Off-campus housing: The problems

Originally published November 5, 2010

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series looking into off-campus student housing. Look for future installments in coming weeks.

Classes scarcely begin when many students start the hunt for their first off-campus rental home. Some find properties they are comfortable calling home for two years – others aren’t so lucky.

“There isn’t Internet, a lot of it isn’t finished and most of the houses around here aren’t up to code,” said Brian Toczyski of his Barker Avenue residence. “I wanted to get out of the dorms, but I got shafted. So I just moved in.”

The junior civil engineering major has experienced both bugs and mice, but Toczyski said the problem most irritating to him and the other residents is the cleanliness.

“They tried to clean it over the summer, but cleaning it means vacuuming the carpet, washing the floor, and that’s about it,” he said. “They expect this to be a college house, and a lot of it’s just not clean. People don’t take care of it like it’s their own house.”

Senior management and administration major Michael Perlowski said his former residence was far from ideal.

“Our house on Barker last year was falling apart,” he said. “It was awesome to have our own place, but none of us had the motivation to take care of it. Our basement there was damp, but we luckily didn’t end up with mold.”

Perlowski said his current off-campus apartment on Moss Avenue is a major upgrade.

“I’m not far from anywhere – it’s still pretty close to campus,” he said. “And for what I’m paying, this is definitely better than at my last house.”

Cheaper utilities, brand-new flooring and appliances and a reliable landlord have made living there better, Perlowski said.

“This was such a step up from when I lived on Barker,” he said. “This apartment is the most peaceful place I’ve lived in at Bradley.”

Many students agreed that an attentive landlord made first-time renting considerably simpler.

Senior electronic media major Anne Leuck said she is lucky to live in her Callendar Avenue home.

“Four of us moved in in May,” she said. “Our house has been doing well besides minor occurrences. Plus, our landlord has been good. He takes care of the trash cost and the yard work. We looked at a couple other houses, but this one had a good price and was more well-kept.”

A different and possibly better alternative to rental companies is independent renters, said senior family and consumer sciences major Lori Hogan.

“We have an independent landlord, and I think that’s a lot better,” she said. “They only own two houses, and they did applications for this house. They even cover our water bill. We haven’t had any bad experiences, but if we have an issue, they come over.”

Hogan said she knows many students who attempt to contact their landlord for weeks before resolving issues.

“We haven’t had any problems here, but one of my roommates last year had a lot of issues through a rental company, so I think the independent landlords are definitely better,” she said.

Hogan’s landlord Patricia Reck said many off-campus landlords may be missing one vital step before renting to students.

“We register our properties with the city, and then they come out and do an inspection,” she said. “We follow all the rules and regulations to make sure we’re up to code. We’ve had no problems with these older houses because they were owned by homeowners and they were very, very well-maintained. A lot of these rental properties probably don’t even register, and therein lays a lot of problems.”

Peoria Inspections Director John Kunski said there are properties all over the Peoria area lacking registration.

Kunski said this agreement is laid out in a checklist the landlord is required to keep.

“This is part of the life safety agreement that goes beyond what the city can do,” he said. “People need to understand that as they’re renting a place, the tenant and landlord should be doing this. It would eliminate a lot of these problems that people encounter.”

Kunski said if problems arise before the city performs an interior inspection, tenants should call the city.

If a property has any kind of life safety hazard, the home is posted as occupancy prohibited until the issues are corrected, Kunski said.