Casey McCarthy Long Reads News Politics Spring 2018 Senior Show

WKU Students Rent Without Protection

By Casey McCarthy

Courtney Thompson, a senior at Western Kentucky University, was having a birthday party for a pair of friends at her house in October 2016. All night, people complained that the toilets were taking forever to flush in her house on Ogden Avenue in Bowling Green. Thompson brushed the  comments off and chalked them up to her house being old. She and her roommates were going to bed that night when they heard running water.

“We go downstairs and our basement is filling up with sewage,” Thompson said. “It’s like 3

Thompson, C.
Courtney Thompson’s basement filled with enough sewage to fill her washing machine. For days, Thompson and her roommates were forced to find alternatives for bathing, washing clothes and using the bathroom for several days. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Thompson)

a.m.. We can’t call our landlord.”

They shut the water off that night to get the sewage to stop pouring in. Thompson and her roommates called their landlord the next morning. Their landlord told them they would send someone out as soon as possible.  Three days went by before anyone came by, Thompson said.  The problem, she would later find out, was roots in the pipes further down the line. 

For days, Thompson and her roommates found places to shower at friends’ houses or apartments. They found places to do laundry.  They had to remember to use the bathroom before leaving campus.  A double major at WKU with double minors, Thompson said the ordeal added another level to her already hectic schedule.  

“We had to clean up the sewage ourselves,” Thompson said. “It happened again later. When it kept happening, [they] said this is how the house is, and you can accept that as it is, or you can pay the fee to cancel your lease and leave.”

Thompson and her roommates said they discussed reporting the issue to city code officials. But they were fearful of repercussions from their landlord or being kicked out. Threat of retaliatory eviction or action by a landlord is only one of many protections student renters lack in Bowling Green.

Read more on the protections students lack in Bowling Green here