October 11, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Tenant rights ‘off the campus grid’

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To the Editor:Re: “Get Off the Campus Grid,” Opinion, Sept. 29

Not having quiet hours is great; so is watching “the skank parade” Thursday nights and decorating your house with origami pterodactyls. But is this all worth it if you’re living in a sad, crooked, non-ventilated, insect-infested dump?No, I’m not talking about the slums in some developing countries — although the parallels are pretty uncanny, more about that later — I’m talking about the majority of houses that populate our beloved Collegetown. Sure, you can equate moving into Collegetown and getting a small taste of freedom to one of the big milestones in your burgeoning adult life, but how are you going to transfer the skills you learn from surviving in sordid conditions and dealing with non-responsive landlords to the real world?I don’t think I’ve met any Collegetown residents who are enthusiastic about their living conditions. If they have anything good to say about it, they either live beyond Eddy St. or pay an extraordinary amount. The average rent in Collegetown was around $968 in 2009. If a landlord is charging everyone that amount in a 14 bedroom apartment, and owns three consecutive houses that are about the same size, that’s an approximate income of $40,656 a month. In a year, they earn around $488,000. Subtract some property taxes and maintenance fees and you’re still at a comfortable $450,000 a year. With that kind of money, why can’t they come fix my bathroom? Why can’t they fix the drainage upstairs so my living room ceiling doesn’t drip brown water? Why can’t they hire a cleaning company to do a full sweep of the house before we move in? Why can’t they get rid of the skunk that’s living under my porch?These are real conditions that I have to deal with on a daily basis. I love living off-campus with my housemates, but I did not anticipate dealing with all these issues when I signed my lease. At least when you signed the lease with on-campus housing, you did not have to think twice about whether the heater would turn on before Winter Break. A friend told me that they had bats living in their living room, and when they notified the landlord, he came around with gloves and a garbage bag, and proceeded to pick them one by one like apples in an orchard. Another told me about a hole in the ceiling that gave you a great view of the night sky. My neighbor didn’t have a functioning lock on the front door for at least a month.Why do we have to put up with all of this? With the amount of workload and extracurricular activities we have already, coming back to a dilapidated, problem-ridden home is the last thing we want. I am certain that I am not alone in how I feel about these sub-par Collegetown apartments and homes. Students need to realize that we have tenant rights and that the Off-Campus Housing Office is a great resource. I urge whoever feels the same way to speak up, and bring awareness to how Cornell students truly live.

Siobhan Lee ’12