As the midway point of the fall semester inches closer, many students have already begun their search for off-campus housing next year. In an effort to inform students of their landlords’ responsibilities and housing safety codes, the City of Binghamton Code Enforcement Office is providing a free inspection service for potential rental houses and apartments.
The City of Binghamton Code Enforcement Office, located on 38 Hawley St. in Downtown Binghamton, notifies student residents of the conditions their landlords are required to comply with for their apartment to be considered a safe living space. Additionally, the office provides a compliance inspection upon request, in which an official determines whether or not a property is safe to live in. Specifically, inspectors look for mold, vermin, pests, crumbling walls and fire hazards. Once a request is filed, a full inspection takes place within five days.
The Off Campus College Office, located in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, also offers tips on safety and signs to watch out for. Additionally, the office provides search tools to find off-campus housing, including an online housing registry and database on their website, which provides information on available apartments and rooms for rent as well as a roommate registry.
According to Tom Costello, director of Building Construction, Zoning and Code Enforcement for the city of Binghamton, he has been communicating with the Off Campus College Office to inform students about the importance of code compliance inspections.
“One thing I’ve been advocating to the University’s housing office is to tell students that students should always make sure their unit is code-compliant before they sign a lease,” Costello said. “They’ll need to have their landlord’s permission to issue a compliance inspection before signing. If they issue an inspection after signing, they won’t need permission.”
Hannah Burke, a senior double-majoring in environmental studies and English, said she didn’t get a compliance inspection before moving into her house. According to Burke, her house originally had glass and metal scraps on the basement floor when she first moved in, and still has crumbling ceiling tiles and a leaky bathroom.
“We cleared out the whole basement ourselves,” Burke said. “The landlord cleaned it up after maybe a month or two. If our landlord doesn’t think it’s a liability he could be charged for, then he’s not going to do anything about it.”
Burke, however, said she would hesitate to consult the Binghamton Code Enforcement office before signing her lease.
“I don’t know if I would go to the office before the lease, but if I had a landlord who wasn’t complying, I would go to [the office] after I signed,” Burke said. “This honestly seems like a pretty good service; if I had a landlord who wasn’t responding to my issues, I would probably reach out to them.”
According to Jacob Sandman, a senior double-majoring in history and Russian, learning more about housing regulations and compliance inspections would have helped prepare him before moving off campus.
“At the time, I didn’t really know what to look for or anything,” Sandman said. “When my housemates in the apartment above me used the shower, it would leak into our bathroom, which was kind of annoying. I had no idea about safety regulations before I signed a lease, but maybe I should.”
According to Costello, students should know if the apartments or houses they frequent are also code-compliant.
“Students should look around houses they hang out in to make sure they’re code-compliant,” Costello said. “I see a lot of fraternity and sorority houses breaking code, housing 14 or so people in what should be a house for a family of four. I tell students that they should be cautious of these houses, since they often don’t have safe fire exits during parties.”
According to the Binghamton City Government’s website, if a code violation is found, the violator must fix it typically within 30 days. If the responsible party fails to respond, they are issued a summons or an appearance ticket.