Students face renters’ blues

Student renters must be aware of their legal rights when they sign a lease.

On March 30, the Daily reported that a number of students have had trouble receiving money that judges have ruled is rightfully owed to them by their landlords or former landlords, because courts aren’t the enforcers of these payments. In some cases, the amounts owed were well into the thousands of dollars. As all college students are aware, our financial situation can be precarious. Even $20 can’t be carelessly lost. Several thousand dollars can seriously jeopardize a student’s financial future, not to mention their ability to pay tuition or bills. Landlords withholding money owed to their tenants is despicable, but students must take advantage of the options available for dealing with landlords.

Because of the temporary nature of all student housing, students are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to dealing with landlords who own the same properties year after year. Students take on a different lease with each move. Don’t just skip to the blank signature line. When you sign up to live in a house or off-campus apartment, make sure to read the fine print and find out what is expected of you, and also what you should be able to expect from your landlord.

If something is unclear, you should contact a lawyer and ask for their help. The University Student Legal Service is located in the West Bank Skyway and is available to all students paying the student services fee. They are a great resource before signing a lease, and can show you how to find out if the landlord you’re considering signing with has a history of withholding deposits from renters.

If your landlord refuses to pay money he owes to you when your lease ends, remember that there are ways USLS can help recover that money.

City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2) is looking into re-evaluating the city’s licensing procedure for landlords, and possibly using this licensing as a way to make landlords pay when conciliatory courts rule that they should.

But, for now, the best way to avoid problems is to know what is in the lease you’re signing and who you’re signing it with.