Steps to better and safer off-campus living

By Sarah Sterzinger

Griffin Reporter

USA and its subdivision Student Interests Committee held a seminar on Monday about off-campus student housing. This seminar brought to light the reality of what it is like to buy a house around the Canisius College campus. The Student Interests Committee and its chair, Amelia Greenan ‘18, have begun this project in the hope to protect Canisius students from making unwise choices.

Amelia Greenan spoke to The Griffin and explained the drive for having an off-campus housing information push.

“When you figure out any kind of Landlord contract,” said Greenan, “it’s usually because you talk to friends, or by word of mouth,[…] you really don’t have anyone to go to [for information on how to get a house off campus]. Our vision with the info session was to be that peer-to-peer [connection] in an organized session, so they have someone to come to.”

Greenan went on to explain her vision for this project, which she has based off of University at Buffalo’s Off Campus housing system.

“We are developing a Landlord directory that will eventually contain what properties the Landlord owns, as well as the amenities of the properties. We currently have about 15-20 landlord contracts.”

While some may see this number as small, Greenan ensures that landlords typically have more than one property for sale, so the list of availability is larger than the 15-20 number implies. Once the project gets a little more off the ground, the Student Interest Committee hopes to have a review system of landlords in place, comparable to the site RateMyProfessor.com, except for the ratings would be for landlords.  Student Interest committee understands that people hope their landlord is trustworthy, however, they also realize that some have proven undependable.

Some landlords reap the benefits of unknowing college students buying their first home. That was the case with Canisius College student Brannon Jones and his housemates. According to Jones, he was renting a house on Hedley last year when his landlord started becoming more and more unorganized with payments and claiming that Jones was behind on his payments.

“The checks would go uncashed for sometimes even four weeks,” Jones said. “She just kept losing track of when we paid her. It was very difficult to get refund checks from her as well.”

Jones’s landlord also was reluctant to do work on the house that was often important to the safety of the housemates, Jones claimed.

“There was mold in the basement that we brought to her attention many times,” said Jones.  “We really had to nag her about things, important things like a deadbolt on the front door.”

The landlord, Jones claimed, would also charge for services the housemates had offered to take up, such as cleaning.

“When we had gotten to there,” said Jones, “the place was a mess; trash was everywhere. It clearly hadn’t been cleaned from last year. We offered to clean it for her to save time and money. She agreed and gave us a refund check for the service. At the end of the year though, she charged us for the cleaning.”

Due to students not keeping strict records of payments, things such as this are, unfortunately, a common occurrence amongst college students. Landlords are capable of overcharging students by hundreds of dollars. Greenan advises students to stay safe and attentive.

“We want this to eventually move to Administrative levels of operation,” said Greenan.  “When things go wrong, people need to know what to do.”

Greenan suggests that students should know their rights as a tenant, start early in their housing search, and stay connected with USA if and or when issues arise. Experienced housing resident Brannon Jones suggests meeting your landlord in advance. Until the directory and review system is fully launched, students must trust word of mouth from other students. Brannon stresses to trust your instincts and keep a care eye on contracts you sign and payments you make.

USA has been working on a landlord directory for over a year now, and it is promising to finally see some progress.  However, the directory is not finished and students should continue following the progress of the directory and hold the Student Interest Committee accountable through the completion of the directory and beyond.  It is good to see Senate taking on important issues, but as always, the sluggishness of progress demands a closer examination of the overall bureaucracy of the School.

If any you have any Off-Campus housing questions or comments, email USA Student Interest Committee at student@canisius.edu. For a copy of your legal rights as a tenant, visit www.city-buffalo.com.

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