Living off-campus houses a new set of problems

By on April 3, 2013

By Dakota Neff–

U of L housing provides desks and study rooms for students as opportunities for quiet study and work.

At this point in the semester, you may be deliberating moving off campus. With decent neighborhoods on more than one side of campus; you may consider a renovated loft in Old Louisville, a budget-friendly shotgun house in St. Joseph, or even a cool Downtown studio. After all, the dorms are unjustifiably expensive for half a bedroom and a communal restroom. But before you take the big leap of moving out of a university affiliated property, I ask you to consider a few things as I share lessons from my housing adventure with you.

Roommates. For some of us this word may denote friendship and fun times; for others, the feeling isn’t as peachy. I moved off campus in August, the beginning of my sophomore year. I’ve been through three apartments since that point; mostly due to irreconcilable differences with roommates.

I’d like to rehash one of these experiences in particular.

I was overwhelmed with the magnificent architecture in Old Louisville, and could not wait to find an apartment in one of those grand, stately mansions. I stumbled upon a room for rent in a large home, only two blocks from campus. During my initial meeting with the landlord, I was a little taken aback. Sure, the home was gorgeous from the outside, but that wasn’t enough to detract from the filthy kitchen, the moldy ceiling tiles, and the putrid odor of the place. The landlord was pressing me for a snappy decision. I began weighing options in my head, “This place is insanely cheap. Yeah, it’s not too pretty at the moment, but maybe with a little T.L.C., I can turn it into a cool place.”

So the handshake was made and the binding legal contract was signed. The landlord assured me that he only allowed motivated University of Louisville students to live in this space. I was excited to meet my roommates, who were supposedly hardworking graduate students. And I was more than ready to get this place cleaned up and make it into a home. Come to discover, one of my roommates was a 40 year old man, who I assume had no job.

Imagine the most nightmarish roommate you can fathom, and multiply that by 1,000. This man would wait outside my door for me to leave for class in the mornings. As soon as I could muster the courage to break through the door, I would be attacked with a barrage of comments and stories. I would just stand there, no response to his conversation, yet he would somehow manage to speak to me for what seemed like hours. My apartment turned into a prison.

If you do have the roommate issue solved, I advise you to take into account a few other things. You may discover things about your new apartment that you didn’t notice upon first inspection. Leaky plumbing, broken faucets, intrusive neighbors, and dirty little rodents. Landlords are expected to fix these problems. They are expected to. Sometimes they won’t. These profit-driven individuals have purchased large homes in Old Louisville, sectioned them off in order to cram as many tenants as they can in one building, and charge as much as possible for a living space they refuse to maintain. These people don’t care about their tenants, they care about the money they are being handed by their tenants. I assume not all landlords behave in this manner, though I’ve yet to run into one who cares about my personal well-being.

Let’s discuss leases. Leases are binding. I’m talking like a noose around your neck, hanging from the gallows binding. When these leases are broken, there are consequences. When you come upon a terrible situation, you cannot request a different roommate or ask to transfer buildings, like on campus. If the situation is serious enough, you may have to move out, and you will likely lose a lot of money in the process. I happened upon one such situation when I developed breathing problems due to mold and allergens in my apartment. I told my landlord I would have to move if this issue was not resolved. The landlord refused to contact me after several weeks; forcing me to move out of the unit, while he pocketed my initial deposit and several months of rent I had paid in advance.

I’m not saying moving off campus is always a bad idea, but I do invite you to take a second look at the benefits of living on campus before a hasty decision is made. Living on campus will help you succeed; plain and simple. Universities want students to live on campus, and I know UofL is no different. After all, retention rates and grades are much higher, on average, for students living on campus. If you do decide to make the big move, please learn from my mistakes and contemplate the following points:

Make sure you inspect your new place thoroughly before deciding to sign a lease.

Make sure you will be comfortable with your roommate situation.

Bad landlords will take advantage of you. Be smart and know your rights as a tenant.

Consider hidden costs and bills. Not all apartments include electricity, utilities, and/or internet access.

Failing to do these things can cause you a lot of unnecessary stress, and affect your life in a very negative way. We’re most all college students; we don’t need any added stress in our lives. Your living quarters should promote relaxation and peace. Your home should be conducive to success in all aspects of your life. Stay safe, stay healthy, and good luck finding a great place to live!

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Photo by Tyler Mercer/The Louisville Cardinal

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