December 5, 2021

Fraternity has until Monday to move

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Kappa Sigma fraternity has been renting space in the historic home at 39 Tompkins St., pictured above, for more than six years. The fraternity is being evicted after the landlord took members to court for damage that occurred at the structure.

Fifteen fraternity brothers remaining at Kappa Sigma on Tompkins Street must leave the house by Monday, under an eviction notice they’ve been served, unless they get a stay of eviction to let them remain until finals finish May 12.

Landlord Nancy Medsker says the problem stems back to last spring when she said the fraternity causes more than $10,000 worth of damage to the house at 39 Tompkins St. when she says they got mad because they found out she intended to rent the house to the sorority Alpha Phi this fall.

The problems with the fraternity were ongoing, said Medsker, who issued a lease termination notice Jan. 15 because of the damage to the house — which now tops $40,000 — and partying that she said was not allowed on certain floors of the building. The court process dragged on, with weather and other interruptions, so Wednesday’s eviction notice was the final outcome, she said.

Fraternity brothers declined to comment publicly Thursday.

According to a Jan. 2 estimate, broken floor joints and custom panel work totaled more than $23,700. Medsker said she discovered additional damage since then and said the 129-year-old building requires expensive, customized repairs.

However, the students’ attorney, Ron Walsh, said the matter is really about greed, disputing $5,400 in attorney fees Medsker imposed on the fraternity. Medsker said she had to pay attorneys about $300 for each of the 18 eviction notices, and now because of the process dragging on, instead of each tenant having to pay $300 in attorney fees it will be closer to $1,000.

Walsh said the eviction will cause the fraternity irreparable harm.

“This is probably the most academically demanding time of year for students as finals are approaching,” he said. “So in addition to having to deal with finals, they are going to have to deal with finding … any place to live and at this point in the season the options are limited.”

But Medsker says the fraternity has known this was coming a long time and she even offered to help find them housing through other landlords.

“It cost me a lot of money and a lot of stress,” Medsker said. “If this makes kids know they can’t get away with this amount of damage then it’s good.”

Walsh says Medsker never took up the fraternity’s offer to set aside funds in escrow to cover any damages, instead just wanting to get the frat out. Medsker said she wanted the fraternity out before it further damaged her house.

Sandra Wohlleber, associate director of campus activities and Greek affairs at SUNY Cortland, said the college does not get involved with landlord-tenant disputes but has offered assistance.

“The college has, in fact, provided the residents of that location with possibilities of housing that they can look into,” she said, including both on- and off-campus options.

“The ultimate choices of what each tenant decides to do is completely up to that tenant,” she said.

Medsker said she never had a problem with the fraternity in the five years she rented to it, until now.

“I’ve been renting to that frat for five years and maybe they had gatherings but they were responsible and the house was cleaned up,” she said. “The guys who lived there the prior five years did not treat the house like this. The brothers living there before respected me and they respected the property.”