Living off campus requires foresight
Every year there are students who find themselves in undesirable off-campus housing conditions. Their problems range from disputes among roommates to landlord complications and health or safety violations. Their situations are often a result of poor planning, rushing to sign a lease or waiting too long to scout a location.
When I signed the lease to my apartment, I wasn’t sure if I had been trying to impress my mother or assure myself that I had made the right decision. ‘Mom, you’ll love this place,’ I said. ‘It has four bathrooms, three kitchens, and it’s only $330 a month – utilities are included.’
The truth was that I had signed on to live in a boarding house, my room was the size of a walk in closet and the fact the back door never locked worried me.
I had picked a hole in the wall because it was one of the last cheap housing quarters available and because of its close proximity to my former job. I overlooked the fact that the sprinklers were rusted and that the basement reminded me of ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ There was a nauseating ever-present curry smell. I showered with ants, woke up to bats in the hallway and I’d seen the same scum-line in the tub throughout the month I’d lived there. I grew jealous of on-campus residents and their daily-sanitized residence halls. I’d chosen the apartment for all the wrong reasons, and I’d waited too long to find housing that fit my expectations.
‘Living off campus is a positive experience, but you need to be ready for it,’ said Darya Rotblat, assistant director of Off-Campus Student Services. One of the biggest mistakes students make is that they rush into signing the lease, she said.
Until this summer I hadn’t realized just how I’d compromised comfort for cost. The final straw came the evening I was unpacking my car after a trip to the mall. The house’s handyman was sitting in his car with the lights turned off, watching my every move. In the days that followed he was shuffling in the hall listening to my conversations. He keyed into my room while I was sleeping, and anything with my handwriting had been ripped up and strewn outside my door. Rusting sprinklers are one thing, but my immediate safety had been threatened.
‘The quality of your landlord and apartment can impact your whole school experience,’ said Joe Everson, property manager for Ben Tupper Management.
That’s exactly why I worked with SU Legal Services to void my contract. While there I met countless students in similar situations. One student had moved in to find she had signed a lease to the wrong apartment. She and her roommates were living in an apartment in the projects that had no water, electricity or gas.
Thankfully I was able to cancel my contract and move elsewhere, but there are many students who aren’t so lucky. Finding the right housing is simply a matter of being proactive and thorough.
Lindsay Pasarin is a senior women’s studies, sociology, magazine journalism and photo illustration major whose columns appear biweekly in The Daily Orange. Email her at email@example.com.
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