Absentee landlords near UB South need a lesson in responsibility
UB should better educate and empower prospective off-campus residents
Living off campus, particularly in the University Heights area, is widely recognized as a potentially dangerous and often inconvenient experience.
From mildly annoying treks through unplowed sidewalks to more frightening late-night walks on dimly lit, rarely patrolled streets, students’ safety in the Heights is far from guaranteed as they go to and from their houses.
UB has done little to address this issue, despite troubling crime statistics and pleas from the student body for a more equal dissemination of university resources.
But for some students, the issue of unsafe conditions permeates beyond the city streets – right into their homes.
Serious issues like absentee landlords and code violations are rife among the University Heights community and UB’s current methods for addressing the problems are simply not sufficient.
UB’s Office of Off-Campus Student Services does provide some assistance and information to students – it’s a step in the right direction that this office exists at all.
The office’s director, Dan Ryan, is clearly aware of the common problems that off-campus students face, and many of the resources that are made available are relevant and useful in combating the issues.
The office’s website offers a list of UB-approved property listings that have passed safety inspections, resources for reporting problematic landlords and safety tips for prospective and current off-campus residents.
But these resources are useless if students don’t know about them and right now, it appears the majority of off-campus residents aren’t aware.
Students looking to move off campus for the first time tend to be overwhelmed by the experience and the multitude of options.
UB needs to do more to ensure that the procedures suggested by the Off-Campus Services are the default actions for students.
Prospective residents should know to only seek out UB-approved apartments – or at the very least, understand the risks of looking elsewhere.
This is especially important for international students, who often rent apartments sight unseen and end up the victims of deceptive landlords.
UB already offers useful advice to international students and the website for International Student and Scholar Services guides them to Off-Campus Student Services.
But there needs to be more direct, hands-on assistance offered to international students seeking housing in order to prevent students from turning to unapproved, unmonitored housing options when their apartment search gets difficult.
The same could be done for all students, to help turn them away from notoriously poor landlords and unsafe housing conditions.
An expanded Office of Off-Campus Services, with a greater level of promotion among students, could help to transform the University Heights community and help equalize the relationship between students and landlords.
If UB can effectively guide students to apartments owned and actually maintained by responsible landlords, they’ll also be ensuring that students are no longer renting from the slumlord contingent of University Heights landlords.
Those individuals, facing a more educated and savvy group of customers, will no longer be able to take advantage of hapless, uncertain students. Landlords will have to change their ways and actually do their job or accept that their subpar apartments will sit empty all year.