Apartment complexes too often take advantage of college studentsBy Alex Morris | 10/21/2014 11:33pm
Everyone deserves to live somewhere that makes them feel comfortable, offers maintenance solutions in a timely fashion, maintains a clean living environment, values security of residents, honors legal obligations and contracts and places value in honesty. Based on my past experiences and those of many others, I can safely argue that not one apartment lives up to none of the aforementioned standards. In my time there, the management attempted to evict me when they could not find my rent payment (later found on the manager’s desk), neglected to enforce our rent contract by allowing one of my roommates to have pets (which were explicitly prohibited in our lease), dismissed resident safety by allowing a leaking motorcycle to be parked next to a building (issue was not addressed for four weeks) and charged my entire building a large fee when trash was left in the area management had specifically designated for trash pick-up. I’m positive I could fill a small novel with my list of comically awful experiences. I say all of this for two reasons, and no, neither reason is to evoke pity or to vent about my past situation.
No student needs to live in such a toxic environment. It seemed each month brought its own new issue to deal with and forced me to make several trips to the leasing office, threaten legal action, meet directly with the property manager, etc. By November, I dealt with four major issues (only one resolved), proving a major distraction to my studies.
I advise students to research more than just the price when deciding where to call home for the next ten to twelve months. Sure, the price and amenities look tantalizing at first. But dig deeper – you get what you pay for. With Tuscaloosa’s current student housing boom, students must stop and consider what they’re paying for. It’s safe to say almost everyone has witnessed at least one apartment complex break ground, build, landscape and start filling bedrooms in the amount of time it (usually) takes Nick Saban to win a national championship. Developers have found a market that allows them to build low-quality housing from inexpensive building materials and charge naïve customers an inflated rent to yield large, easy profit. While a student may have found a seemingly nice place to live, they have actually entered into a deal where they overpay for the space rented and inevitably suffer from poorly designed infrastructure, incompetent office staff, underequipped maintenance personnel, or a combination of these factors. All of this is in addition to the multitude of building codes that are likely overlooked (or at best sadly implemented) for the sake of meeting the August move in deadline. Lay this on top of a student’s already busy schedule and natural struggles learning to be independent away from home, and you have a series of unfortunate events waiting to unfold.
The bottom line is simple: Apartment complexes have figured out how to attract college students with their advertising and amenities, while snaring them into a money trap. This is a trap many young, naïve college students don’t know how to navigate, thus they end up paying hundreds of unnecessary dollars to cover up. If my experiences happened to me and at least five other students in the last two years, what else has been happening? What have apartment complexes gotten away with because the students weren’t proactive or just didn’t know how to fight?
Alex Morris is a senior studying french horn performance and biology.