If there is damage done, there is a leak in your property, there is mold in your house, the landlord doesn’t do things they need to fix it, you might have a claim against them for rent abatement.
Probably the second biggest thing we deal with is security deposits. A security deposit is money that you pay that is held in trust by a landlord basically as sort of an insurance policy for him … if a student has to pay a security deposit under their lease, they should not just walk away at the end and not expect to get it back. A landlord has duties under the law to account for security deposits … So if there is a security deposit claim or issue — tenants not getting it back, student has questions — they should come and talk to us.
DTH: Any other issues you deal with?
JTR: Sometimes we will deal with issues where the landlord is suing the student who is the tenant because they claim that the student damaged the property either intentionally or negligently.
We deal a lot of times with lease terminations. So if, for instance, a student is trying to get out of their lease and break their lease, as would a lot of students call it,there is nothing under the law that says you could just automatically walk away from the lease. So you have to try to negotiate something with the landlord to get (yourself)out of the lease unless there were (very specific conditions). Before they just walk away and quickly paythe rent, they should come in and talk to us.
Sometimes we just review leases for people. If you have questions about whether or not a landlord ought to be charging you for specific things, then you can bring those questions in to us as well.
DTH: What should students do to prepare for apartment visits? House visits?
JTR: You need to review the lease. But as far as the apartment visit, you need to inspect the premises and make sure that there are no bad conditions. You should ask the landlord if there is any defect in the premises. You should inspect it yourself, take pictures if you like, make a checklist of the things that you see that are wrong with the premises.
When you are about to move in, you should do the same thing. You should look around, take pictures of any damages that you see, write them down, make a list. That way, when you leave, the landlord cannot come in and say that you caused those things if you documented them when you first moved in. Same thing goes when you move out. You should go through again, look at any damages that exist, take pictures of anything that you think you might have caused or that you think the landlord might hold against you.
DTH: What are some of the ways students can prevent landlords from taking advantage of them?
JTR: The biggest thing is being educated about what your rights are. Understanding what your rights are as a tenant and what a landlord’s duties are as a landlord. So education and understanding your rights are the most important things you can do to prevent a landlord from being able to take advantage of you. The second thing I would say is to document everything and put everything in writing.
DTH: What are other campus resources students can take advantage of?
JTR: The University ombudsmen, they kind of act as a resolution center on campus for people. Aaron Bachenheimer, (is with) the sorority and fraternity life and community involvement office. If you are having issues with a landlord, you can go and talk to him. He refers a lot of people over to us. If it is a legal issue, he cannot really advise you on that, but he can refer you over to us or point you to other community service or community resources.
DTH: Anything to add?
JTR: The most important thing to remember is that we are a resource. We are here and available on campus to students.
Let us help you avoid rather than deal with problems once they come up.