WEATHER »

School for Renters

Home Is Where the Roomate Is


Separate from the reams of paper printed for UCSB syllabi, biology textbooks, and dog-eared readers highlighted in shades of pink and yellow, there’s a different kind of learning going on in I.V.

In an office with a rosy-hued rug and cheery-looking art on the walls, Maya Salmon, the program coordinator for the Community Housing Office, coaches students through the delicate experience that is renting an apartment for the first time. “Living on your own is a definite learning process,” Salmon said. Many renters assume that most housing issues are rooted in conflicts with landlords or their property-management groups that represent them, but Salmon insisted that this is not the case.

Natalia Cohen
Click to enlarge photo

Natalia Cohen

“Most problems are with roommates,” Salmon said. “People choose bad roommates, and this leads to housing problems.” Even best friends don’t always make the best housemates. “People behave better with strangers,” Salmon said. “If there is a deep friendship, they might be less likely to speak up” about issues.

Having spent four years hearing friends and acquaintances complain about housemates, I second Salmon’s assertion. Rooming with a good friend is almost like choosing to move in with a significant other. A once-easygoing friendship can become strained.

Without separate home bases, there is no buffer-zone insulating friends from one anothers’ quirks. They may party more than you do. They may make elaborate dinners for themselves and wait five days to do the dishes. Or, they’re a neat-freak whereas you like a place to look lived-in, etcetera.

Moreover, the type of lease that many I.V. renters have—“joint and several”—renders each renter equally responsible for everything that goes on in the rental. “If you have a joint-and-several lease, it’s like you’re married to your roommates,” Salmon said. If one roommate, say, has a debauched evening, and the aftermath of the party ends up taking a chunk out of the security deposit, and they don’t pay up, then that person’s roommates are stuck with the bill.

Students’ transient lifestyles puts not only their friends but also housing providers in the position of having to deal with tenants who change residences often. “People move not only every year, but throughout the quarter,” Salmon said. “It’s hard for students to feel connected to their rental when they know they are not going to be there for very long, so they don’t take as good care of it.” Many seem to lack not only the motivation but also the know-how to take care of their new digs. “I meet with people who have never owed a vacuum,” Salmon said. “And they wonder why they get charged for a new carpet.”

That being said, there are still situations in which students can be ripped off. “When certain landlords don’t know or disregard the laws,” Salmon said, “a lot of it is that people just don’t remember. They don’t remember the condition [the rental] was in when they moved in.”

Salmon expressed disappointment in the way in which some housing providers treat their tenants. “Sometimes when students call them, nothing gets fixed, but when I call it changes things,” Salmon said. “I think the management companies are very busy, and [student renters are sometimes] not treated like adults who have signed a legally binding business contract.”

For the sake of clarity, here are Salmon’s top three things to keep in mind when renting in I.V.:

1.) Do a move-in, move-out video. “You need visual or written documentation,” Salmon said. “The best way to do that is the inventory and condition report. It’s a move in, move out video service that is severely underused. We [at the Community Housing Office] do the whole thing. It’s only $20 for each rental. That’s the best way to avoid deposit disputes — who can argue with a mutual third party and complete documentation?”

2.) Stay within your budget. Salmon mostly blames peer pressure for the problem of people overreaching their budget. She recalled a situation where each girl in a rental had to fork over $733 per month for rent, and one roommate hadn’t been paying. “The landlord isn’t going after just that girl [for the money], he’s going after all of them,” Salmon said. So make sure you can afford where you choose to live — even if your price range is different from what your roommates can afford to spend.

3.) Choose your roommates wisely. Take your time in deciding who will be your roommate. “There is no need to have a rental lease signed in December or January,” Salmon said. “It’s a rumor.

Related Links

event calendar sponsored by: