Tuesday 20 August 2019

J1 student house damaged when party 'got out of control'

Sarah Stack

A J1 student accused of being in the San Francisco property when it was thrashed said the damage was caused when a party “got out of control”.

The university student apologised to landlady Ritu Vohra and offered to pay for damages to her home in the Sunset District.

Ritu Vohra said “tens of thousands” of dollars worth of damage was caused to her home while it was rented out to seven Irish students for the summer.

But it has emerged up to 14 people - whose identities are known - were living at her home to cover the €5,000 a month rent.

Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer
Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer

“I would like to sincerely apologise for what happened with the house,” one of the young men wrote in an email seen by independent.ie.

“We are willing to pay for the damages caused as it was our responsibility to look after the house.”

The young man told Ms Vohra that a few days before he was due to go back to Ireland, he went out to a nightclub and brought some Irish people, who invited more friends.

“It got out of hand and people began to wreck the house with one lad threatening us and swinging a golf club at the walls,” he continued.

“We should have never let these people into the house in the first place and we are very sorry for what happened. We tried finding out who they were the next day but when we failed to do so we panicked and we didn’t know what to do.”

Ms Vohra, who is five months pregnant, said there was so much noise from the property neighbours believed there was illegal building going on, and during a “spot check” the day before the lease was up she found “nothing intact”.

Windows and glass were smashed, doors, walls, bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, chandeliers and toilets were broke, and rubbish, used condoms, and dirty underwear thrown about. She also believes a golf club was used to knock holes through the walls.

The students told her via email that the majority of the renters had left the house with between two and four, whose names have been given, there when the incident happened.

Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer
Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer

The young man told the landlady they couldn’t afford to pay for the damages at the time and left the country as they didn’t know what to do.

“We apologise for what happened and we are sincerely sorry for the damages,” he wrote.

Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer
Damage caused to the rental home of Ritu Vohra in San Francisco, which she let to seven Irish J1 students over the summer

“We are not the type of people that they are making us out to be in the papers here and we hope that this issue can be resolved between us and not brought any further.

“We should have never brought the people back to the house that night and we just want to let you know that we are willing to fully cooperate with you to resolve all damages done to the house.”

Another university student whose name was on the original lease said he felt sick when he saw TV news reports covering the damage.

The teenager said he has proof he left the property a month before the incident and has been in touch with the Irish Consular in the city.

He maintains the first he knew about the property being wrecked was when news reports were circulated on social media over the weekend.

“I felt sick when I saw it,” he told independent.ie.

“We had a lot of good memories from that house. The group of us that had been there had great respect for the house.”

The student, who is now back in college, said they had been grateful to the landlady for renting the property to them at a reduced price and had a good relationship with her.

“When we left it was as nice as when we found it,” he added.

“It is quite a shock for the rest of the group to see the place ruined.”

Another said when he left the house with a female friend the house "was in good condition”.

“I am ashamed that it has come to this, I promise we will make every effort to amend this situation as soon as possible,” he wrote in an email to the landlady.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) condemned the incident.

“Reports of apparent destruction of property in the United States by people identified as Irish students have shocked us here,” said Laura Harmon, USI President.

“The incidents depicted are extremely out of the ordinary and seem to show a completely unacceptable disregard for property.

“The risk is that students who want to avail of the opportunities for travel to broaden their horizons could miss out on the chance as a result

“A tiny group of students, utterly unrepresentative of their peers, should not be able to taint the image of Irish students abroad.

“Clearly, whoever is responsible for the damage and destruction in this case should take responsibility for it and make amends.”

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