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Column: Landlords are full of empty promises, here's what to avoid

September 5, 2019

The satisfaction of having your own place cannot be conquered. It's a marvelous step toward "real" adulthood.

A moment of euphoria nearly overwhelms you as you stand in the parking lot, smiling and waving as the person who dropped you off or heped you move into your new place drives away. Whether this place is a house with your best friends, cooperative housing with 20-plus strangers or a studio apartment — the freedom that comes with decorating your own space, buying your own groceries and making your own decisions is unmatched.

While all of this seems wonderful in theory, there are some concerns people living off campus for the first time should have.

For example, what is often disregarded is the total control landlords have over your life for the next year. People don’t tell you about landlords’ money-hungry souls and empty promises. The $800 security deposit pried from your hands months before your move-in date will not be returned. The extra, hidden fees for possessing things you need will continue to swell. Oh, and if you want to house a pet, expect to pay at least another $200 upfront — plus a series of monthly payments. Landlords will find any and every way to continue to pull money out of your wallet.

Now, a greedy company taking advantage of your naivety in order to fuel the poorly structured economical machine is expected if you’re renting in a college town. But to intentionally extract every last cent a broke college student — who may be working more than one job on top of taking at least 12 credit hours and participating in extracurriculars — has is despicable.

The probability of moving into a house that isn’t well-kept, doesn’t have any amenities and has dozens of terms and conditions — while still paying hundreds upon hundreds of dollars monthly — is high. However, this isn’t a problem that only plagues East Lansing, but all college towns. 

On top of stealing money from 20-year-olds, these landlords are often dishonest and leave projects unfinished.

When moving into a new place, there may need to be some — or many — improvements. But I promise you, when your landlord says he or she will be around to fix your dryer or repaint your kitchen or repair the cabinet door that will not stay closed no matter how hard you slam it shut — they won’t be visiting you for awhile. Unless you’re late on your rent payment, of course. 

If you’re planning on living off campus, thoroughly read the contract handed to you. If you don’t understand the fine print the first time, read it again, ask questions or have a friend or family member you trust discuss it with you.

Sometimes, conditions can be worded in a way that purposely makes them difficult to understand. Another thing you should do is take pictures or videos of your house or apartment the moment you move in. When you end your rental, you’ll have proof that you’ve left your place in the same condition it was in when you arrived because our phones timestamp images. 

What can be done to fix this dilemma? As college students, there isn’t much we can do. It isn’t as simple as banding together and protesting against living off campus.

The university does not have enough housing for every student, and landlords would just find other tenants to reserve your space. We have to look at the bigger picture. Cities, especially cities with universities minutes away, need to regulate housing conditions. 

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