Exercise caution when it comes to signing that first year lease


Paulina Picciano

A recently rented home sits near the intersection of Calhoun Street and Freret Street. Many first time renters find themselves stuck in a bad lease if they’re not careful during the renting process. Photo credit: Paulina Picciano

Caleb Beck

Imagine leaving the confines of student housing to sign off on a bigger jail than you just got out of.

Try idealizing your first legitimate apartment and the ways you’ll accent it, the place you’ll cohabitate with friends you’ve made, only to be plagued with rat infestations, roaches, broken pipes, inadequate heating/cooling units and shoddy appliances for a year.

This is the reality that besets too many students naively renting sub-par apartments from apathetic “slumlord” companies, eager to sign a lease before realizing that rustic charm advertised is really just chipping paint and water damage.

It’s a reasonable expectation that a proprietary landlord would work with students to avoid code violations, hear concerns and work to cooperate over the course of their lease. Problems don’t need to be addressed the day of, but an open dialogue is a reasonable expectation for early renters.

Now stretch that expectation taut over 400 apartments in Uptown and the Garden District of New Orleans, and put one person on the phone in case anything should come up. It’s not hard to imagine where glaring problems arise, and negligence becomes a baseline for how bad these leases can get.

Lilly McGill, local educator, said renting affordably from a company like this reared its ugly head her first year living in New Orleans. She said her landlord double booked her, and knowingly rented her apartment out to a family for Mardi Gras before the terms of her lease had ended.

“It’s just sad because these prices attract many young, new people in New Orleans and they get burnt out within the first year of being here, that’s not what it’s about in New Orleans,” McGinn said.

Jacqueline Cook, a Tulane art senior, said any attempts to request repairs on her fixtures fell on deaf ears, and she currently is waiting for a fruit fly infestation, rats and moldy shower leaks to be addressed by her apartment company.

We needed a new fridge for months, they kept pushing the date back and eventually they were just ignoring our calls and emails, we had to go in person and show them photos of our fridge drawers filled with water for them to finally change them out,” Cook said.

Still, others argue that frustration with a first lease comes from the young age demographics these companies attract.

Tom Whelan, Loyola economics senior, said that his experience with the same companies were mostly agreeable.

“They always had a handyman or plumber ready to respond, I think these companies get a bad reputation because they haven’t had many other renting experiences,” Whelan said.

Even if these experiences vary across the board, it’s still advised to use caution and ask questions when touring your first apartment. Do not rush to sign your lease because you’re overjoyed you’re not in your accustomed student housing.

Beyond aesthetics, pay attention to fixtures like doorknobs, faucets, lights and smoke detectors and make sure everything is working properly. Try outlets, ring doorbells, make an itemized list of everything not working.

Next, make sure to talk to the current tenants of an apartment and ask them honestly, perhaps away from the company representative’s earshot if there are any problems they encountered over the course of their lease. It’s possible the same problems they faced could become yours with a few signatures.

Initial renting experiences are often reflected on as a mixed bag, particularly with student budgets and university proximities, but there’s no reason to settle for substandard conditions because of a lack of foresight. Be patient and exercise caution when choosing your first apartment, or even your second and third.