Renters’ surveys are a good thing

The University has been criticized in the past, and rightfully so, for taking a laissez-faire approach to housing around campus.

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Student Association released results from approximately 1,300 student-tenant rental surveys taken last year. The surveys present an important resource for University students.

The University has been criticized in the past, and rightfully so, for taking a laissez-faire approach to housing around campus. This has led to many bad experiences and confusion for students. Students don’t know the previous history of potential renting houses or the reputations of their renters. In turn, when things go wrong, action is not taken, because it seems futile. Hopefully, the University will feel more inclined to act on student-housing issues given that MSA has become more active on the subject.

The MSA-sponsored rental surveys will not solve all of these problems, but will go a long way toward addressing them. MSA’s move to make itself more relevant to students’ lives is long overdue. Acting as an advocate for students in the areas of student housing is a perfect function for MSA.

Granted, there are possibilities for abuse among students, and surveys can be problematic. People are more inclined to give negative than positive feedback. A low number of respondents skews results. Additionally, only the top 10 properties with the most responses are presented on the Web site. But those are mitigated by the benefits students will have.

As the rental surveys become more popular, the more effective they will be in helping students make housing choices. Eventually, a history of landlord quality, privacy, value and safe conditions in rental properties could be put together to provide a fairer picture of the rental properties.

Kudos to MSA for starting and following through with such a program. It’s only a beginning to address housing issues, but it’s a good one.