To most first years at Mines, the idea of being thrown out into the real world for housing is intimidating. It was for me. I couldn’t stop worrying about the worst case scenario, “What if I make a mistake?” I’m here to tell you that I made a big mistake, and that hopefully you won’t have to make the same ones.
Let’s start off with an important clarification. Your housing situation will not be perfect. Almost nobody has everything that they could ever want, and college housing is never ideal. Every housing situation that I have seen this year has been far from ideal; the house is falling apart, the landlord is whack, there’s an annoying roommate, but overall, most people are happy. It’s college, your living situation is going to be a bit janky, and that’s okay, be prepared to accept that.
That being said, try to have a better living situation than me. I made so many mistakes and overlooked so many red flags, and I tell you this tale of precaution so that you might laugh at my peril and learn from my mistakes:
I was looking for a specific house. I wanted it big, I love being surrounded by people and wanted to host parties. I gathered a total group of five people for the search. The search began and ended on Mineslist with a personal ad that I sent out looking for a 4 bedroom house close-ish to campus. Someone responded immediately.
Looking back, I should have been more suspicious. She had few posts on facebook at all, and they were all Mineslist. She didn’t want to talk over Messenger, and required phone conversations for all agreements. There was never a texted agreement on cost between us. Nothing was written. She refused to tell me the actual address of the house until the day we toured because “She was there alone and scared of a home invasion.”
The house tour was its own issue. I was super happy with what I saw, but I was blinded by ambition. There was a giant living room and five bedrooms. The kitchen was massive, and parking was everywhere, laundry was in house. I missed the obvious: the house was falling apart, the bathrooms were moldy, the internet was horrible everywhere, laundry was coin operated, only a small fraction of the parking was ours, etc.
After expressing interest, she told us we could not sign the lease without 8 total people. The legal limit for living in Golden is 4 non-family members, but she convinced us that 8 would be better because it would be cheaper. 4000/8 was 500$ per person, and that was really good for less than 3 miles from campus. As we gathered our 8 people, she changed the deal again. 4500 because 8 people was a lot — never mind that the 8 people was her demand.
Moving day came along. She required a few extra days to get the house ready for us, and it was still gross on move in day. We moved in with half of us, and a few friends who were subleasing until their leases started the next month. She had all of the people on the lease fill out the applications and a 25$ application fee. She then made the subleasere do the same. She then made the the boyfriend of one of the subleasers do the same, even though he didn’t live there, because he looked suspicious. She woke us up one morning — came into our house and woke us up in our bedrooms — to tell us that our windows were open and that we should be more attentive to it.
At the request of my mother, I asked the landlord to install smoke alarms to make sure the house was legal to live in… and her response was “You signed the lease to rent as it, we have no more responsibilities to change the place.” She only changed her tune after we waved the legality of the house in her face. I had to threaten a grown woman with legal action in order for her to make our house safe.
The internet in the house was bad, and when we asked her about it, she said she would fix it. The internet slightly improved, but then she billed us for a new router claiming that “Internet was included in rent but extra internet wasn’t.” When the problem was partially associated to the location of the router — in her basement office separated from the rest of us by concrete walls — she refused to move the router because it would be “unfair to the other units” if it was closer to our unit, even though we happen to be at the exact center of the property.
She told us that it was our responsibility to remind her to bill us for utilities. While trying to break down the payments, she was unable to determine how many people lived on the property including the other units. During this discussion, it came out that she was not paying utilities for the unit that she had lived in for a few months. Her excuse was that “We no longer live there,” even though she kept it heated and lights on as an office space for her.
The condition of the house itself was poor. The trim in the house was hot glued in place, and constantly fell off. The bathroom fans were barely operational until I cleaned every piece of them. The toilet broke one day, it began to leak due to a broken floor seal. She told us to “use different bathrooms until my husband can get there to help,” — which would take him a week. Eight people cannot get rid of one of their 3 bathrooms for a week because the landlord is cheap. One of my roommates got her permission to fix it himself, and she demanded to sit and watch the whole repair to make sure he didn’t “do anything fishy”.
In the end, I loved living with these people and being a part of a big family, but we made poor real estate choices and ignored the red flags that she was waving the whole time. I know that my next house won’t be a work of art, but I know to get everything in writing, inspect everything more thoroughly, and avoid renting from neurotic lunatics. There have been plenty of hardships with my off-campus housing experience, but I believe I experienced a worst case scenario.