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Off-campus living: High costs, low quality

Bonnie Meibers, Senior Staff Writer

The front screen door is missing. It's dark inside because the house lacks overhead lighting in most of the rooms. The basement has mold and mildew, and water from the upstairs shower leaks into one of the downstairs bedrooms.

This is "Main Squeeze," home to seven female Miami students.

The house's problems are not uncommon.

Students are living in off-campus housing that is often run-down and not always up to code, according to John Cordell, founder of Inspection Plus. Cordell said that, typically, landlords do not want home inspectors to look at their properties.

"The landlord doesn't want us to come in and tell him he has a problem," Cordell said.

But because the houses are old, there tend to be many problems. Cordell said the most common problems he finds in homes are electrical issues and environmental issues like asbestos, mold and lead paint.

Senior Julieta Tijero and her housemates said empty Natural Light beer cans were left in the basement when they moved in. While the rest of the house was cleaned before the tenants arrived, workers missed the cans in the basement.

As for the leaky shower, the landlord, Park Place Realty, "solved" the problem by moving the shower curtain lower so it could block more water. This solution, Tijero said, hasn't solved the problem.

"Instead of fixing it, they just put a Band-Aid on it," she said.

Tijero said she feels she isn't getting her money's worth in Main Squeeze.

Unlike the group living in Main Squeeze, a group of juniors that live at 340 N. Locust feel they are living in one of the more affordable homes for rent in Oxford.

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Also unlike the girls at Main Squeeze, the group of men living at "The Lodge" is not renting from a realty company, but a private landlord.

Despite the benefits of this setup, the tenants of The Lodge say this often delays repairs in the house. An exterior door that does not close all the way is the landlord's last priority, one of the tenants said.

John Brinck, owner of Illuminati, another house for rent in Oxford, said he doesn't have a "landlord's mentality."

He said he follows all of the rules and meets every requirement the City of Oxford has asked him to meet. He installed new smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and escape windows.

"If they tell me something is wrong, I'll be there the next day," Brinck said.

But, he said he doesn't understand why so many Miami students choose to live in houses that cost over $6,000 per year, but remain in poor condition.

Correction: This version of the article corrects several inaccuracies that appeared in the original. The house called "Main Squeeze" is not missing a screen in the front door; instead, the house's front entry lacks a screen door. Several beer cans were left in the basement when the current tenants moved in, but the cans were not "littered throughout" the basement. The upstairs shower unit itself did and does not leak; rather, water that periodically spilled from the shower onto the bathroom floor penetrated the floor of the bathroom and dripped through the ceiling into the room below.While mold and mildew are present in the basement, there is no indication that either is at an unhealthy level.