College students are quite possibly some of the most stressful tenants a landlord could imagine. We’re messy, we’re loud and for the most part, we’re completely broke. College houses — minus the Greek mansions that mimic the style of old southern plantation houses — are sort of disgusting. The paint is peeling, porches sag, lights are missing and there’s generally an air of must and old beer permeating the premises.
Regardless of the condition the houses or apartments are in, landlords retain the ability to charge exorbitant amounts of money for rent because students need somewhere to live in a very particular area around campus. Landlords often require security deposits equaling about a month’s rent at signing that, theoretically, will be refunded once your lease is up and the house is found to be in a relatively decent state.
New tenants, however, should not be punished for the uncleanliness of those who lived in the apartment prior to them. Considering the move-out date for most renters is just a few days prior to the move-in date for the new tenants, landlords and cleaning companies are given a marginal amount of time to make any bigger fixes to any damage.
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Thankfully for my roommates and I, our house was in decent shape when we moved in, especially considering we moved in just a day after the old tenants moved out. With this said, paint was peeling, both the refrigerator and dishwasher left puddles on the kitchen floor anytime either one was used, blinds were missing from multiple windows, lights didn’t work or didn’t have covers.
More problematic were the missing lock on a window, doors being unable to close and the Mt. Everest of trash piled in front of our porch, a sort of housewarming gift from the past tenants.
Landlords and management companies should not be allowed to get away with both overcharging for properties and not at least making an effort to properly clean and repair them before students move in.
It should not take an entire house of four apartments numerous phone calls ranging from passive aggressive to full on complaints about trash to get it taken away more than a week late.
More pressing, however, is the fact that these landlords and management companies can get away with leasing decrepit apartments to students because otherwise we have nowhere to live.
University housing doesn’t have nearly enough rooms to accommodate the 31,000 undergraduate students, in fact, only around 7,400 of them are in university housing. The alternative to student housing is one of two things: A $1,000/month apartment in the likes of The James or The Hub, or a still over-priced but much less so apartment at a smaller complex, or in a house.
Props to whoever’s parents can afford a $1,000/month rent bill, or to whatever student who somehow is just not nearly as broke as the rest of us and is paying that type of rent out of their own pocket. But for a large portion of students, that’s just not a feasible sum.
So we’re left with one choice: Off-campus housing that ranges from semi-decent to approaching squalor, depending on if the company in charge of the housing has enough motivation to keep their properties from completely disintegrating into disrepair.
Having one realistic choice is not a great thing to begin with. Add in the factors of distance from campus, relative cleanliness of the apartment, size, price and unresponsive landlords, and that one choice gets infinitely more difficult to deal with.
Management companies and landlords understand their power in the student housing market, and have used this power to justify the state of some of the properties available to students by “lowering” already high prices or by slapping a fresh coat of paint on the walls and hoping students and their parents overlook the leaking appliances and flickering lights.
College is expensive and semi-gross enough as is (think of all of the subpar beer and ramen noodles you’ve consumed thus far in your college career if you need a reminder as to why college is disgusting). We certainly don’t need landlords jacking prices up on houses and then not keeping them in a condition most people deem livable.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.