Finding an appropriate living situation that best fits your needs is a dilemma that every student faces near the end of their freshman year. With a shortage in University dorms, it’s the norm for students to move into an apartment after their first year here. But what many students discover is that living on your own isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
In fact, it can be expensive, inconvenient and even unsafe.
“The house I lived in junior year had faulty wiring, holes in the walls, and it was dirty and just really hadn’t been updated in a while. It was over 100 years old, and you could really tell,” Hannah Bowles, a senior biology student says of her former residence on Willey Street.
Many students like Bowles are in the same situation, living in homes that they suspect could kill them. It seems as if in order to live downtown closer to classes, you give up your right to proper and safe shelter.
So why does this phenomenon happen mainly downtown? For one, landlords and rental companies know they have a demand for their apartments. (Mostly) everyone wants to live downtown, so they know they’ll have people wanting to rent from them. Therefore, they don’t feel the pressure to update their rentals. Regardless, students will still want to live there in order to be closer to campus and nightlife.
“It allows owners to make the most money possible because they don’t have to invest any back into the properties,” Bowles says, “It’s kind of a vicious cycle.”
Another factor in these unsafe living conditions is the city’s code enforcement (or lack thereof.) The City of Morgantown’s housing code was adopted in 1979, and it only requires that rental property be inspected once every three years. In a college community, three years is more than enough time for an apartment to rack up on damages and safety hazards.
On top of that, the code just isn’t strong enough for the environment these houses are in. In 2014, there were 208 code complaints. That year, only 13 houses in the city limits were condemned. For 10 of those houses, the condemnation was eventually lifted.
Under the outdated code, landlords can “quick-fix” the issue without solving the root of the problem in order to lift the citation or condemnation, and the house never truly gets updated.
“There definitely should be a higher standard of living. I find it hard to believe some of these houses pass inspections,” Bowles says.
While adequate (and safe) housing can be found downtown, be prepared to make some sacrifices. You could have to give up space, included parking, or extras like a dishwasher and washer and dryer. Or you could very well end up paying more than you want.
It’s also extremely important you do your research.
“You should always ask around for opinions on landlords or try to find previous tenants before you decide to rent. That way you know what you’re getting into,” Bowles advises.
Are you living in an apartment you think could possibly kill you? Submit a complaint here.