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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Stories of landlord-student dynamics

Aliza-Kibel

Editor’s note: Students’ names have been changed in order to protect their privacy.

Most sophomores are familiar with the early-fall rush to secure the following year’s housing, but what are landlord-tenant dynamics like post-move in? Some college tenants are finding that their landlords are much harder to deal with than expected.

As Alex put it, “I would say that it is a bit of a weird dynamic though with figuring out what we can ask [our landlord] or not.”

Like many current juniors, choosing a house during the pandemic was a quick decision for Sam, who had only seen the house via video prior to moving in. Sam recounted the day this past summer when his housemates moved in. 

“About five minutes after [my friend] arrives, he calls me — and I’m about a three-hour drive away from Boston — and he tells me that the apartment is a slum,” Sam said. “That it’s filled with furniture from the previous tenants, trash is everywhere, things haven’t been taken out, in his closet are these bolt suitcases that he doesn’t know where they came from. There’s furniture in people’s room that we didn’t ask for, and some of it’s broken.”

Sam noted that he and his housemates were even asked by the previous tenants to pay for the furniture left in the house, despite not having asked for it. 

"The people on the third floor — who I'm told are moving onto big banks in New York City — wanted $350 each for their furniture, which was so unbelievably damaged that they’d be lucky if they left it on the side of the road and someone other than the garbage man came to collect it," Sam said. "Just ridiculous behavior."  

Sam also mentioned that his landlord shows up unannounced. While showing up unannounced is illegal in some states, there is no notice of entry law in Massachusetts — a landlord does not need to provide notice for entering a unit for non-emergency maintenance and repairs.

On a separate occasion, Sam’s landlord sent a handyman to fix an electrical socket. According to Sam, the handyman began cutting various wires.

“My friend texts the landlord and says that, 'The guy isn’t being very careful. Are you sure that this is fine?'” Sam said. “The landlord texts him [back] 'To mind his own business.'”

Later, the internet stopped working, and an internet technician discovered an integral wire had been cut. 

“So obviously the guy that [the landlord] had sent over didn’t know what he was doing,” Sam said.

According to Sam, the landlord had called him and his housemates “princes” and of “nobility” for asking the handyman to fix other aspects of the house. 

Despite their tenuous relationship and “constant fighting,” as Sam puts it, he admits that his landlord is very responsive and eager to fix issues immediately. Some tenants have found the opposite to be true, particularly in regards to safety.

One tenant, Jamie, said that they had experienced a fire-risk situation that could have been prevented. One night, their roommate was doing laundry in anticipation of her work the next day. When the roommate went back down to the basement to change her clothes, she saw smoke and promptly called the fire department. 

“[The firetrucks] took up the entire street and all the neighbors came out. The firemen came out of their trucks with their full gear on, and they go into the basement, and one of them is starting to unscrew the fire hydrant to prepare. And we were like, 'Oh god,'” Jamie said. "Then they were downstairs for two minutes, and one of these guys pulls out one lamp and apparently the leak was dripping onto the socket where the lamp was plugged in, which was causing an electrical fire.”

Prior to this incident, the tenants had alerted their landlord about a leak in the basement, which they were told would be fixed the next day. According to Jamie, the firemen found the situation “unacceptable” and said that they would reach out to the landlord directly.  

When it comes to drawing the line between landlord versus tenant responsibility, Jamie felt conflicted.

"Of course the fact that the gas detectors were broken downstairs is terrible and wasn’t supposed to happen and he’s responsible for that,” Jamie said. “But it ultimately made [me and my housemates] realize that we’re responsible for our own safety and making sure our house is safe for us. I’m not even sure if that’s an appropriate system.”

Since this incident, Jamie and her housemates have practiced safety exits in the case of a fire.

According to Sam, landlords' responsibilities tend to lie more in fixing and compensating for faulty infrastructure.

"I think the responsibilities of landlords is that if something in the house is broken, that they should cover the costs as long as it’s from normal wear and tear and if it’s old. But if it’s something that the tenant broke, then possibly it’s not under their jurisdiction," Sam said. "When new people move in, the landlord should confirm that it’s in a good state, and it’s not in an absolute slum like how we found it.” 

Alex shared a similar perspective. While her landlord does tasks like taking the trash in and out every week, she recognizes that she and her housemates are ultimately responsible for the cleanliness of the home.

“I think we are still trying to figure out that balance...we are obviously responsible for keeping things clean and not,” Alex said. "For repairs he usually takes care of it but whenever it is considered our fault he reminds us that he is doing us a favor by taking care of it."

Landlord John Kourafalos has been in the apartment rental business in the Tufts area for over 25 years. He believes expectations are driven by the tenant.

“Well first I want them to understand what they're getting into — this isn’t a hotel room they’re going to stay in for a night," Kourafalos said. 

According to him, it's the tenants’ responsibility to keep the house in a livable condition, as per their lease agreement. A landlord has a responsibility to provide a safe dwelling unit — equipped with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers — but some situations are out of their hands.  

“At 7 a.m. in the morning, I got a phone call, and one of the kids left a gas burner on all night long,” Kourafalos said. “I can’t tell them what to do, but tenants have to have a certain amount of responsibility, or they might have blood on their hands.”

While several Tufts students have certainly had pleasant landlord-tenant relationships, there is also a history of bumpy dynamics between them. Confusion surrounding which responsibilities fall under the jurisdiction of the landlords or college students persists, and some students feel rushed into their housing decisions. 

"The difficult part was that we had to sign a lease almost a week after finding a house, and I definitely felt a bit locked in," Jamie said.