What You Need to Know About Off-Campus Housing

Story by: Michael Bratton, Alyssa Flynn, Haley Phillippi and Rob Rompala

Off-campus housing is becoming overcrowded and has resulted in unfair standards of living in the city of Kent, among other problems. The many factors that come into play when students have to deal with living off-campus are money, landlords, apartment conditions, housing security and roommates.

With the overflow of students on campus, some students are left with very little or no options to choose from in Kent.

Kent State has a population of about 32,000 students, although only about 6,500 of them currently live on campus,” said Patricia Dennison, assistant to the vice president of the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs in a previous Kent Stater article from September. “The remaining student population commutes from home or lives in off-campus housing.”

Some students living off-campus have to live in an overcrowded space or deal with unfavorable living conditions because there is not enough housing for the off-campus population.

In the city of Kent there are 320 licensed housing options according to the Kent City Department of Health, Kyle Kelly, a public health sanitarian, and of those 320 include College Towers, Eagles Landing, University Edge and University Oaks. 

In the city of Kent there are 320 licensed housing options – Kyle Kelly

Kent State had trouble this year with student housing overflow that resulted in RAs having roommates. David Garcia, associate vice president for enrollment management, said there was an increase in students who applied to live on-campus for their freshman.

“We added 139 beds to our inventory, which made our 6225 to 6364 for our returning students, as well as incoming students,” said Garcia. “We did that by looking at what we had available: first we created 28 triples from doubles and we added roommates to our RAs across campus. So, we had to be really creative and innovative how we created more beds for our class coming in.”

Currently, University policy is that students have to live on campus their first two years – freshman and sophomore year. If students wanted to live off-campus, they had to be 21 years of age plus have a certain amount of credit hours.

Garcia said the policy was changed from 21 years of age to 20 years of age, which makes some students eligible to live off- campus.

“We did see a lot of returning students in their sophomore year decide to live off-campus. So, because of that it puts a lot of pressure on the city of Kent. It poses the challenge that off-campus housing; apartments and complexes are at capacity as well,” said Garcia.

Apartment Overload

With more and more students choosing Kent State as their school as well as the university having a higher retention rate; off-campus apartments in Kent are at their full capacity.

TV2’s Haley Phillippi spoke with managers at University Edge and Eagles Landing about the apartment overload.

Students who are approved to move off-campus for next year should start looking now before full capacity is reached.

Standards of Off-Campus Housing

The standards of living for multiple-use structures are outlined by the Kent City Health Department’s Environmental Health and Housing Maintenance Code, citing minimum standards and requirements, owner and occupant responsibilities and enforcement and penalties among other sections in maintenance code.

The health department inspects each housing structure and if there are any problems that need to be corrected and violations were marked, they would have to be taken care of by a certain time.

 Minimum Standards and Requirements:

Equipment and facilities requirements, light, ventilation, electric and heating requirements, space use and location requirements, and sanitary maintenance standards are sub-sections of 1365 chapter.

The minimum standards states that each facility must have to meet the minimum equipment requirements. The requirements include water lines, bathrooms, kitchens and carbon monoxide alarms.

Solid waste collection and solid waste storage also falls under the requirements for minimum equipment. After these complaints are filed, it’s up to the apartment management to take care of the problem.

Owner and Occupant Responsibilities:

The owner of the apartment complex must comply within the standards of sanitary conditions, solid waste storage and collection, extermination and plumbing fixtures, according to the Kent Health Department standards.

Taken from Minimum Standards and Requirements:

  • (d) Solid Waste Storage. The owner of each multiple use structure shall provide adequate solid waste storage receptacles on the premises for the disposition of litter and solid waste.
  •  (e) Solid Waste Collection. The owner of each multiple use structure shall provide solid waste collection for the licensed dwelling by hiring a solid waste collector who is licensed by the City.

Examples from Public Records:

Taken from Enforcement and Penalties:

1371.02. NOTICE OF VIOLATION

Whenever the Health Commissioner or his agent determines there has been a violation of any provision of this Housing Code, he shall give notice of such violation to the owner, occupant, operator or responsible person that such violations must be corrected. The notice and order shall:

  • (a) Be put in writing on the appropriate form;
  • (b) Include a list of violations, refer to the chapter or section violated, and order remedial action which will  effect compliance with the provisions of this Code;
  • (c) Specify a reasonable period of time within which to comply;
  • (d) Be served upon the owner, occupant, agent or person in charge, or sent by certified mail to the last  known address, or in the event of a failure to establish notice by any means of mail, a copy posted in a conspicuous place in or on the building affected.
  • (e) If service is refused or unclaimed, and the certified mail receipt shows that service has been refused or unclaimed, the Health Department shall send by ordinary mail a copy of the order or other document to be  served to the individual at the address set forth on the original certified mail envelope. 

