it to the front office. My first month went pretty smoothly, aside from a wobbly table and an uncomfortable couch. When I realized that my food was sliding toward me the more I ate at the table, I decided to put a work order in. The maintenance guy came out and drilled something. That fixed it. For a month.

I had some friends over. They couldn’t find parking.

Something I failed to check when I moved into The Village was the visitor parking situation. On my side of the complex there were 5 spots. 5 visitor parking spots for about 5 or so buildings worth of residents.

Of course, there are about 25 visitor parking spots on the opposite side of the complex (about a six minute walk). But, as you’ve guessed, there were rarely spots on that side of the complex. Two of my friends were towed during the time I stayed there. Not for lack of parking in an open visitor spot, but for lack of enough visitor spots. The lesson here is that The Village is a great place to live if you don’t have friends.

I quickly learned that the friendly and understanding office staff isn’t so friendly or understanding.

I had a friend who lived at The Village tell me my couch was broken. She knew this because she had the same exact couch except you didn’t sink down three feet when you sat on hers. When I called in a work order, they told me that they wouldn’t send anyone out to check on it. Why? Because they said that I didn’t mark it on my inventory move-in form, and that there was no way to prove that I didn’t break the couch.

I told them that I had no idea the couch was broken, since I had never owned this specific couch before and would have no reference for what a broken one would feel like. I just assumed the couch sucked. They didn’t care.

That was when I really got angry and asked for the head honcho. Who knew that the General Manager of The Village was a completely inexperienced twenty-something? We went back and forth on the phone for thirty minutes until she finally agreed to send someone out.

Days later. Another maintenance guy comes out, flips the couch upside down, uses a knife to cut the bottom fabric out from the couch and shows me that not only is the couch broken — but it’s been crappily repaired by someone in the past. Most likely a maintenance person from The Village.

I call the General Manager back. She’s not in. More days go by. She eventually calls me back and tells me that I still should have marked it on my move-in form. Seriously? “You’re telling me that you would have flipped the couches upside down and cut the fabric out from the couch to check if it’s broken?”

“I would have done whatever it takes, sir,” she said. Yes. That’s an exact quote.

She eventually agreed to swap out the couch — but only because there was previous repair work done on it. I also told her that the maintenance guy’s repair work on the table only fixed it for a month, and she said she’d get back to me about that. Then I asked her if there’s anything I can do about how loud my air conditioner is (it’s hard to watch a movie with it running) and she tells me that that’s just how they are. No can fix.

The table was also eventually swapped out, but the whole ordeal was way too complicated on my end, if you ask me. I’m the one paying, here.

The unfriendly and non-understanding office staff isn’t too knowledgeable, either.

When I first moved into The Village, I figured that having an entire office staff comprised of college kids was going to be great. I thought that it would help them relate to me and understand any housing issues that I had. In reality, I found that a bunch of college kids running an apartment complex wasn’t a good idea.

Quite literally, no one is over the age of 25 that works there — not even the General Manager. This means that no one really has the extensive experience necessary to run an apartment complex efficiently. This was clear to me during my couch incident, and became even more clear over the coming months.

My air conditioner breaks on a very hot day.

I’ve written about this before on my old blog. It’s pumping out air, but it’s just not cold. I have it set on 74, but the internal temperature of the apartment is 78. That’s not good. The way an air conditioner works is you set it on a temperature and it tries to cool the apartment to that temperature. If it isn’t cooling, it keeps trying to cool until it actually reaches the temperature. Essentially, it runs forever because it can’t reach the cooler temperature. I liked it better when it was just loud and annoying.

The head maintenance guy comes out out and explains to me that they’ve had air conditioning issues with my apartment for six years. I explain to him that that’s not my problem and I want it fixed.

He does some stuff and it works. For now.

The dish washer begins making a horrible grinding noise whenever it’s in a rinse cycle.

The dish washer seems like it’s cleaning fine, but there’s no way you can concentrate on anything with it running. And I don’t want to keep running it in case something is wrong and have something seriously break (of course I’ll be to blame). I call. Maintenance comes out a few days later and tries to get the dish washer to make the noise. It doesn’t. They tell me to call again when it’s doing it.

The Village at Science Drive and their no-exception policy.

Like most apartment complexes, rent is due monthly at The Village. You can pay by check or money order. I went to pay rent for my second month and they told me that they wouldn’t accept my check because it didn’t have the correct address on there.

I went to my bank and changed my address and ordered new checks. Then I got a money order for rent because the checks were going to take between 2-3 weeks to get to me. They never got to me. Come to find out, The Village sent the checks back to the bank because my apartment number was incorrect. Was it? No. The office staff made a mistake and sent my checks back anyway. So, no checks for rent. Again.

