Courtesy of Laura Bolling
One Ohio State student found out firsthand that what you see is not always what you get when it comes to leasing off-campus properties.
After traveling abroad for the summer, Laura Bolling, a third-year master’s student in East Asian studies, returned to Columbus expecting to find a suitable apartment. She shopped around to find that students had already claimed most of the nicer properties. But then she thought her luck changed when she found a vacancy at a University Manors property at 42 E. 13th Ave.
Bolling said she asked to tour one of the units, but the company told her she could only see a model.
“(My) mom noticed the appliances looked really new and asked if they were that new in all the apartments,” Bolling said. “They said they were in the process of updating all their apartments.”
But that’s not what Bolling saw when she walked into her apartment at the beginning of January 2009.
“We walked through the door of my apartment, and, lo and behold, you have this refrigerator that looks like it’s 20 years old,” Bolling said, “and it’s been sitting outside all 20 years.”
Jill Cunningham, office manager for University Manors, told The Lantern on Jan. 7 — two years after Bolling moved into her apartment — the company is in the process of updating the appliances in its apartments.
Besides the fridge being rusty, Bolling said one of her stove burners was broken and the heating system did not work.
“It was probably every bit of 40 degrees in my apartment,” she said. “It was a legitimate concern.”
Bolling said she e-mailed a representative from University Manors but did not get an immediate response, so her mother called the Columbus Public Health Department.
The health inspector “came the next day,” Bolling said. “And meanwhile, University Manors hadn’t responded.”
Cunningham said the company keeps all of its properties up to code and the rusty fridge was blown out of proportion.
“That is just a cosmetic thing,” she said. “Appliances aren’t replaced just because they have some rust on them. They are replaced because they stop working or are inefficient.”
The health inspector thought otherwise when he looked through Bolling’s apartment.
“He said they must fix the heat immediately and agreed the fridge wasn’t acceptable,” Bolling said.
The health inspector notified University Manors and they came to fix it within the next several days, Bolling said. University Manors did not confirm the date they replaced the fridge.
OSU’s Student Housing Legal Clinic frequently provides services to students in situations similar to Bolling’s, said Molly Hegarty, SHLC department manager.
“We see students for various issues regarding landlord-tenant law,” Hegarty said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “Some typical issues seen by SHLC include security deposit, move-in condition, getting repairs and bed bugs.”
The clinic provides students free counsel in conflicts with their landlords, Hegarty said, including advice and representation in court.
However, Bolling’s experience with University Manors did not escalate to a legal battle, as the company corrected the issues the health inspector pointed out.
“I know a lot of students seem to struggle with feeling powerless against their rental companies, even if conditions in their apartments have gotten ridiculous. Had my mother not called the Health Department, I would never have known that was an option,” Bolling said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “Once everything was fixed, I’ve been very happy. I wouldn’t live here if I weren’t.”