The beginning of Winter Quarter signals the start of the stressful and often confusing race to find housing for the following school year.
The task of finding the perfect combination of price and location, going door-to-door in Isla Vista for home tours and even deciding who to live with for the duration of the lease is daunting for veteran tenants and fresh blood from the dorms alike. However, there are a variety of on- and off-campus resources available for prospective tenants to consult.
Maya Salmon, Program Coordinator of the Community Housing Office, said finding housing for next year requires careful consideration.
“It is important to kind of get your homework done,” Salmon said. “Figure out what you can afford, figure out where you want to live and figure out who you want to live with.”
Shoreline Property Management owner Casey Crawford said proactively approaching the situation is key to securing residencies within the area’s weekend hotspots.
“In my own opinion the best places are near the sweet spot, Del Playa or Sabado Tarde,” Crawford said. “Those places run out earlier. I think it is a good idea that students stay on the ball so they get the properties they want.”
Freshman and dorm students face the particularly difficult task of navigating the Isla Vista jungle without a compass and map crafted from prior experience.
First-year communications major Rinda Sutrathada said meeting the financial and aesthetic requirements for her group of four proved demanding.
“What we did was drive around in my friend’s car and found all the leases,” Sutrathada said. “We then called the numbers and looked through websites. Thankfully, we found a place that was cheap and accommodating that fit all the girls’ needs.”
Although many renters are tempted to sign the lease for the first beachside home they find, Salmon said it is important to consider the potential rental and living problems. According to Salmon, the CHO helps resolve issues with unpaid rent, contract checking and even roommate mediation.
“There is no rush,” Salmon said. “We have some workshops coming up that we put on where we will help students learn about how to rent, what a security deposit is and what a guarantor is. We are even having a rental faire on the 25th. We bring in pretty much every landlord from Isla Vista so students can see what kind of options are out there.”
The Associated Students’ Isla Vista Tenants Union also provides rental counseling and support for local community and students.
IVTU Chair Kelly Yadzi said in an email that students should understand the legally binding implications of a lease before signing it.
“IVTU will be holding forums for these kinds of students starting early February,” Yazdi said in an email. “DO NOT SIGN A LEASE JUST BECAUSE YOUR FRIENDS ARE. Properties to lease in I.V. do not cease to exist; it is extremely possible to sign a lease on a perfectly great apartment the month before school. I am not saying procrastination is a good idea — because it is not — all I am saying is that do not be rushed into signing a legal document if you do not know the logistics. Period.”
Fourth-year physics major Kyle Naughton said he learned to research the details of a lease after a harrowing experience during his first year.
“Infinitely stoked to find a big group of cool guys freshman year, I elect to follow their lead and check out a fine pad on El Nido,” Naughton said. “It is nigh on impossible to find anyone to commit to a house, let alone eight so I seize the chance. Everyone arrives on site to the soon-to-be-banned frat house with the skuzzy landlord. Spray painted tags on the wall. No furniture, pretty sure there was a goat in the kitchen.”
After researching and meeting with UCSB housing consultants, Naughton said the group learned the property owners had a sub-par track record.
“We discover that the landlord has a long history of never returning security deposits and has a dozen cases of people suing him for cheating them out of money,” Naughton said. “All the money he made selling properties went to producing porn around Santa Barbara.”
Although Naughton’s case is not the norm, Crawford said minor charges to the security deposit are common.
“Well different landlords have different reputations on their niceness and returning their deposits,” Crawford said. “Some charge for every tiny little thing and there are some landlords that are a little easy. For me I typically charge for carpet cleaning. I overlook a lot of things like nail holes. I want to have a good reputation and I want them to leave and feel like they have a good experience with me.”
According to Crawford, smaller property-management companies are usually more lenient due to a greater incentive to maintain a more personal relationship with their tenants.
On-campus options are available for students seeking to avoid the inherent risks of entering a year-long contract with several housemates.
Salmon said on-campus options provide the advantages of pre-furnished apartments and individual lease signings to help prevent roommate disputes.
Mario Muñoz, Assistant Director of Apartment Assignment Services, said university housing is also a great resource for students looking for open-minded living environment.
“My experience has been that the students are most concerned that they be assigned with understanding roommates that are aware of their gender identity, and that those potential roommates have the opportunity to confirm their comfort or express their discomfort with the living situation prior to being assigned,” Muñoz said. “I then make personal contact with potential roommates and have a discussion based on the parameters defined in my conversation with the original applicant and go from there until I find good matches.”
Executive Director of the Isla Vista Cooperatives Jeff Bessmer said the living arrangement provides another alternative to traditional Isla Vista leases for students desiring greater participation within a small community.
“We have special screenings with movies, people garden, and we have lots of social events,” Bessmer said. “What really makes this different is that it is run by the democratically by the students. They elect people to collect the rent, to plan events, etc.”
Bessmer said Cooperative Housing residents collectively save approximately $200,000 a year. According to Bessmer, the average monthly rent for the co-ops is $600 a month including utilities and food. However, interested students should apply as soon as possible at www.sbcoop.org due to the long waiting lists.
For more information on housing options on and off campus, visit the IVTU at www.ivtu.as.ucsb.edu, or the CHO within www.housing.ucsb.edu.