I call my bank and they re-send the checks priority mail. I receive the checks one day after rent is due. They tell me now that I owe them a $30 late-rent fee. I re-explain that they were the ones who sent the checks back in the first place. They don’t care, telling me that I always have the option of paying online (of course they don’t mention that paying online costs $15). And now they won’t accept my rent check until I write an additional check for an additional $30.

They tell me that there’s no such thing as exceptions when it comes to rent payments and that it’s a state law. I tell them that I don’t believe them and give them my two checks anyway, figuring I had already wasted enough time. Maybe I should have just paid online, seeing how, at this point, I would gladly pay a $15 fee to avoid seeing the office staff.

The dish washer begins making the horrible noise again.

Maintenance comes out and actually hears it this time. The guy says that the noise definitely isn’t normal, but he can’t fix it. I ask him to replace the unit because I don’t want anything worse to happen. He says that he’ll have to do some more research on the unit before any replacement can be authorized. Aggravation ensues.

College kids love to party. Loudly. And until 3AM. And The Village loves hosting your events.

They have a number where you can call a “Community Assistant” to report a noise complaint. On many, many occasions I’ve had to call. On none of those occasions have they actually done anything. One night, it was so loud that I actually reported the noise to the Orange Country Sheriff’s office. They sent someone out and the noise actually subsided. Until the cop left. Seriously, this is not the place to live if you enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Did I mention that someone broke into my apartment?

Okay, so someone didn’t really “break in.” Someone left the door unlocked while another someone entered the apartment and stole $300 worth of electronics. I’m not blaming The Village for this, however when I told the them they said to report it to the police and that they couldn’t do anything (and neither did the police — “too bad, so sad, lock your doors). Anyway, it’s clear that college student housing is targeted for burglary.

Each year, for security reasons, The Village replaces all the locks and issues new keys.

They instruct you to go down to the office to get your new key. I come back home, get my new key, drive to my apartment, key doesn’t work, drive back, another new key, drive back to my apartment, still doesn’t work, drive back to the front, they issue me the master key (don’t lose it or we can’t make more copies — just use it to unlock your apartment and then bring it back), drive back, unlock my door, leave it unlocked as I drive back and quickly drop off the master key.

Wow. Apparently, the cleaning staff has the right key copy and I have to wait until they get back — the office staff can’t contact them and have no idea where they are — in order to give me the right key. Four hours later, I get my key. Good thing I didn’t have to go anywhere.

A few months later, my air conditioner breaks again on an even hotter day.

The problem with the air is that it doesn’t simply stop working. It gradually deteriorates over time, pushing out less and less cool air until one day it’s unbearable. The maintenance man explains to me that it’s because there is a freon leak somewhere in the lines. Again, I tell him that’s not my problem. Fix it. He does. I asked him how many times I’m going to have to call in order for the air conditioner to be fixed permanently. He has no answers for me.

The way utility bills work for a 3/3 bedroom is that they’ll pay up to $90, which is nice. So, the bills run $30 over on average. That means $10 per person. Not too bad. I get my utility bill for the months when my air conditioner was pumping out hot air and it’s considerably higher — $120 over, or $40 per person.

The office refuses to refund any of that money, telling me that it’s not outside the average of what other tenants are paying for their utilities in my building. I tell them that’s completely ridiculous to say because they aren’t taking into consideration what other tenants are doing — do they have mini-fridges, do they leave their lights on, etc.? My bills are low when the air’s just been fixed. It raises exponentially right before I put in those work orders.

Not even the General Manager can do anything this time. So I ask for her boss. They give me the number to The District Manager who never returns my calls or e-mails.

In the meantime, the air conditioner breaks again a few more months down the line.

It’s been over a year at this point that the air conditioner has remained in a semi-working state. The cycle is:

  • The air conditioner breaks.
  • The maintenance guys fix it.
  • It immediately begins the process of breaking again, with each day pumping out less and less cool air.
  • Then it completely breaks and the cycle repeats. My utility bills are ridiculous.

This time, I call and leave a message for the General Manager with extreme hostility. A few days go by and a different District Manager calls me — who agrees to send out maintenance men from another one of her apartment complexes.

Within minutes they diagnose that the outside air conditioning unit is completely defective. They tell me that they’re going to swap it out. This proves to me that the maintenance men at The Village are neither trained nor capable of actually fixing advanced types of issues. At one point, the head maintenance guy actually tells me that he doesn’t know much on air conditioning repair and that he plans on taking some classes on it. In the meantime, he can’t tell me anything that I actually care about. All anyone’s really proficient at around here is making excuses.

The District Manager agrees to refund me some portion of my utility bills, but it’s nowhere near as much as I would have saved having a working unit for two years.

Someone “breaks in” to my apartment again, this time they steal things of more value.

Over $600 of electronics were stolen and it could have been a lot worse. This time, it’s my new roommate’s fault because she left the door unlocked all night long (she let her boyfriend out at some ungodly hour and forgot to lock the door). Again, I only mention this to stress that college apartments are targeted specifically.