According the Housing Code if there is notice of violation of any rule or regulation in accordance to Section 1372.02 or Notice of Violation would be guilty of third degree misdemeanor.

Apartment Health Inspections

In order for off-campus apartment complexes to hold housing licenses they must be inspected annually by the Kent City Health Department.

TV2’s Haley Phillippi digs deeper into how complexes handle violations.

Health Department complaints from both University Edge and Eagles Landing can be found in the documents above.

Unfair Housing

By definition, the Fair Housing Act is a law enacted as part of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination of home sales, rentals and financing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or those with disabilities.

The Akron Fair Housing Contact Service wants to ensure students know their rights as tenants.

However, TV2’s Haley Phillippi found out the Fair Housing Contact Service isn’t working with students as much as they would like when it comes to unfair housing situations in Kent.

If a student calls for help they can give students knowledge of what they can do to advocate for themselves or refer them to timelines required for a landlord to fix something.

You can visit the Fair Housing Contact Service to get more resources.

“Boarding” Homes in the City of Kent

Students make up a fair amount of Kent’s population and a lot of them tend to live together to cut down on rental costs.

But having too many people living in a house can cause health and safety issues for tenants and neighbors.

TV2’s Michael Bratton tells us more about what’s referred to as “boarding houses” in the City of Kent.

You can view the full zoning code on “rooming” and “boarding” houses in the City of Kent here.

Looking Ahead

City Council has authorized staff to move forward with discussions with a developer that had approached the City concerning the possible sale of the City’s administration buildings, located at the corner of Summit and Depeyster Streets, for possible redevelopment of the site for new student housing by the developer, but nothing has been submitted or formalized at the present time.

“The City of Kent Community Development Department has not received any formal requests for the review and approval of plans for any new student housing projects,” said Community Development Director Bridget Susel.

Garcia said that we’ll have to keep a watchful eye on the housing situation in the next two or three years. He added that the school would have to decrease the size of incoming freshmen that enrolls on the Kent campus. This would accommodate returning students along with the new students on campus.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any new housing, but we have to be strategic about it,” Garcia said.

Sidebar: Ohio Landlord and Tenant Law

The Fair Housing Contact Service the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law went into effect in 1975.  A rental agreement, or lease, is known as a binding written or oral contract between parties to establish the terms, conditions, or rules concerning one of the party’s use and occupancy of a residential place. Having a lease in place will most of the time result in any misunderstandings or problems that may arise between a landlord and a tenant. Ohio law prohibits a landlord from shifting responsibilities to a tenant at anytime.

Landlord duties: Section 5321.04 of the Ohio Revised Code

  • Follow all building, housing, health, and safety codes that affect the health and safety of all tenants.
  • Keep the property in livable condition by making all necessary repairs.
  • Maintain all electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, fixtures, and appliances in good working conditions in which the landlord has supplied or is supposed to supply to the tenant.
  • Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water to tenants. As well as garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord owns four or more units in the same building.
  • Must provide 24-hour notice before entering the tenants’ apartment unit unless there is an emergency.
  • Landlords must not abuse their right of access to inspect the property.

Tenant duties: 5321.05 of the Ohio Revised Code

  • Tenants must keep the property safe and clean at all times.
  • Dispose of garbage in a clean safe manner.
  • Use electrical and plumbing fixtures correctly. Keep all plumbing fixtures as clean as possible and in their given condition.
  • Follow all housing, health, and safety codes that apply to tenants.
  • Keep appliances in working order that were supplied by the landlord.
  • Allow the landlord to enter the rental property if the request is reasonable and a 24-hour notice is given.
  • Do NOT make changes to the rental unit (such as painting or removing carpet) without first getting permission from the landlord in writing.
  • Pay rent in full every month.

For questions or free counseling, anyone can call the Fair Housing Contact Service at (330) 376-6191.

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