If you've looked for an apartment in any large-ish US city over the last few years, you've probably noticed more and more luxury buildings dominating rental listings. You know, the kind of places that advertise trendy amenities and have studio apartments starting at exactly twice your budget.
Well recently, a 33-year-old TikTok and YouTube creator known as Donny Skipper (@donnyskipper1) has been going viral for exposing just how not-luxurious living in one of these buildings can be — and his corporate landlords don't seem too happy about it.
Oh, and he also mentions that he recently got a notice that they're raising the rent, because of course they are.
In the comments, people had lots of thoughts about everything from the bat giving tenants "luxury rabies" to wondering how on earth people with limited mobility are supposed to get upstairs when the elevators don't work.
But most of all, people commented on seeing buildings that look just like this in their city and across the country.
And in the comments, people are firmly on Skipper's side.
Skipper told BuzzFeed that he's lived in this building with his family for three years and been a reliable tenant, but numerous problems with the facilities prompted him to start making videos. "The other week I was informed by my corporate landlord that my rent was going up 6%. In the past year a wide range of maintenance issues have come up – exploding water heaters, boards falling off the ceiling, broken elevators, garages and doors, bats frequenting my HVAC vents, and more."
"I didn’t understand how they could justify raising rent on a unit that has not been updated in three years in a complex where advertised amenities are frequently inaccessible or removed entirely." In fact, as I was writing this piece, he forwarded me an email he got informing him that the building's pool is now closed "until further notice."
He continued, saying, "After a year of noticing things seemed to continuously be falling apart in the complex — and a year of being dismissed by my corporate landlord — I decided it was time to share my experience. It turns out so many people out there have landlord experiences like mine and are just as frustrated about it."
And he says that his landlords haven't directly communicated with him about his content yet. "So far they have only dropped off a letter saying they are not renewing my lease and I need to leave by May. Now we have to find a new place in a very short time frame. Anyone who follows my channel knows that I have a family — a wife and a toddler — and this corporation is forcing us out of our home. All I did was speak up about unsafe conditions."
Skipper says that the response to his videos shows how much we need better tenant protections nationwide. "We can not let these corporate landlords get away with the bad things they’re doing. They drain so much out of us and then kick us to the curb when we try to hold them accountable. I’ve had neighbors and community members come up to me and thank me for sharing these videos. They don’t feel comfortable speaking up publicly about the issues, but they still want the message to get out there."
"It’s also been great to see the social media community getting together to share advice and additional information about this problem. I’ve learned so much about the shady things these corporate landlords are getting away with. The YieldStar controversy is something that everyone should know about."
According to this excellent reporting from ProPublica, YieldStar is a Texas-based firm whose rent-setting algorithm is one of the forces driving rents up nationwide. It's a bit of a long read, but let me tell you, it's bookmark-worthy.