Drawing straws to "get the room with no window"

by Pat Preston

COLUMBIA, 10/11/12 (Letter) --
Last week, a woman student came to our rental office to ask if we had any places available near campus. She had to get out of her place.

After telling her we didn't have anything, she broke down and completely lost it. I felt terrible and asked her what the problem was and she said she and some other girls had rented an apartment from the Odles downtown.

They were shown a nice model apartment and signed a lease for $775 per room per month, furnished. When they moved in to their apartment on the bottom floor of the building, they saw that one of the rooms had no windows.

They drew straws and the girl I was talking to got the room with no window. I couldn't believe any landlord could get by renting a room that did not have windows, but she insisted that her room had no window.

At that point, one of her roommates came in our office and I asked her about the apartment with a room with no window. She said, yes, that is true. Her roommate's room had no window.

I asked again, are you sure it has no window? And she said, it has no window. It is just four walls. I asked her if other apartments had rooms with no window. She said all the apartments on the bottom floor have one room with no window.

I'm brand new in the rental management business in Columbia, but I can't imagine that anyone can rent a room anywhere in the US that has no window.

Can they? What about a fire? How could somebody get out if there was no window?

All of the places we manage are city inspected and all of the rooms of the units have windows. My manager says that all rooms rented in Columbia must have windows by city code.*

Are the Odles under a different code downtown? I felt so sorry for the girl that I cried, and couldn't concentrate for the rest of the day.

[Ed. Note: The Odles -- Bruce, Jon, and Nathan -- almost never respond to requests for comment, so instead we looked at their floor plans. Indeed, a plan called the "Kleinbeck" at 1221 East Walnut appears to have a bedroom or bedrooms without windows: http://www.liveatbrookside.com/unit_details/unit_code/cw01g44a
*Columbia City ordinance is non-specific about this issue, instead referring to national building codes which require at least one window in a bedroom under most circumstances.   However, the project may have been granted a variance or satisfied code requirements in another way.