Leases, landlords cause issues

Frozen pipes, peeling paint and leaking ceilings are not what students expect to find when they move into an apartment. Unfortunately, these are only a few of the troubles tenants can encounter in their new homes. There is a way, however, for those who face these issues to have them taken care of and help prevent them in the future. The solution is UIUC’s Tenant Union.

The UIUC Tenant Union helps students search for independent housing by providing free services and information concerning landlords, apartments and city laws. A decision to receive advice from the Tenant Union could be the determining factor in whether a student has positive experiences with a landlord.

“My senior year I moved into my first apartment and [my roommate and I] just did it randomly; we didn’t really do any research,” said Angela Hsieh, a second year UI law student who also attended the University for undergraduate schooling. “[My landlord] would never let us know when they needed to come into our apartment; they would show up at really inconvenient times. Once they also tried to evict us, saying that we didn’t pay our rent even though we did.”

When Hsieh decided to attend law school at UIUC, she made sure to get apartment advice from the Tenant Union and found the lists of landlord complaints to be the most helpful.

“The most important thing a student can do is to check our landlord complaint records because there is a world of difference from one landlord to another,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union.

The complaint records are housed in the Tenant Union office in the Illini Union. These records list the number of complaints students have filed against a landlord per year, in addition to the nature of the complaints.

Students can view these records by coming into the Tenant Union office or by sending an e-mail requesting the lists. According to Patt, the best time to view complaints is during the preliminary stages of apartment searching. She finds if students have their hearts set on a particular place to live, they are more likely to overlook the complaints a landlord has.

At the office students can also receive advice on the significance of various landlord complaints.

“People who obsess about the numbers are thoroughly missing the point,” said Patt. “Whether a landlord has 1,000 apartments or 100, if there are even three complaints about them brushing off a tenant then that should be enough to alarm you.”

Patt also urges students to have their leases reviewed at the Tenant Union. Apartment leases are often pages upon pages. As a result, students may sign the contract without reviewing it, agreeing to potentially troublesome terms.

These kinds of terms may range from giving the landlord unrestricted access to the apartment or permitting them to move the tenant to another unit whenever, without explanation.

Tenant Union services are funded by the $12 Student Organization Resource Fee (SORF) students pay every semester. Those who choose to obtain a SORF refund are not eligible to file a complaint with the Tenant Union or have Tenant Union representatives speak with difficult landlords.

Carlyna Carvalho, a senior in Engineering, went to the Tenant Union right away when she began apartment hunting.

“I don’t think students use the Tenant Union enough,” said Carvalho. “A lot of people I know didn’t use it that much … and I know some of them picked companies they weren’t so happy with.”

The advice Carvalho received from the Tenant Union ultimately allowed her to select a place she is very happy with.

For more information, visit www.tenantunion.uiuc.edu