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The Facade of Student Apartments

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By Hannah Walls
Web Content Assistant 

 When I first transferred to Texas State, my first order of business was finding a great place to live. After a less-than-perfect first year of college at a different university, which was mostly spent in isolation in my tiny single dorm room, I was ecstatic to move into a “real” apartment. I’d been dreaming of having a space where I could cook, decorate and spend every night dishing about classes and work with a group of roommates.  

When I typed “San Marcos apartments” into Google, I was met with a million complexes touting around low rates, exuberant amenities and glowing student testimonies. Every picture was highly saturated, showcasing smiling residents hanging out by a pristine blue pool or playing sand volleyball. Despite my naivety, I do remember thinking every place seemed too good to be true. At the same time, there didn’t seem to be any other option. 

There was definitely a noticeable trend after touring a few complexes. My future roommates and I would walk into a gorgeous front office that looked like the inside of a West Elm; then we would be led to an equally gorgeous model apartment nearby. After the tour, we’d walk around the complex and see quite the opposite: busted windows, trash piled miles high in walkways or near dumpsters and what seemed to be a literal swamp in the pool.  

These complexes all seem too good to be true because they are.  

Many student apartments will offer a bonus for signing a lease or waive your security deposit. The rent is usually pretty low, and many student apartments come furnished. Some complexes may even make it seem like the utilities are low because, for example, water bills are split between everyone living in the complex rather than per unit. To the young student moving into their first apartment with no prior experience, this makes it feel like you’re getting an amazing deal.  

Yet, upon move-in, some units are completely unlivable or, at the very least, are left messy and damaged from previous tenants but don’t receive cleaning or repairs before the next tenant moves in. The rent is low because the utilities end up being ridiculously high, or maybe tenants won’t even have access to all the amenities that were advertised. When you move out, there’s no security deposit to get back because it was so generously waived, remember? Instead, you’ll probably be charged arbitrary fees or have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for even the smallest amount of damage. 

Furnished units that look nothing like the model, furniture completely missing altogether, holes in the walls, missing cabinet doors, torn carpeting, cockroach infestations- the list of complaints I’ve personally experienced or heard from friends is lengthy and doesn’t feel like it should be legal. Plus, a lot of student apartments are cheaply made and have the potential to raise safety concerns. 

The photo is of a ceiling with two large patched squares. There is a vertical light in the center of the ceiling.
Holes in the ceiling of my friend’s closet at a student apartment complex that were only fixed after they had already moved in. Photo by Hannah Walls.

Tenants have very few rights in the state of Texas to begin with, and to me, student apartments completely take advantage of this even more than independent complexes. However, this experience isn’t unique to San Marcos. Every college town has the same cookie- cutter student apartments that seem to offer the full college experience in advertisements but end up being a nightmare.  

Another big difference between student apartments and separate complexes is the leasing system. Student apartments typically offer 12-month rigid leases starting in August and ending in July, and rent per room rather than per unit. This is definitely convenient for students, but creates potential for an absolute disaster.

There’s not really any wiggle room to move in early and pay prorated rent or slightly extend your lease if necessary. For example, if you move from one complex to another, your current lease may end on the last day of July, yet your new lease may not start until several weeks into August, leaving you without a place to live for a few days. It is also extremely difficult to sublease a student apartment compared to an apartment that is not student housing.   

Traditional apartment complexes usually offer 6-month and 12-month leases, and a lot of complexes are pretty flexible with move-in dates or prorating rent as long as there is a unit for you to move into. Every apartment complex has its issues, but the conditions of student apartments are particularly disturbing to me. 

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to avoid student apartments despite the multitude of issues. The convenience of being able to take the shuttle to campus or being automatically matched with roommates rather than having to find your own is definitely a necessity for many students.  

My best advice for those considering a student apartment is to remain vigilant: do your research, know the rights you do have as a tenant and never stop bothering your landlord when there is an issue that is not being resolved.  

Featured image by Hannah Walls

Written by: Autumn McGowan

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