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Summer was over and school was beginning again. It was sophomore year and I had just moved into my first off-campus house. I finally felt like an adult. My own house with no one telling me what to do.
I thought I was so mature and knew everything I needed to know about renting my own home. As I’m sure you can guess, that was, in fact, not the case.
Before this story begins, a little backstory about the house. It was built in the 1950's and had little to no insulation. The windows didn’t actually seal, but were instead pieces of wood with a pane of glass in the center that slid by one another when the window was opened or closed. To top it all off, there were no screens to be found on any of the windows.
After showering in my new home, I noticed a box elder beetle on the bathroom mirror. Knowing nothing about it at the time, I simply squished the bug and threw it away. This was my first mistake. Later that day, I noticed three of these bugs now in the bathroom. Irritated, I squished the trio and went on with my day.
I’m sure you can tell where this is about to go.
Within two days, there were easily 40 bugs in the bathroom. They were pouring in through the edges of the bathroom window. Even with the window completely closed, the cracks in the wood frame gave these box elder beetles a highway into our home.
As this became a serious problem, my roommates and I called our landlord to submit a request for an exterminator. While we waited three days for someone to come out, we tried all the tricks on the internet to get these bugs out of our home. This was also the point at which we learned to never squish these bugs.
Three days later, the exterminator shows up, sprays down the entire back side of the house and tells us that the problem was all fixed. Nope, it was not.
Two weeks later, the beetles were back, crawling in through every little crack in the window. Once again a call was made to our landlord, and once again the exterminator came and the bugs actually stayed away. By this time, though, fall had settled in and the air was staying cool during the day. I still have a theory that the cold was what kept the box elder bugs away from my hospitable bathroom that winter especially since, once summer came around again, the infestation revived.
The houses in many college towns are older homes and/or homes that don't receive a lot of upkeep. I believe this is solely because the owners of the homes know college students don’t typically know what landlords should be doing for them, and the landlords may not want to bother maintaining a house that they believe will get destroyed anyways. They do, however, take huge security deposits.
I’ve also observed that with this house and a few others, private owners may not always be the best way to go (although really big and impersonal property management companies have their own drawbacks). When you have a privately owned house, the benefits of lower price or more open communication may seem appealing, but that private owner may want to spend as little as possible to keep the property “livable.”
A home owned by a property management company will most likely go through a thorough inspection before tenants move in and be updated and renovated if necessary, but a privately owned home may not be held to the same standards. A private owner, for example, may not replace the windows in order to keep bugs out because that would be too expensive, so instead they’ll leave the problem until it becomes an infestation and then pay to hire an exterminator twice.
When your student is looking for an off-campus home, have them find out as many details as possible about the house or apartment and share the information with you. They may fight you on it and say small details don’t matter (I say that from personal experience), but the more you know about the home they're considering the better, because you know what to look for.
Be sure to read the other installments of Student Housing Horror Stories!
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