Home sweet hotel: living as a nomad

A lack of permits and delayed construction forces one student to share personal space — and a bed — with her roommates.

With the fall semester officially underway, most students have settled into their new dorms or off-campus dwellings. I, on the other hand, have become a nomad.

I’ve just moved out of the Comfort Inn and into the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel in Center City, which is where I’ll be living on whatever I can fit in my mini-fridge and sharing a bed with my roommate for the next several weeks.

Talk about living the college life, huh?

It all started in June when I began the dreaded search for my next off-campus pad. After scouring Craigslist for weeks, I finally found a place managed by Compass North Realty, which owns numerous properties around North Philadelphia. I was nervous about living with three girls I didn’t know and the fact that the house was still being renovated, but I signed the lease anyway.

Big mistake.

The original move-in date was July 15, but it eventually got pushed back to Aug. 1 and then again to Aug. 28. To make up for the construction delay, the realty company offered to put us up at the Comfort Inn and store our stuff until the house was finished. Although it was an inconvenience, I must admit I enjoyed having a free continental breakfast every morning, a beautiful view of the entire waterfront and, of course, the daily cleaning service.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to finally move into my own place. However, it turns out that the contractors, who the realtor assured us week after week were working on the house, never got the necessary permits. Promising to continue accommodating me and my roommates as much as possible, Compass North upgraded us to the Radisson and gave us a free monthly TransPass.

While the hotel is definitely fancier, we’re not exactly getting five-star treatment. There’s no free breakfast, our huge flat-screen HDTV only has 30 lousy channels, the laundry facility only consists of one washer and dryer and the “high speed wireless internet” is neither high speed nor wireless. Worst of all, the realtor never mentioned our rooms would only have one king-size bed and a cot that takes up any free space we have. I was hoping to bond with my roommates, but not this much.

It’s now almost two months since I was supposed to move into my humble abode and it still looks like a condemned crack house. For $545 a month, I’m not expecting a palace, but at least four walls with windows, running water and decent cable.

With students flooding out into the surrounding community more than ever, our naivety and desperation has made us targets for unscrupulous realtors. Who can we turn to if we’re being taken advantage of by a shady landlord who doesn’t return our calls or even by a big realty company that caters to Temple students?

Temple’s off-campus housing Web site currently offers listings for local apartment complexes, tips to help students become more knowledgeable renters and a copy of the Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Act. Students can also bring their leases to the Office of Off-Campus Living to be reviewed or fill out a complaint form online. While it’s good Temple is informing students about their rights as young tenants, the reality is that too many of us are still having those rights trampled on.

I’m filling out a complaint form, but unless I’m able to take any legal action, it seems I’m stuck calling the Radisson home.

Nicole Finkbiner can be reached at nicole.finkbiner@temple.edu.

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