Students share their housing horror stories

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Editor’s note: The Daily Universe received more than 100 comments on a June 5, 2017 Facebook post asking our readers about issues they have had with off-campus housing. Those comments led, in part, to the development of the BYU Off-Campus Housing Series. 

Part One – Off-campus BYU housing: It’s complicated

Part Two – Housing quality doesn’t always live up to price, students say

Part Three – BYU students struggle to sell yearlong housing contracts

Part Four – Off-campus tenants and landlords clash over security deposits

Part Five – Students find ways to cope during “homeless week”

The BYU Off-Campus Housing Series — Part Six

Jake Hansen once moved into an apartment south of campus to find a thermostat with a missing cover, a towel rack bent so badly it had sharp edges, a bedroom window that didn’t seal properly, and broken and missing blinds throughout the apartment.

The BYU alumnus had low expectations because the rent was considerably lower than the rent at the majority of BYU-contracted properties. However, the apartment’s conditions did not meet acceptable standards, Hansen said.

Within a month of living there, the kitchen sink began to leak and flooded the kitchen.

“I went into the office and told them it was an emergency,” Hansen said. “It was at least two days before someone came out to fix it, and after that, the process took an additional three days or so.”

Hansen finally decided to contact the Off-Campus Housing Office in hopes of improving living conditions for not only himself, but also future students.  The management fixed almost every issue Hansen described in his letter to the Off-Campus Housing Office.

Hansen is not the only student who has experienced issues with management and maintenance while living in BYU-contracted housing. 

BYU alumna Brittainey Rieske experienced a number of problems after she moved into a BYU-contracted house south of campus during her junior year. The way her landlord treated the tenants proved to be the main issue.

It started with monthly fines following cleaning checks, which is common in student housing, according to Rieske. But then she and her roommates began receiving intimidating emails and threats of eviction after a debate of hardwood floor damage in the house.

“We were stressed to the max. I would call my parents frequently in tears because of how terrible it was,” Rieske said. “Home should be a place to relax and calm down, but home was worse than being at school or work.”

Rieske said she and her roommates attempted to handle the situation professionally, but after they were unable to come to an agreement, they attempted to receive help from the Off-Campus Housing Office. Rieske said calls and emails to that office went unanswered.

Rieske lived in a different BYU-contracted house south of campus the following year and had a much better experience. She said if there was ever a maintenance problem, the landlord was on top of the issue and responded promptly.

Rieske recalled a time when their window shattered and their landlord immediately replaced it and baked them cookies because she felt bad about the issue.

BYU alumnus Bryant Redford came home from Christmas break to find a partially remodeled apartment and tile dust covering his entire room. He had lived in his apartment for two years before it was sold to a new owner.

The previous owner did not do routine cleaning checks and rarely fixed anything, according to Redford. The new owners decided to remodel the apartment.

“The people started painting while we were there, but it was no big deal,” Redford said. “They told us they would be doing more extensive remodeling over Christmas break.”

Redford was upset the contractors had neglected to remodel the apartment with care, but the bigger surprise came when Redford learned they were not done with the renovations.

“Doors were off bedrooms and bathrooms at certain points and could not be legally called ‘rooms’ at this point,” Redford said.

Redford and his roommates took their complaints to the Off-Campus Housing Office and were advised to request a refund, a reduction in rent or assistance in renting a motel until the renovations were complete.

“The owners said the apartment would have been closed by the school so they were doing us a favor,” Redford said. “Everything cost more than they planned so they couldn’t give us a full refund.”

Redford eventually agreed on a partial refund and the remodel was completed halfway through winter semester. Redford said the remodeling made living there stressful, and the apartment was always noisy and dirty.

Heidi Barnes lived in only one apartment complex during her time as a single undergraduate student.

“It was in a good location. The shuttle was right there so it was pretty easy to get to campus, and it was a great place with social life and everything,” Barnes said. “But management was tough.”

Barnes experienced multiple issues with payments. The property lost the deposit check she gave them, so she had to write a new one. She said she didn’t get charged twice, but the experience was frustrating and happened again with other payments she made.

“I had to go in often and talk to them and try to work things out with them,” Barnes said. “They weren’t always as professional as they should have been in that situation.”

Barnes said maintenance was another issue, despite the maintenance workers themselves being great and on top of things. The maintenance workers needed permission from management to replace things, and in one instance Barnes and her roommates had to wait between four and six weeks for a replacement oven after theirs stopped working.

“Not having an oven, stove, all of that was kind of off-putting,” Barnes said. “Overall I loved living there, but some of those things really irked me.”

Barnes said she likes the BYU-contracted housing system because students can go to BYU for backup if they have problems.

BYU graduate Cheyanne Hintze has been on both sides of the housing scene in Provo. She lived in BYU-contracted housing while attending BYU and has since managed two apartment complexes near UVU, worked with a property management company in Provo and managed a few properties in Provo for her aunt.

“As a property manager, it was extremely frustrating that students signed a legally binding contract and then complained when they were fined for things they agreed to in the contract,” Hintze said in a Facebook comment.

Hintze said the first thing she explained to applicants was the nature of the legally binding document they were about to sign. She said many students would say they didn’t need to know what was in the contract and just wanted to sign it.

“Students are given a lot of opportunities to protect themselves against fees and the like, but in my experience they do not utilize those opportunities,” Hintze said. “A lot of this stems from a lack of experience, which after they move out, I hope they learn their lessons.”

The company Hintze worked for had students fill out a move-in inspection form to mark any existing damages in the apartment. Hintze said they typically received only half of them back.

“As long as you, as the student, know your rights and understand what you agreed to, and are not afraid to speak up when things are wrong, student housing at BYU can be a pleasant experience,” Hintze said.