I awake at 8 a.m. to get into the bacterial jungle that is my shower. As a train rumbles by and causes the foundation of my building to shake, I wonder if my shower is actually going to get me any cleaner than I currently am. I reach down to spin the broken knob, remembering to tilt it at an angle and give it hell. Luckily, the shower starts up and my groggy face is hit with a spray of cold water.
And I am used to it.
After 15 months of this shithole, I pride myself knowing that I can take a shot of cold water to the face without flinching. Like many Isla Vista and Goleta residents, I long ago came to the conclusion that my apartment manager was a money-grubbing slumlord and that my situation wasn’t going to change in the near future.
I faced the facts: I am a 21-year-old male – the worst demographic to rent to, bar none. We are dirty, we get drunk and break stuff, we don’t even own vacuums, and the only time our apartment is clean is when our mom comes up for the weekend. It’s no wonder that we have to pay extraordinary sums of money to subdivide a closet between four other college primates – we deserve it.
After years of shitty apartments, light is now shining at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The light is a brand-new apartment complex complete with a pool, two hot tubs, a fitness center, a business center, and a clubhouse full of beautiful secretaries that run around in an office with regular hours, devoted to keeping the property from falling into a slumland.
Getting the property was comparable to going through military boot camp. Here is what I learned.
One: Never, ever send in your 30-day notice if you don’t have a place to stay.
Ever wonder why there are three people sleeping on your couch right now? Yep, you guessed it. These people put in their 30-day notice well before they had a new place to stay. The result? A lot of crap with nowhere to put it and nowhere to take a shower.
Two: Most landlords don’t give a damn. Really.
Mine didn’t even have a phone line that they answered, unless they had vacancies. And even then, half of the time the line was answered by a fax machine. When humans answered, they didn’t even give the formal name of their company. I am still listening to their generic, robotic answering machine, leaving messages about my late deposit.
Three: Paperwork is, as always, critical.
Our new apartment complex is what we call “affordable housing.” Theoretically, this offers relief to people who don’t make that much money. But the apartment managers would never ever rent to poor people – that is just bad business. So, in practicality, “affordable housing” means four apartments are reserved for people who make enough money, but not that much. A narrow, magical band of combined income comes like a jackpot to people who can produce paperwork that puts them in this magic band. They get $200 less rent for their skill in paperwork.
Another note on paperwork: Get ready for a full cavity search. My Norwegian roommate was appalled by the amount of paper that Americans insist on using. Checks? Now a vague memory in Norway. Money orders? Please, all that is done with a pretty web interface. Rental applications that demand bank account numbers and balances? Perhaps this was the kicker that really got my roommate thinking that America had a couple screws loose. Unfortunately my roommate’s savings pushed us out of that magic narrow band for “affordable housing.” Damn, so close.
And four: Get over it. You live in Santa Barbara.
Really, you can’t complain. If you are sick of paying rent and instead want them to pay you for living somewhere, move to some science observatory in Antarctica. I hear that you are guaranteed at least three days of above-zero weather each year.
Travis Cannell is a senior College of Creative Studies computer science major.