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By: Jennifer La Grassa
Searching for a decent student house to live in within the McMaster area is like searching for a needle in a haystack — you’ll simply never find it, or by the time you do it turns out that the needle belongs to someone else. Most of the student-rented houses in Hamilton have unmaintained, cookie cutter interiors that attempt to cram eight to ten students in what should comfortably fit four people at most. A prominent issue among most of the student-rented houses is that they’re old and poorly maintained. Most of them seem just about ready to collapse in on themselves and appear more run-down than they should. As a landlord, if you don’t have the money or the time to upkeep the houses that you rent, then you shouldn’t be in the business. Being a post-secondary student that lives away from home is stressful enough, let alone having to live in a house that feels like the farthest thing from a “home.”
If health and safety officials were to actually take the time to inspect all the houses that students are presented to live in, the majority of them would have to undergo serious renovations. Safety features such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a ventilation fan above the stove, and proper locks on the front door are rare to come across. Another alarming commonality among houses are those whose front and back doors open up into a bedroom. Tenants shouldn’t fall asleep at night fearing that someone will knock on their front door or break into their bedroom. As for basement rooms, if there isn’t a standardized window and properly insulated walls, no human being should be expected to actually rent it. I realize the goal of a landlord may simply be to maximize their profit, but they need to stop building bedrooms out of living spaces.
During my house-hunting adventures at the beginning of this year, landlords kept insisting that their house would “go fast” and attempted to rush my housemates and me into a decision. If it’s three weeks into the New Year and your house is still on the market, then it clearly hasn’t gone fast and in that case others might be seeing an issue that we have overlooked. Another landlord requested that we make her “an offer” on the rent of the house. Remarks such as these that make me feel like landlords believe they can take advantage of students by making them bargain for the rental of a subpar house.
Just because we’re students doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve a decent place to live in. I strongly feel that if funds were available, the McMaster Off-Campus Resource Centre should expand and work with city officials and the university to better the housing options presented to students. Having more apartment buildings near campus that could house students or even just enhancing the ways in which student houses are managed would both be ideal solutions. These could encourage more students to live away from home and help those that have to live away feel more comfortable with their new surroundings.
Your horror stories (as gathered from a public Silhouette poll)
“My friends and I were house hunting last January…One of the houses we looked at literally looked like a murder could have taken place there. The house was pretty dark and the landlord seemed persistent about so many things. At the end of the tour, we told him we would get back to him about the house since we were looking for an eight month lease rather than 12 months like he was asking for. It was actually scary how demanding and annoying he was being about how he didn’t want to wait and how quickly he would be able to get documents ready.”
“Landlord finished the tour of the house with “and here’s where my mother died,” then proceeded to stare into my very soul for a good minute and a half. I excused myself and said I needed to look at a few more places that day; she replied with a frown and said that she wished that young adults were more respectful these days while slamming the door in my face.”
“Pretty sure we saw a crack pipe casually lying on the kitchen counter at a six-bedroom house on Stroud.”
“One of the first houses I ever saw during my house hunting experience is one that [still] scars me…In order to enter the hobbit hole bedroom you had to crouch through a narrow hallway until you made your way into a tiny room that barely held a bed and a desk. I think Harry Potter had a better crib than that!”
“ When we toured [the apartment], everything seemed fine — it was clean, well-lit, no visible signs of infestation. When we moved our things in in August, the super told us that the previous tenants had ripped the baseboards out, then gave me a roach motel and left. That night, it became apparent that they’d ripped up the baseboards to try and get at the roach nests – the apartment was infested, and they were crawling behind and beneath every surface. There was a hole in the bathroom tile that went to the outside, taped over with a tarp– we were on the 11th floor! We ended up breaking our lease and moving to another apartment, but six months on I still break into a cold sweat when I see a shadow or a bit of fluff from the corner of my eye and mistake it for a roach. 0/10 do not recommend.”
“ HOUSE WAS SH!T.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Bauman