It’s probably just some phony call about winning a fake trip to Florida. I’ll let it go to voicemail. I hit play to half-listen to what I thought would be a robot speaking. Oh how wrong I was…Turns out, the voicemail was to inform me that my apartment’s water heater had basically exploded and the entire place had become a nightmare full of rushing water and mold. Awesome.

Before I could even finish the voicemail, I called the number back to talk through what I was still trying to process. Apparently, the water heater had been leaking for long enough to leave one inch of water on the floors. The apartment was for my twin brother and I, and because we were home during the summer, no one was there to notice the start of the leak. During the two weeks that still water had been sitting on the floor, mold began growing on the walls, all over our furniture, and onto our clothing.

We had lived there during our third year of college and had been so excited to renew the place and have such an easy transition into our fourth year since all of our things were already there, and now we are finding out that it is unsafe and unlivable.

A little backstory on the place. First of all, my brother and I LOVED that apartment and made it look like a place that Chip and Joanna (if you’ve never seen Fixer Upper on HGTV, you’ve probably never seen a television) would offer their approval. There were hardwood floors throughout, exposed brick on the living room wall, and two massive bedrooms. The apartment was full of our own paintings, wooden furniture that we had made, and awesome tapestries to offer a rustic-indie vibe to a place that already had character. Every time we walked through the door to our apartment, we would tell each other how much we loved our apartment. We would clean the place regularly so that the property managers could continue to use ours as the “show room” to illustrate how potential renters could make use of a space like ours. And now the place looked worse than any house on Fixer Upper before it had been renovated.

So, it wasn’t just that our apartment had flooded–our sanctuary of creativity had been shattered. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of mold all over the floors, walls, and décor that we cherished so much. And how in the world were we supposed to find a new apartment this late in the game when students locked down housing arrangements last October?

Fortunately, we were able to find a new place at the last minute that is very close to campus for a reasonable rate. Still, we had to rent a U-Haul, bring all of our moldy things back to our home, hire a company to clean all of the mold, sneak into and hog up an entire Laundromat to wash all of our mold-infested clothing, and then rent another U-Haul to lug our things to our new apartment. As you can imagine, the price for all of this became very expensive.

So, for any students who choose to live off-grounds, I offer some advice: Firstly, make sure you fully understand the insurance policy that accompanies your desired property or unit. We understood upfront that we wouldn’t be liable for what ended up happening to our apartment, but because we didn’t have renter’s insurance, our personal items weren’t covered. Be sure to talk it over with your parents and make sure you have renter’s insurance before renting an apartment. Secondly, if you have a friend who is staying for the summer in the city or town where you go to school and you decide to come home to your family or take an internship elsewhere, ask that person to routinely check in on your place. If someone had come to check in on our apartment and had seen the water heater begin leaking, this whole situation could have been prevented before it got so bad.

Also, if someone calls and offers you a fake trip to Florida, don’t be too upset. Hey, at least you’re apartment isn’t flooded.