Fixing up college students' homes can be a dirty business

Monday, August 9, 2010 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:52 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 9, 2010

COLUMBIA — Mark Bebeszko was wary about what he’d find on the other side of a door at a vacant home on East Campus on Sunday. 

“Oh, I’ve seen some terrible things,” Bebeszko, project manager for Advantage Contractors in Columbia, said. “You’d be surprised at what college kids leave behind after they move.”

Bebeszko has been remodeling homes in Columbia for 12 years and said he has seen all types of college students' leftovers: bloodstained carpets, garbage bags full of maggots, hundreds of used condoms strewn across the floor, and flies, blood and vomit in toilet bowls.

As old leases end and new ones begin, crews such as Bebeszko’s are working hard to clean properties for the incoming rush of college students. As part of their job, they have to take the dirty with the clean.

“Some of these kids just don’t care," Bebeszko said. "But when we come into the houses, it looks like a tornado just came through.”

Landlords hire maintenance teams like Advantage Contractors to clean and repair their rentals homes and apartments. Currently, Bebeszko and his crew are working on a University Avenue house where every year the landlord, Show Me Properties, puts $15,000 to $20,000 toward repairs, he said.

"With new tiles and new hardwood floors, the landlord really does put a lot of money into the properties he owns," Bebeszko said.

In a recent case, the parents of a tenant moving out called Bebeszko a crook. He said they were complaining about not getting their security deposit back. Bebeszko said he responded by wiping his hand across a wall and showing them the thick layer of dirt on his fingers. 

"This is why you and your daughter didn't receive the deposit," he said, waving his fingers at them.

Bebeszko has been cleaning the same fraternity house for 12 years, and he said every year he has to deal with similar complaints.

“The parents make us out to be slumlords,” Bebeszko said. “But when there are over 80 used condoms in a frat boy’s bedroom that he leaves for us to clean up, who exactly is the lord of the slum?”

Bebeszko said he thinks that a lot of the disaster left behind is premeditated.

“A lady on Fourth Street was complaining about a peculiar smell coming from her neighbor’s house," he said. "It turned out the old tenants must have not cared much for their landlords — they left early and not only sprinkled hamburger all throughout the house but also baked a rat.”

Even though his job has its disadvantages at times, there are some things to look forward to when taking out other people’s trash.

“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” Jerry Fox, a home remodeler in Columbia, said. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and more than three quarters of the stuff in my house is from what these kids have thrown away.”

Mike Johnson, Fox's coworker, said he has found laptops and Dell computers left behind that have something simple wrong with them, such as a missing keyboard key.

Although this is Johnson’s first year as a home remodeler in Columbia, he has already found all sorts of usable items.

“Brand-new PlayStation games that still have the wrapper on them and two huge Culligan water containers full of pennies I found," he said. "One jar came out to be $410.”

Fox, who was nearby and listening to his coworker, yelled out that he once found an Italian wool pea coat.

"I put it on and it was just the perfect fit. Oh, kids these days," Fox said, sighing.

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Ray Shapiro August 9, 2010 | 6:17 p.m.

("It turned out the old tenants must have not cared much for their landlords — they left early and not only sprinkled hamburger all throughout the house but also baked a rat.”)

This is why landlords prefer to rent to vegans.
And half-baked rat on a stick ain't too bad.
Tastes like hamster.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 10, 2010 | 6:52 a.m.

Gritty journalism! If someone needs a replacement computer keyboard I have two that have never been used.

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