For many UCSB students, moving to Isla Vista means living under their own roof for the first time.
Within the small town are many organizations in to help residents when the roof is full of holes and green with toxic mold – or just to answer questions about tenants’ rights.
Stephanie Spieler, a building engineering inspector at the I.V. Housing Inspection Office, said several local organizations can teach new tenants about the rules of renting.
“We deal with a lot of areas – plumbing, electrical, mechanical, everything. We’ll have a look at what’s wrong,” Spieler said. “It could be a water heater that needs replacement or maybe a garage that’s been converted into a living space. They just need to give us a call and we’ll come check things out.”
Spieler said that minor housing problems do not warrant a visit from her office.
“If somebody moves into a place and sees that there’s something wrong – and really wrong, like a leaky roof or something like that and not just a dripping faucet – then we’ll see what can be done about it,” she said.
Once the housing inspector has determined whether they should address a certain problem, they alert the property manager to the required changes. However, according to Spieler, tenants should not fear eviction or spiteful landlords.
“We’re not necessarily in the business of evicting people. It may eventually come to that, but there’s usually other options,” Spieler said. “We also go to great lengths to protect tenant confidentiality if the person who calls us doesn’t want their landlord to know. We’re not going to cause more problems.”
The UCSB Community Housing Office can help both students living on campus and students living in I.V.
“We can do a lot for students,” said Community Housing Office Manager Roane Akchurin. “We do a lot of mediation services. These are conflicts between roommates, conflicts between property managers and tenants, and between neighbors. We handle [security] deposit disputes, too.”
Akchurin said that, for a nominal fee, her office can make a video of the state of a house as tenants move in and then again when they move out. The tape, which the housing office keeps, provides an accurate record of how tenants cared for a house during their lease and is helpful in settling security deposit disputes. All other CHO services are free.
“It’s a process of nipping problems in the bud,” said Akchurin, whose supply of preventative measures includes a renter’s survival guide. “We really encourage tenants to not just understand their rights, but their responsibilities as well.”
Local property management companies also said that tenants need to work with their landlords. Marissa Gonzales, a customer service representative for Ronald Wolfe and Associates, said notifying one’s property manager ahead of time can prevent small problems from getting bigger.
“We [at Ronald Wolfe and Associates] just ask that renters call us. Depending on the problem, we can have problems fixed … little stuff like clogged plumbing or big stuff like broken windows,” she said.
Gonzales said that notifying the property manager can avoid the involvement of a third party.
“It usually doesn’t come to that,” she said. “Usually, [renters] can call or send us a letter, and we can take care of the problem.”
With all the reconstruction throughout the summer, the Housing Inspection Office has been making frequent inspections, but Spieler said her office’s services are still available to students. Tenants can reach the building inspector’s office at 685-0913. The office is located in suite C at 970 Embarcadero del Mar.
The Community Housing Office, which is located in the top story of the UCen, can be reached by phone at 893-4375.
The Isla Vista Tenants Union, which works for the rights of non-student tenants, as well as UCSB and Santa Barbara Community College students living off campus, can be reached at 893-5989.