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Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government Renter’s Guide ranks best, worst off-campus landlords

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Off-campus houses near OSU’s campus. The recently released 2013-14 USG Renter's Guide gathered student responses about landlords' performances. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor

Off-campus houses near OSU’s campus. The recently released 2013-14 USG Renter’s Guide gathered student responses about landlords’ performances.
Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor

Ohio State students looking for off-campus housing might want to look toward Cooper Real Estate and Landis Properties and avoid NorthSteppe Realty and University Manors based on the ratings of their peers.

Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government released the Renter’s Guide for the 2013-14 school year Nov. 5 to provide students looking for off-campus housing with information about landlords based off of students’ responses to surveys. There were 21 landlords specifically mentioned in the guide.

Graphs about landlords’ overall performances highlighted Cooper Real Estate and Landis Properties, which both received an average of more than a four out of five for overall realtor performance, as the highest rated landlords, with NorthSteppe Realty and University Manors receiving the lowest rankings.

USG chief of staff Shane Ingalls, a fourth-year in accounting, said USG releases the guide to help students make their housing decisions.

“We’ve seen that when you give students the resources and the information to make informed decisions, they usually make good decisions,” Ingalls said. Ingalls helped oversee the project.

USG has released a yearly online Renter’s Guide on its website since 2004. USG student affairs director Ben Schulman, who lead the project, said this year’s survey was administered by the Center for the Study of Student Life in the Office of Student Life in February.

The center randomly sent out the survey via email to 5,000 undergraduates rank two or above and received 985 responses. The survey included 21 questions related to rent, utilities, maintenance, parking, the overall condition of the property and the overall experience with the landlord.

Bar graphs summarizing the responses include an “average” column to make the graphs more understandable to students, said Schulman, a third-year in mathematics.

“It’s more easy to look at it and compare one (company) to another,” he said.

George Kanellopoulos, a landlord with OSU Properties who was ranked in the guide, said he owns 60 buildings in the off-campus community and there were 26 responses about those properties.

He said he is proud of his approximately 4.3 average rating out of five for “How soon does your realtor tend to general maintenance concerns?” and he hopes to improve his approximately 81 percent “yes” response for the question “Would you rent from your current realtor in the future?”

He received approximately a nearly four average out of five for overall realtor performance.

“I think it reflects objectively … how well we take care of our properties and how well we care for our tenants,” Kanellopoulos said of his rating.

Cooper Real Estate received the highest rating for overall performance of the realtor with approximately a 4.4 average out of five. Garth Denlinger, property manager for Cooper Real Estate, acknowledged in an email that the “sample size was small,” as they have about 300 tenants but only six responses in the survey. He said their relationship with their tenants is what probably makes the company popular.

“Overall, we seem to have a much better ‘personal touch’ with our tenants as compared to other landlords, and kids truly like and appreciate that,” Denlinger said in an email.

NorthSteppe Realty, which had the lowest overall rating at an average 2.5, referred The Lantern to their attorneys for comment about the guide and all press-related questions. The attorneys were not available for comment Thursday.

NorthSteppe Realty leased a house in OSU’s off-campus area on 13th Avenue where its 15 residents discovered Aug. 30 there had been a man secretly living in their basement. The residents, who are OSU students, thought a locked door in the basement led to a utility closet. When one of the house’s residents opened the door, they found a bedroom complete with framed photographs and textbooks. Since then, the locks were changed by NorthSteppe Realty.

University Manors, which had the second lowest overall rating at slightly above an average 2.5, did not provide comment.

The response rate of the survey was 20 percent, which is “on par for online surveys in the field of higher education,” said Christina Athas, a research analyst in the Center for the Study of Student Life. She said in an email while the results are valuable, because they do not collect demographic information, they cannot be used to generalize the entire population. “This is simply meant to act as supplemental information, and it should always be stressed that these are the opinions of those who completed the survey and may not reflect the larger community,” Athas said.

A committee of six USG members worked on the guide. Schulman said the only cost would come from printing, which will be minimal since the guide is published online and few copies are printed.

Emily Evans, a second-year in biology, said her roommate recently consulted the guide during their search for their first off-campus house. Evans said other students’ opinions of their landlords are “definitely a factor” that could influence her decision about who to rent from.

Audrey Kromer, a fifth-year in accounting, said she has rented from three landlords and has used the guide in past years to “gauge which ones will be the most reliable.”

“I have eliminated potential landlords based on their reputation,” Kromer said.

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