Prospective Binghamton University student renters who are unsure of which landlords to trust will soon have a resource in the form of results from a brand new survey conducted by the Student Association (SA).
The survey, announced in an SA Congress meeting on Sept. 28, is available to be filled out by renters among BU’s student population as well as all community members living in the greater Binghamton area. It asks a series of questions regarding current living situation to gain a better understanding of which landlords are pushing residents out or creating poor living conditions. The survey initiative was started by Samantha Carroll, SA vice president for student success and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law and Katie Fitzgerald.
Carroll explained how the poll came into development.
“The poll was developed after my good friend, Katie Fitzgerald, attended the recent housing action summit hosted by the Stakeholders of Broome County,” Carroll wrote in an email. “[Fitzgerald] said, ‘At this event, I listened to community organizers who noted that local landlords prey on students by grossly overpricing rent per room, simultaneously pushing locals — oftentimes families — out of their neighborhoods and homes.’”
Carroll elaborated on her involvement and personal connection to the survey.
“I personally joined the project after hearing [Fitzgerald] discuss what they had seen and heard at the summit, but also partially due to a negative renting experience,” Carroll wrote. “My landlord raised my rent over 25 percent from this school year to the next one, and I was pretty upset when I realized there was nothing I could do about it except move to a different, equally overpriced rental. I wanted to do something to prevent other students from ending up in that situation and prevent them from being taken advantage of.”
David Hatami, SA president and a senior double-majoring in political science and business administration, expressed his support for the initiative and highlighted further resources the SA plans to utilize.
“Now is an important time to tackle housing, for a majority of students will be signing off-campus leases in the coming months,” Hatami wrote. “[Carroll] and I hope to ultimately host an in-person housing informational event, where we can provide tangible advice to underclassmen on reading through leases, searching for houses/apartments and understanding tenants rights as a college student.”
Carroll also discussed how the results and data from the survey will be utilized.
“[Fitzgerald] is going to make a GroupMe soon with anyone interested in the survey data and discussing what we find,” Carroll wrote. “This is also for the whole community to bounce ideas off of each other and to make everyone aware of pressing issues related to housing, landlords, evictions and rent, kind of like an informal tenants’ union. We will also publicize relevant data via social media and other platforms if necessary.”
Student renters in favor of the poll shared other negative renting experiences. One such renter was Emmet Coakley, executive vice president of Off Campus College Council (OC3) and a senior double-majoring in philosophy, politics and law and political science, who described an experience that led to missing three weeks of class and spending hundreds of dollars.
“I first went up to tour the apartment in July, which, while cutting it close, shouldn’t have been a problem, we had rent and security in cash and we were more than accommodating,” Coakley wrote. “We were ghosted once after a three-hour drive, and only after calling the company did I find out the agent who was supposed to meet us went on vacation despite me confirming with him the morning of and day before.”
After securing the apartment, Coakley found it infested with roaches and their landlord was unresponsive for weeks.
Sade Salazar, president of OC3 and a senior triple-majoring in economics, accounting and philosophy, politics and law, said the survey, while helpful, could be assisted by University support.
“Polls will help for sure but a percentage of students will continually be deceived and exploited if the administration does not make efforts to work with reputable landlords,” Salazar wrote. “As president of the [OC3], I plan to bring these concerns to the dean of students and the administration.”
Salazar suggested students take care to find housing in advance, room with reliable students, research realtors and inspect apartments. Salazar also said students should make use of BU’s free legal counseling in University Union West from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Salazar recommended apartments.com and the BU off-campus housing database as resources to find safe and reliable listings.
For those interested in completing the survey, it can be found here.
Contact information and legal clinic resources can be found at https://www.binghamton.edu/occ/legal.html.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Oct. 16, 2021 to correct factual inconsistencies and add new information provided by the survey’s creators. Pipe Dream regrets these errors.