Students use Tenant Union as middle-man

By Kinnary Desai

There is a small three-room suite on the third floor in the Illini Union. It’s tucked behind many other rooms, down a winding hallway. But despite its obscure location, this place is a vital resource for students. It is the Tenant Union – located in Suite 326 on the Green Street side of the Union.

This place deals with the “private rental market”, said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union. Most students eventually move out of the residence halls and therefore, this place is a treasure chest.

The Union offers lease review, where they will go over your lease with you to make sure that you actually agree to everything in the lease before signing.

“There are very few laws that pertain to landlords,” Patt said.

Complaints that the Union often deals with are about issues that a student un-knowingly agreed to when they signed their lease. Lease review is basically a crash course in tenant-landlord relations, so the student is not surprised when they move into their new place.

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    The Union primarily deals with landlord complaints. They will talk to your landlord on your behalf and try to get your complaint settled. This is a great resource if your landlord is not cooperating with your contract. Patt said the Union will even help students apartment shop and offer advice about certain landlords, for example, if a landlord doesn’t fix leaks or some who might cheat a student out of money.

    As complaints are what the Union mostly deals with, there are a few tips they have to offer. There are many large apartment management companies such as Campus Property Management and Ramshaw Real Estate. These larger companies can manage around 1,800 apartments while slightly smaller companies such as Barr Real Estate or Royse and Brinkmeyer can manage around 1,100 to 1,200 apartments and companies such as Roland Realty, JSM management and The University Group all manage around 900 apartments.

    It’s possible to find out how many complaints a landlord has by e-mailing the names to [email protected]. A common misconception students have is that landlords have many complaints because they are big companies, but this is not accurate, Patt said. For instance, The University Group and Roland Realty are around the same size, but Roland has 0 complaints while The University Group has 67.

    “We generally hear about five times as many complaints as the number of official complaints”, Patt said.

    However, students just don’t bother to all fill out official complaints.

    Students do not always know about the Tenant Union and what sorts of benefits it offers.

    “As someone who has never had a lease, the tenant union gave me a lot of information I didn’t know before, like specific dates,” said Marlo Goldstein, sophomore in Engineering.

    Samantha Gunter, senior in Engineering, had a little more experience with the Union, and recalled an experience from the year before. “When I had a maintenance issue, the landlord wasn’t dealing with the problem, but after I told the tenant union, they called my landlord and the landlord responded to my problem immediately”, Gunter said.

    The Tenant Union is a resource that is open to all students at the University. The only requirement is that you are a student during the time you will be renting. It is funded by the Student Organization and Resource Fee, which is a $14 fee that all students pay.

    The Union is trying to raise awareness about what they offer. Recently, they sent out a letter to all students with 60 hours or less, in order to contact students who were likely to rent in the near future. Throughout the fall semester, they will have 13 sessions in the residence halls. The Union was also at new student orientation and international student orientation this past summer as well as both Quad Day and Business Quad day, Patt said.