Tell the world of your apartment woes

An online survey lends personal insight into what campus living is really like.

Elizabeth Cook

Renters want to know if an apartment or house is worth the money before signing a lease.

So to help students learn about landlords and rental properties, the Minnesota Student Association sponsored the Renter’s Survey, an online form for students to detail their current living situation.

The results will be published in the Renter’s Guide in mid-February.

To fill out the renter’s survey or get information on places to live, go to: www.msa.umn.edu/scripts/rent.pl

The survey began in 2003, and last year approximately 1,400 students filled out the survey. This year the number lingers around 1,000, which MSA wants to change.

To grab students’ attention, MSA utilized Facebook by taking out an advertisement and starting a group.

According to the ad, students could win an iPod for taking the survey.

The survey asks students to describe their living conditions in houses, apartments or residence halls so others can view the results before deciding to move, said Adam Engelman, political science junior and chair of the Facilities, Housing and Transit Committee.

It also asks for information on safety, landlords and housing conditions, which are rated on a scale of one to five.

Besides helping students, the survey is intended to let landlords know students are serious when it comes to living standards, he said.

“I think it really gives students a voice if they’ve had a really good landlord or a really bad one,” he said.

People seem to assume all landlords are bad, said journalism junior Joe Halvorson.

Halvorson moved into his house by 14th Avenue Southeast and 7th Street Southeast in August and said he is impressed with his situation.

“The landlord is on top of things. You’ll see him once a week working on different projects,” he said.

Halvorson found his room on Craigslist.org, an online classifieds site, and said he would fill out a good evaluation for his current residency if he saw a link for the survey.

E-mails were also sent out to help combat student apathy to the survey, Engelman said.

But Emily Ryan, a first-year public relations major, said she never received the e-mail and has never even heard of the survey.

She currently lives in Comstock Hall and said she doesn’t know if she’ll move, but might look at the survey if she does.

“It’d be a really good way to learn about things that you don’t want and then have no way of getting out (of),” Ryan said.

Bill Dane, a staff attorney at Student Legal Services, agrees with the benefits of the survey results.

He said about 1,000 students a year come into the office to talk with attorneys about their housing, whether it is to complain or to look for advice.

Students commonly complain about withheld security deposits and property in poor condition, he said.

Dane said the survey reflects the good and bad landlords.

“Students who tend to have problems tend to rent from the same landlords,” he said.

Students who haven’t filled out the survey can post their opinions on the MSA Web site.