Off-campus student services has first housing blitz of semester
Inspectors find carbon monoxide leaks, fire hazards among numerous other violations
Carbon monoxide has been leaking from a hole in Will Robinson’s 93 Winspear Ave. South Campus basement – he’s not sure for how long, but it wasn’t until inspectors came to his home Saturday that he had any idea.
When Robinson, a senior sociology major, moved into his home, a plastic mixing bowl was taped to the ceiling as a cover for his living room light.
Saturday afternoon, Buffalo city inspectors and Daniel Ryan, director of Off Campus Student Services, conducted their first “housing blitz” of the semester on Winspear Avenue and Northrup Avenue. The group inspected 30 houses and found similar stories to Robinson’s. These “housing blitzes” are a joint effort between Ryan and the city inspectors in which they randomly select houses and ask students if they can conduct a maintenance inspection.
Ryan waited outside the house while the inspectors went inside and checked for working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and electrical units as well as holes in the walls and flawed heating systems.
Ryan said the inspectors expected to find many violations. The group, however, found violations that made some houses unlivable. Inspectors found makeshift windows made of plastic or Plexiglas, rooms without smoke or carbon monoxide detectors and some with exposed electrical units.
If a house has violations, then landlords are given 30 days to modify the homes before the house is re-inspected. Landlords who don’t comply can be taken to court, Ryan said.
Students living in attics pose a fire hazard because there is only one way for students to leave, according to Charles Didio, one of the city inspectors leading Saturday’s blitz. Most houses don’t have a fire escape because the cost to install one is too expensive, he said.
Inspectors found four students living in attics on Saturday.
While the majority of the violations found at the blitz were small, there were some large problems when students first moved into their houses.
Robinson was in complete disarray when he moved in, he said. The only cabinet in the house hardly opens and is decaying. Garbage that was too large to put on the street was left in the house. He said blood from a mugging years ago stained part of their walls upstairs.
Robinson said he contacted his landlord to fix the locks on the windows and doors in August and the problem has yet to be resolved.
During the blitz, city inspectors found an opening between the furnace and the outside of the house in the basement. Because the opening was not sealed, carbon monoxide was able to escape into the house, according to the inspectors.
“If I looked him up first, I probably wouldn’t have gone with [my landlord],” Robinson said.
He said he doesn’t know of any off-campus housing resources for students, so he used Craigslist to find a house. Students aren’t aware of the state of the houses and their landlords, and are usually exploited because of that, Robinson said.
In August, Juliandra Jimenez, a senior French and international studies major, and her roommates moved into their home on South Campus to find no hot water, a broken washing machine, a broken toilet seat, spiders and a missing refrigerator. Along with all this, she said a “terrible smell” permeated throughout the house. Jimenez said after she and her roommates contacted their landlord, it took about a month to resolve these issues.
When the fridge was replaced, she said it wasn’t installed properly and the issue was never resolved.
This is Jimenez’s first semester living off campus. She chose to live on South Campus because it is difficult to find apartment housing on campus that is affordable. Last year, she lived in one of the off-campus Villa complexes, but thought it was too expensive to live there again.
“If I would have known the situation would be like this, I would have lived on campus,” she said.
Ryan plans to conduct another housing blitz on Englewood Avenue next Saturday. He said he hopes to have four blitzes before the end of the semester.