As if the dreaded three-person rule isn’t a clear enough sign that Williamsburg residents are trying to discourage students from living off campus, local landlords are now blaming students for the poor condition of homes in the city. The problem exists, however, due to their own laziness.
When I moved into my house in June, it was as if we were walking into HGTV’s currently nonexistent “Homes from Hell.” The front porch should have been a warning: The mail box was on the ground and the screen door had a huge gash through it. The smoke detector dangled from the ceiling by a wire. Kitchen drawers were missing and paint was peeling off the walls as if it were trying to escape from the filthy carpets covered in burn marks.
So why hadn’t I noticed these things when I walked through the house? Why did I agree to live in this hellhole?
Because of the limited housing availablity for students in Williamsburg — especially within walking distance of campus.
Landlords can keep houses rundown and still have countless students scrambling to sign unfair leases. My lease claimed that the house must be “maintained in a way that shows pride in the home” — what a joke.
When I first toured the house, my landlord rushed me through, not bothering to show me one of the bedrooms or the backyard. When I hesitated, he responded that he had multiple students who wished to see the home as well. I desperately needed a place to live within walking distance of campus. As a result, I was taken advantage of by a greedy landlord.
Unfortunately, I am not alone. Some of the most coveted off-campus houses are borderline unlivable. In one of my friends’ houses, a huge water spot appeared on the ceiling, and they complained to their landlord.
The handyman the landlord sent commented that it must have resulted from the shingles that fell off a couple months ago. Clearly, he was aware of the problem, but ignored it. Landlords like these — who shirk their responsibilities — force College of William and Mary students to use the little money they have to fix problems they haven’t caused.
The City of Williamsburg, however, may be catching on to these landlords. It has created the Rental Property Inspection Program, which has been set up in areas that have “exhibited the highest number of complaints and/or code violations … that have some of the oldest city housing that require additional maintenance attention.” This includes the majority of housing close to campus, particularly along Richmond Road. Under this program, students may request a free inspection at any time. Hopefully, since the codes state that houses must have “adequate and sufficient receptacle/lights,” my landlord will fix the broken lights by my front door, back porch and hallway. Hopefully.
Codes also require that “interior surfaces must be maintained in good, clean, sanitary condition; free of cracks, peeling paint and decayed/defective surfaces.” I guess my landlord must have missed the dozens of holes in the walls, including one the size of my fist in the ceiling.
Since our landlord has ignored our phones calls regarding the list of 67 complaints we sent him almost two months ago, my sister has spent hours working on our house. It’s shaping up to be a beautiful home, but is it fair we were the ones who had to make it that way?
To the City of Williamsburg: I love this town just as much as you do. I volunteer and give back to the community, as do hundreds of other students, and to place the blame on us for the shabby condition of houses is completely unfair. Landlords must be held accountable for the conditions of the homes they rent.
E-mail Mary Bonney at firstname.lastname@example.org.