Post-Halloween Housing Hiccups
With Halloween just past us and the holidays right around the corner, it is about that time of year where it feels like the “honeymoon” with your roommates and your rental is over.
Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar? Your apartment or house is the least clean it has ever been, with reminders and remnants from Halloween; no one has cleaned the shower for weeks or months (or ever!); rent just can’t seem to get paid before the grace period is over, resulting in pesky late fees; you and your roommates seem to be bickering more than usual and you’ve spotted mold in your apartment as a result of the crazy Santa Barbara weather we’ve been having.
[media-credit id=20122 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Speaking of weather, you’ve found that your ancient heater isn’t producing anything close to warmth. When it rains, water seems to be coming in through the windows, ceiling or doors. The list of grievances goes on and on.
The Community Housing Office (CHO) can help your roommateship get back on track, as well as assist you in working with your property provider to make sure your rental continues to be a comfortable and habitable place to call home.
If you and your roommates are having trouble communicating, consider scheduling a house meeting. House meetings between roommates can be a great way to share expectations, decide on house rules and discuss household issues. Whether they take place monthly, quarterly or only during move-in and move-out, house meetings allow everyone to get on the same page and share their concerns in a safe, constructive manner. CHO suggests a few ideas when scheduling a house meeting:
– Schedule the meeting in advance so everyone can attend.
– Meet in a neutral place, even if it is your living room.
– Have a start and end time so that everyone can plan accordingly and be available the whole time.
– Plan the first meeting quickly so that ground rules and issues can be discussed and expectations shared, helping to prevent future conflict.
– Have an agenda that includes everyone’s contributions. Tape a piece of paper to your refrigerator in the days leading up to the meeting for suggested topics and stick to it throughout the meeting.
– Assign a different person to run the meeting each time.
– Have a note-taker write down brainstorming ideas and document any decisions the group comes up with.
– Use CHO’s “Roommate Agreement” to document house rules and decisions about rent and utility payments. Consider the “Roommate Agreement” a work in progress. Occasionally go back to the agreements to see if they are still working for everyone or if changes need to be made.
– Make the house meeting productive and fun — one idea is to cook dinner together.
Come to the office for more tips about successfully communicating during a house meeting.
Fixing Damages in Your Rental
If you suspect a leak, broken lock or other problem with your rental, it is important to let your property provider know immediately so that they have a chance to remedy the problem. You cannot blame your property provider for not fixing something if they didn’t know it was broken! There are certain things that make your rental habitable that are required by your property provider: effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, heating resources in good working order and functional outer doors and locks, to name a few. Written work requests are best, as they allow you to keep track of them. If your property provider does not utilize a formal request system (often online) and requires you to call when you have a repair, document each call and repair in writing on a calendar.
Due to recent rains and the oddly cool and moist weather last summer, CHO has received a number of calls earlier than usual about mold. As noted in February 2010’s Daily Nexus Opinion column “Keep Mold Spores Outdoors with Housing Advice,” CHO discussed the main reasons mold grows in your apartment or house:
– Water intrusion and leaks from rain or plumbing.
– Excessive humidity, lack of ventilation and lack of natural light.
If you suspect a leak or water intrusion, contact your property provider so they may investigate. If water intrusion is found, the mold must be cleaned up and water leaks repaired. Most frequently, mold in coastal areas like ours can be controlled with a few steps, such as allowing sunlight and airflow through windows, using a kitchen exhaust fan when cooking, using a bathroom fan during showers and moving furniture a couple inches away from the walls. Check out our Nexus article from last February as well as a copy of the EPA’s “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home” on the CHO Facebook page or in our office. Please remember that although mold may look gross and can be quite a nuisance, it is usually not harmful for your health unless you have a sensitive upper respiratory system.
The Perils of Home Cooked Meals
Have you found that cooking for yourself isn’t all that it is cracked up to be? Are you realizing that grocery shopping and preparing meals is more time consuming than you initially expected? Did you notice that cereal and Top Ramen aren’t giving you all the vitamins you need? Are daily meals in Isla Vista costing you an arm and a leg?
Consider an off-campus meal plan! You can get as few as a five meals a week or as many as 19. Food is freshly prepared, all-you-can-eat and conveniently located with variety for all diets. Check out http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/dining/mealplan/ for more information on how to sign up.
Got questions? Need advice? Contact CHO! Go to www.housing.ucsb.edu/chohelp.htm and submit a request. We can help you get back that euphoric honeymoon feeling of have a great place to call home with people you can live with in drama-free peace.