In fact, the local news did a report on how many apartment complexes in the UCF area have experienced these types of burglaries time and time again, with the apartment complexes refusing to do anything about it (install more lights, security alarms in apartments, gates at the front, etc.)

The dishwasher blade breaks in half, destroying one of my bowls.

Maintenance comes out and fixes the blade. The noise is gone. Finally, I can watch TV or study in the living room and have the dish washer going. At this point, it’s been over 12 months since my original work order for the dish washer. It’s about damn time. And if I wasn’t so burnt out from all of these issues, I would have asked them to cover the cost of my bowl. I wonder if they would have….no.

Another attempted break-in, this time the door was locked.

One day, my key won’t go in the lock. On a close look at the deadbolt, it’s clear that it’s been tampered with. I give my key a good push and it finally goes in and with some force, I manage to open the door. When I told the office, they explained to me that it’s most likely due to the rain. Apparently, when it rains, the locks get a little dry (I swear this was what they told me) and it’s hard to put your key in. So, I had to deal with it. After a few days, the keys fit back into the lock pretty normally, but it was still difficult to put the key in each time for the remainder of my time in that apartment.

A month before I leave The Village forever, the air conditioner stops working again.

Of course maintenance came out and fixed it. They always do. And within a few weeks to a few months, it’s broken again. I feel sorry for the poor soul that lives in that apartment next year. But I’m more happy than sad, really. Because after two years…

I moved out of The Village.

I’m now in a non-student affiliated apartment complex. The office staff is professional and experienced. The General Manager has been there for over 15 years. I can’t tell you if the maintenance guys are good around here because since I’ve moved in, nothing has broken. And as opposed to the $470 something it cost me to move in to The Village, all the move-in fees added up to only $99 where I am now. Student-affiliated apartments don’t have real “move-in specials.”

But don’t just take my word on The Village. How about you read some other reviews?

In fact, how about you read a positive review of The Village?

I’ve lived here for about 6 months and am very pleased!! It is a little pricy, but I think it is definitely worth the money! You have trash pick-up, free tanning (and a super nice tanning facility), friendly staff, everyone gets their own bathroom/bedroom, and there is usually a cop at the front entrance. My only complaint is the noise.. It’s all college students, so I always here people partying at night. I am moving out in August because I want to live somewhere not college affiliated. If you don’t mind paying a little more or having people partying around you, I would say live here! =)

Everyone gets their own bedroom? Thank God. Good luck finding another place that does that…?

Trash pick-up? Yes, between the hours of 9AM and noon you can put your trash out. God forbid it’s not a black bag, though. My apartment was fined for using white draw-string bags. Oh yeah, and sometimes they just don’t pick up your garbage.

I don’t think I need to say much more, but her “positive” review pretty much sums up why you shouldn’t live here (unless, of course, you want free tanning and a super nice tanning facility ohmygodliketotally).

Here’s another review:

When you read about The Village at Science Drive and visit Science Drive, it seems amazing. Until you unlock your door that first day.. (oh wait, you can’t, wrong lock and key! wait 2 hours in the office for them to fix it) you walk in and you see your zebra print couches. My real complaint is how they will suck your money away from you. $200 charge for the “missing mattress” which maintenance had taken out because I brought my own mattress! SEVEN DOLLARS TO REPLACE A LIGHT BULB (that was working when I shut the door and left!). One of the community assistants with long blonde hair has perhaps the emptiest head and doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t know how to answer questions. Very snappy, very trite unpleasant little girl. Needs a good slap in the face. Some people are allowed to have dogs, while others aren’t. One time my first year I made a dolphin noise and the next morning my three roommates and I woke up to 4 letters in our mailbox accusing us of having an animal (because someone ‘heard’ an animal)..$250 dollars per roommate. Trash is supposed to be picked up everyday, but if the trash people don’t come by 5 the management is sure to nail you with putting trash out AFTER it was picked up (even though trash never came). ALSO!! when I renewed I receive the ‘renewal special’..they RAISED my rent 5 dollars! I spoke with them about it and said that WAS the renewal special. AW THANK YOU!!

I’m looking at Apartment Ratings right now (where you can read this article). The reviews go on, and on, and on, some including blood stains on the walls, puke encrusted on the couches, and some carpets being so dirty that residents had had to wear shoes until it was cleaned.

No matter where you live you’re going to have problems. But no one deserves to have as many problems as The Village has to offer. And I’m of course not recommending that you move into some of the slummier places like Pegasus Point or Pegasus Landing. If you’re a college student, or a parent of a college student, and don’t want to stay on campus, my advice is to check into some non-student affiliated housing. Money-wise, it’s a whole lot cheaper. Frustration-wise, it’s a whole lot easier. And trust me, you’ll be a whole lot happier.

I know I am.