Are slumlords controlling off-campus housing for Cabrini students? A large portion, of Cabrini students, 54%, live off campus, and often they choose to call Conshohocken home. However, living off-campus comes with a price, and the biggest is dealing with landlords.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a slumlord is a landlord who receives unusually large profits from substandard, poorly maintained properties.
Graduate student Bridget O’Neill has had one heck of an experience dealing with these so-called “slumlords.”
“He would come in without any notice, ignore messages to fix things and would even try and gaslight us saying everything was our fault,” O’Neill said.
Senior psychology major Andrea Pezick experienced similar issues.
“It seems like we are convincing him when we reach out to him with a problem, even though he rented us this house with pre-existing issues and it is his job to fix them for us,” Pezick said.
This is Pezick’s second landlord, but he is making her living situation far more difficult than she experienced in her last home. In her last home, she did not have to worry about communication between her and her landlord.
“The one before was good. He checked on us monthly to make sure everything was going smoothly. And when we had a problem, [he] immediately responded and was super helpful. But this [landlord] avoids responsibility and makes us figure out our own issues,” Pezick said.
Communication is key
Both O’Neill and Pezick had similar struggles in trying to get their landlords not only to communicate with them but also to do their job: keep the property safe and up to code. O’Neill’s last house in Conshohocken was missing an outdoor railing and had a broken step. Even worse, the week she was moving out, she found contractors in her bedroom knocking down the wall without any prior notice.
“He had the audacity to say we would not get our security deposit back because the bedrooms were dusty, when he had men in my room knocking down my bedroom wall,” O’Neill fumed.
What to know now
The struggles of finding off-campus housing can be extremely difficult for most students. However, knowing what to look out for can help make this experience easier and stress-free.
Cabrini is located in a pricey area, especially for struggling college students. This leads many students to look to the neighboring borough of Conshohocken for housing. And yet, Conshohocken is also on the rise, so finding affordable housing there is now more of an issue than ever before.
College housing usually means cheap, and cheap housing can come at a price. That price is often the difference between a good and bad landlord.
Attorney Frank Correll of Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP said, “There are numerous statutes and laws that are set up to help protect a renter from unscrupulous landlords. If you think about it, landlords are in the business of renting real estate for the most amount of money possible. Some may not want to do necessary repairs etc. Knowing your rights helps to insure that you have a safe, secure rental unit that has the proper utilities, etc., since that is what you bargain for when you sign a lease.”
It is important to do some research before signing a lease. Ask lots of questions, talk to prior tenants, and most important, read leases carefully. It is important to know that even if every rule is followed, some landlords may still try to violate a lease. Make sure to know your rights and their rules. Also, learn what a landlord can and cannot do.
No warning, no landlord
Graduate student Madison Rooney said, “My landlord only gives a 10-minute warning before coming over.” Her lease states the landlord must give at least 24 hours notice before entering.
O’Neill’s landlord entered without giving any notice at all.
“One time I was spooked when I heard the front door close and footsteps,” She said. It turned out to be her landlord sneaking in thinking no one was home.
It is important to read your lease, keep it close, and know these specifics and others before it is too late. As a last resort, don’t be afraid to ask an expert for advice.
“Be aware that various states and locales have different rules and rights so make sure you understand the rights available in the locale where you are renting,” Correll said.
Tips from an attorney
It is always important to investigate before you jump right into a new lease. Here are some tips from an attorney:
- Read the proposed lease.
- Notice whether or not the place is well maintained.
- Take photos of anything that is not working when you move in.
- Make sure to always communicate in writing to create a paper trail.
The bottom line is, if the landlord or property conditions give you any concerns, take a pass and move on to the next opportunity.