"Five For Guys, Free For Girls"
The house looks different to each person that sets eyes on it. To some it's just a dirty place to party for free and meet other college kids; to others it's their property and source of income. But to a small number of students, it's home.
Fraternity houses are scattered throughout the University Heights. Despite common misconceptions, fraternity houses come in all different styles. While some are the disgusting, smelly, damaged buildings that people assume they are, there are some exceptions - it all depends on the tenants renting the house, not the fraternity itself.
One problem that many landlords do find with renting houses to fraternities is cleaning up the disasters they leave in their wake.
Jeremy Dunn, a landlord with University Apartment Rentals, has dealt with this problem on numerous occasions throughout the 15 years he's worked in the Buffalo area. He even has had to resort to filing a lawsuit against a fraternity for the damage they caused. This particular fraternity did not just smash their oven beyond repair, rip out almost all of their kitchen cabinets and smash holes in the walls, they also left a going away present in the kitchen that Dunn and his workers found while working on the extensive repairs.
"We just couldn't get rid of the odor in the kitchen," Dunn said. "When my carpenter was patching the walls, they thought they smelt the stink coming out of the walls so they decided to cut the walls open before they patched them to see what was in there. They guessed something must have been in there, and lo in behold, they found in the lower part of the walls - below where one of these holes were in the wall - raw meat."
The fraternity had been throwing meat into the hole in their kitchen long enough for it to rot - steaks, cold cuts, etc.- either to get back at Dunn for evicting them or to prank each other, according to Dunn.
On average Dunn spends around $100 cleaning up after relatively clean tenants that leave a house but with fraternities he estimated a cleanup cost ranging from $400-500. There have been times when the cost has stretched into the thousands.
Sean Mchugh, junior environmental geoscience major, believed that a fraternity house is as dirty as the tenants make it. In his fraternity house, during the week it's relatively clean and it's only on the weekends when the house is a mess. But when it's dirty, it's dirty.
"You have to wear shoes if you leave your room," Mchugh said. "You can't walk around barefoot."
When Mchugh first moved into his fraternity house, his mom bought $100 worth of bug bombs and cleaning supplies and scrubbed the house clean. When she came up to visit later in the year, she didn't try cleaning again, she just gave up, according to Mchugh.
Many fraternities have gone extra lengths to throw their parties, leaving Dunn and other landlords with extensive damage of their properties. Kicking in doors and fashioning makeshift beer pong tables is considered a normal occurrence at many of Dunn's fraternity rented houses.
In every single fraternity house Mchugh's lived in, his bedroom door has been broken down.
At one of Dunn's properties, a fraternity decided to set up a party house by making their own wooden gate - like a cattle gate, according to Dunn - in the downstairs hallway so they could section off their house.
Before Rachel Rabinowitz, a freshman undecided major, went to her first fraternity party, she was unprepared for just how disgusting the house actually was. When she first visited a fraternity house it was crowded, hot, and gross.
"It's hard to figure out what to wear [to a fraternity house] because your shoes get really dirty and people always spill stuff everywhere," Rabinowitz said. "[Usually they're] dark and crowded with low ceilings and [there's] liquids spilt everywhere and the basement kind of [looks] like it's falling apart. It's a fun atmosphere but at the same time [it's] kind of sketchy and chaotic."
Dunn knows just how chaotic fraternity houses can get from experience.
"I've had a group barricade the doors with mattresses and staple carpets and stuff to the windows on the ground floor," Dunn said. "[When] they create that sort of soundproof then it's less likely the cops are going to hear about the party and come bust them."
While it might keep the cops away, it leaves the house looking awful, according to Dunn, along with creating a hazardous environment in case of an emergency.
Dunn has had experience with such emergencies. In 2006, during the big ice storm, the fraternity at 101 Winspear decided to leave candles all over their house - which had lost electricity - while they went out on a Friday night to North Campus.
Some of the tenants returned to the house later that night and fell asleep without a second thought regarding the candles they left sitting around.
"One [tenant] told me he woke to hearing the fire alarm going off, but at first he just thought he was hearing things," Dunn said. "After a while he got scared and he went to get up to check and sure enough, the house was on fire."
All of the tenants got out safely and while the house did not burn to the ground, the fire caused extensive damage, according to Dunn. It took an entire year for Dunn to make the house livable again.
Dunn isn't the only landlord with problems like this. A fellow landlord in the University Heights had tenants fill their entire basement up with sand for a fraternity party, according to Dunn. To throw a beach party, they brought in a chute, put that chute through the basement window, and dumped truckloads of sand into their house.
Over the years, Dunn has rented to a lot of fraternity houses and seen all types of odd things during the cleanup. One thing he did not expect to find, however, was a basement completely covered in dog feces.
After one of Dunn's tenants injured his leg and was placed in a cast, the student felt it was too painful to take his dog outside to go to the bathroom.
"He took to sending the dog down to the basement every time he had to go to the bathroom," Dunn said. "When we took the place over, I had to hire this teenage boy to go in there and shovel out all [of] the poop because none of the cleaners would go."
Not only did the basement need an enormous amount of cleaning, but also the tenants were so ashamed of the condition of their house that when they lost their keys, they wouldn't tell Dunn. Instead of asking him to bring over an extra set of keys, they broke and crawled through the window. For security purposes, the tenants would then find boards and nail them over the broken window.
"Then the next time someone went home and lost their key, you'd think they'd be smart enough to pull the board down and get through that broken window," Dunn said. "No, they'd break down another window."
But not all fraternity houses are so disastrous.
Living in a fraternity house there is always something to do, according to Mchugh. Tenants get to live with their best friends and have fun all the time. One thing that students give up when they decide to live in a frat house is privacy.
"My house is going to become their house [when people come over]," Mchugh said. "It's everyone's house."
The state of a fraternity house depends on the tenants who rent it, according to Dunn. Some fraternities destroy their houses, leaving hundreds of dollars in repairs for their landlords, but others are just as respectful and clean as other students. It depends on the people, not the fraternity.