Living off campus not what it seems

(EDITOR’S NOTE: When submitted to The Merciad, this article contained the name of the landlord firm the writer was criticizing. The Merciad staff considers it important to warn students about the downside of living off-campus. Even so, because the landlord has not had the opportunity to answer the criticism, we have inserted a false name.)

Thinking about living off-campus? I bet you can find an ad in this very newspaper for a landlord. And if you happen to call ACME LANDLORDS (the real name has been changed for this piece), you may find they have plenty of nice houses available.

Touring one of their houses, you may be amazed at how nice they seem, but as I have heard from former tenants, do not be fooled. First, ask ACME about the “cleaning fee” which runs an average of $600.

I know, you are thinking the place was trashed. Trust me, my friend may have OCD, and the house was spotless when he/she moved out (I was there that day). However, ACME has a standard outside company come in (something they fail to mention). According to this company, it costs $600 (YOUR security deposit) to clean a spotless house. My other friends, a bit messier, got a whopping $15 out of their $1,300 deposit back.

Yes, you pay $1,300/month in rent and an additional $1,300 in a security deposit all for the one maintenance man to cover all 14 or whatever houses they own. Just hope you do not need any maintenance at the beginning of the school year because that is a busy time for them.

You can expect a repair in a couple weeks if they decide it’s important enough. Or, they might forget about it and just decide to add it to your list of damages when you move out.

Now, you may want to have four people living in a house. Sure, it’s OK with ACME. I mean, it’s only illegal to have more than three unrelated people living in the same house.

But ACME will only put three people on the lease. You just have to lie to Mercyhurst when you fill out the off-campus form. And when a neighbor notices you have four cars in the driveway, you have to figure a way to hide your fourth roommate.

So if someone steps in, ACME will point to the lease showing only three people live there, which leaves you paying $410 a month plus a $170 gas bill, $70 electric bill and $100 for cable and Internet.

All you have to do to see their sneaking ways is to look at their lease. A simple “no more than 12 guests at a time” clause gives them leverage to evict you if you become troublesome. They may say “it’s no big deal” when you sign a lease, but you are bound to it.

I know, most landlords are sneaky, but ACME is something else. They are the nicest people to your face and will constantly tell you it’s no big deal. But when you move out, BAM! You were the worst tenant that destroyed every little thing in their house even though they did not seem too concerned to fix those things when you lived there.

It’s your money. Do what you want. You might actually be better off on-campus, where you do not have to worry about paying utilities. It’s better than freezing yourself and still getting a $170 gas bill.

However, if for some reason I have not convinced you NOT to live in an ACME house, I conclude with some tips.

Ask as many questions as you can about your security deposit and the “standard cleaning fee.” Take as many pictures as you can when you move in. Inspect your house and notify your landlord immediately of anything that looks broken. Submit a written copy with the date of any repair for which they are responsible. Thoroughly clean the house upon moving out and ask the landlord for a walk-through to explain why they need to take $600 out of your security deposit.

Or, as I prefer, just don’t live in a house owned by ACME.