Friday, September 09, 2005

This Crappy Apartment

I wish that Columbus still had a public access cable station, because I have an idea for a weekly show that would be perfect for this city. You know the PBS series "This Old House"?

I propose:

This Crappy Apartment

Columbus, Ohio abounds in run-down and mismanaged rentals and apartment complexes, partly due to the vast student slum surrounding The Ohio State University, but not entirely. For instance, my housemates and I lived well away from OSU, but our complex was just a few steps away from becoming its own little warzone (we moved out after it became clear our new neighbor was a busy drug dealer with a well-armed clientele).

Even the nice, expensive complexes in town are plagued by bad maintenance and indifferent management. A lot of the problem, I think, is that Ohio state laws provide very little in the way of protection for tenants -- everything is skewed towards the landlords.

For instance, when I lived in Indiana, landlords were required to provide up-to-date fire extinguishers in the kitchens, smoke detectors, and were required to inspect the heating system every year for malfunction and carbon monoxide emissions.

Here in Ohio? Fuggedaboutit.

If something catastrophic happens -- say, your roommate's bedroom ceiling springs an enormous leak -- you have to notify the landlord in writing of the problem. And then they have 30 days to fix it. If they don't fix it, you can put your rent in escrow. You're not legally protected if you just call your landlord about a problem. And they still have a month to fix something that can render an apartment partially or fully unusable. Most landlords try a bit harder than that to keep tenants safe and happy, but only a bit.

And there's the issue of rent. If you're late on rent in most states, you might get a phone call or a note at first. Here in Columbus, if you're past deadline, most apartment complexes automatically send you an eviction notice. According to the law, to stage an eviction due to nonpayment, they have to give 6 weeks notice, so many landlords include an eviction notice automatically with their late notice. It's quite disconcerting to get one of these the first time.

So Columbus complexes are not particularly friendly to tenants. You can expect maintenance crews to be very slow to respond to non-emergency requests.

Thus, if you want your rental home to be a nice place, you will end up having to fix some stuff yourself.

And so "This Crappy Apartment" would be perfect. In the series, we'd have shows like:

  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside: Cheaply insulating your apartment"
  • "Are your walls screwed? Patching wall damage for move-out inspections"
  • "Grokking Legalese: What the fine print in a rental agreement means to you"
  • "Holding your ground: Finding a lawyer to fight an unfair eviction"
  • "Should I clean my carpet, or just find a new apartment?"
  • "Cheap Digs: Apartment Best Buys around the city"
  • "Dogs and Cats: which complexes offer the best deals for pet owners"

It'd be cool. But alas, our public access channel is no more ....