Students signing leases for South Campus Commons apartments have been greeted with higher rent rates officials said could continue to increase if vandalism in the buildings does not stop.
The 3 percent jump from last year's rental rates — which increases the cost of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment by $23 to $767 per month — is being attributed to the rising cost of living, according to Gina Brasty, the director of affiliated housing for Capstone Management. But as officials have continued to see an increase in acts of vandalism in the various apartment buildings, Brasty said students need to be warned: The funds to fix damages could come out of their own pockets.
Brasty said a certain pool of money is allotted to cover common acts of vandalism, including holes punched in walls and stolen peepholes, but as these random acts increase, other reserves may have to be used to cover the charges.
"It's not just that an exit sign is down, it's not just that someone decided to vomit in the hallway, it's that all those things are associated with a price tag," Brasty said. "Someone has to be paid to clean that up."
Brasty could not say exactly how many destructive acts have occurred recently or how much they have cost Capstone to fix. But University Police spokesman Sgt. Ken Leonard said vandalism has been reported more this semester than last, causing officers to patrol the Commons properties and the buildings' hallways more often.
"We definitely have people going in there. ... Anytime we have a problem like this that's being reported to us more often, we're going to step up patrols in that area," he said.
And while vandalism may not have directly caused the rental rates to increase yet, Brasty said students could already be seeing long-term effects.
"We don't want the vandalism to cause us to not be able to improve things in the community," she said. "If I have to choose between getting exit signs fixed and [replacing] new chairs that are ripped, I have to do the exit signs. We sure don't want to get to the point where we have to increase rent to cover this increase in vandalism."
Several Commons residents, such as senior government and politics major Hitesh Virmani, said they have noticed the problem across the building.
"A couple months ago, someone punched holes in the ceiling tiles," said Virmani, who lives in Commons 6. "There's always trash in the elevator, and every once in a while someone knocks down the exit signs. [People] just get drunk and want to lash out at something, and it just happens to be an exit sign."
Junior communication and sociology major Shannon Lee said the source of the vandalism was obvious.
"I feel like it's usually just drunk kids in the middle of the night," she said.
Leonard said police believe that most of the acts are fueled by alcohol. To combat the aggressive behavior, Brasty said she is working closely with police and the Department of Resident Life to ensure rent doesn't have to rise unnecessarily.
"If we can nip this now, we'll have the ability to turn things around," she said. "You have these people who are just basically ... walking through and punching walls, just stealing peepholes, a variety of just senseless, senseless vandalism."
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