The giant cardboard video-camera contraption dwarfed the student inside as he positioned himself, strategically, between hundreds of bikes and the two towers of dorms that characterize many UCSB freshmen lives. The message was “Shoot It or Lose It!” and the companions of the human camera made the point clear as they distributed flyers, collected signatures, and displayed posters, all while jamming quick bits of advice into freshman brains-mostly aimed at protecting rookie renters from getting ripped off for their security deposits when they move into Isla Vista next year.
As fall quarter comes to its close, said freshmen face not only their first ever college finals, but also the pressure to settle living arrangements for the 2009-2010 school year. Most will live in I.V., where some landlords notoriously take advantage of unsuspecting students who have never rented independently and whose parents are not here to help them.
This is where Cory Tauber, the human camera, enters the picture, along with Gia Bandy, Jared Yocam, and John Cisek, as well as UCSB’s Community Housing Office (CHO). The four students comprise one of five groups in Professor Walid Afifi’s Interpersonal Communication Senior Capstone class at UCSB. “It’s like when you’re getting into a relationship,” said Tauber. “You’re not thinking about the long run.”
“The biggest danger,” said Yocam, clipboard in hand, “is the security deposit,” which according to the CHO is one of the top reasons students go to court. (Security deposits are usually about three times the monthly rental rate-up to $6,000 for students who live on the ocean.) Legally, students should get their security deposits back when they move out. But whether students damage the unit or not, the rental company can “take even more than what you put down as a security deposit based on the damages they assess,” said Bandy, holding a poster that explained everything.
That is, unless you have proof. The group of fourth-years encourages inexperienced freshmen to make records of their entire unit, documenting all imperfections, before they move in. Recording mold, mildew, water damage, and even pinholes in the wall can save students hundreds of dollars if landlords charge them for inflicting damages that previously existed.
According to Yocam’s spiel to the freshmen, the CHO provides a videotaping service. “They actually come videotape your house before and after to survey it for damages that aren’t yours,” said Yocam. “They even narrate, so if it’s ever shown in court they have not just visual proof but also like if it smells like mildew, it’s in the record.”
The service costs $20, unless you are one of 12 lucky winners of the raffle being conducted by the senior Communications majors. The CHO donated $240 worth of free video to be raffled off to this year’s freshmen. This $20 dollar insurance, if you will, is sometimes even provided by the rental management company. “They just want you to ask,” said Yocam.
Of the four students, two (Bandy and Tauber) have stayed away from living in Isla Vista entirely “due to the poor reviews and horror stories” they have heard from friends, said Bandy.
The “Shoot it or Lose it” campaigners kept at it for two days, November 16 and 17, appearing in popular spots on campus by day, and giving informative presentations in residence halls by night. On their first day alone, they received 250 signatures for their pledge and raffle and each presentation saw at least a 40 freshmen turn out.