It is inevitable that landlord-tenant conflicts will arise every school year, which is something students like Avery Balsiger can attest to.
“It was just so frustrating,” Balsiger said about the repairs that took months for her landlord to make.
Balsiger, a 20-year-old junior speech, language and hearing sciences major, said when she and her roommates moved into their apartment in August, they discovered their dishwasher was broken.
“It would leak, and the little door to hold the soap, the detergent, was always broken or it wouldn’t close, and you had to do this little dance to make it go. You had to push it to the left and like kick it twice…to get it to work. It was ridiculous,” Balsiger said.
She said she and her roommates notified their landlord about the problem the day after they moved in, and their dishwasher was only replaced weeks ago; months after they had originally lodged a complaint. She added they were checking in with the landlord about the repair on a weekly basis up until the issue was resolved.
For students who encounter situations in which they feel their needs as tenants are not being addressed by landlords, there are on campus resources that can assist them in finding a resolution, said Susan Stafford, director of Off Campus Student Services.
Off Campus Student Services (OCSS) is located in UMC room 313 and offers students a variety of resources, including a database to aid in searching for housing, as well as conflict resolution should problems arise once a student has moved into his or her home.
Stafford said there are steps students can take to not only make sure their needs as tenants are met, but also to prevent any conflicts with landlords from arising in the first place.
“I think that students first off need to read their lease,” Stafford said. “Their lease is a contract that talks about the type of relationship that they’re going to have with the property management company. So I think that’s the first step.”
She said understanding the lease better enables students to determine what they can and cannot expect from their landlord, therefore helping them to decide what course of action to take should maintenance issues or any other issues arise.
Stafford said Bruce Sarbaugh, a lawyer and legal advisor for OCSS, is available to students free of charge, and will review leases with students before they are signed. The lease review clarifies legal language within the document and ensures that students have a full understanding of the contract.
If a student understands the terms of his or her lease and is concerned that the landlord is not following through on their end of the agreement, Stafford said that there are actions students can take.
Sarbaugh offers legal advice to students and will aid in, for example, drafting letters to landlords and management companies, Stafford said.
Sarbaugh will also help students to determine what the best course of action to take will be, depending on their situation.
Assistance for students in matters of landlord-tenant relations is also offered by OCSS’ Landlord Tenant Advisory Board. The board, chaired by Sarbaugh, is comprised of six representatives, according to the OCSS Web site. Three student/tenant representatives and three landlord representatives, who work for property management companies of varying sizes, help students through their knowledge of the rental industry.
According to the Web site, the board offers services including aid in communication between landlords and tenants and education concerning the responsibilities of both parties.
In the event that OCSS is not able to meet students’ needs in their legal matters, however, they can be directed to Student Legal Services, which is also located in the UMC.
Stafford said coming to OCSS first is preferable as they advise students free of charge, whereas Student Legal Services does charge a fee.
For students who are experiencing housing problems that may be more serious than those Balsiger explained, Stafford said they should contact the city’s rental licensing department.
“If it’s a violation of a life safety code, then the city of Boulder will send out an inspector if you’re not getting satisfaction from your landlord,” Stafford said.
Jarrod Guaderrama, a 21-year-old junior political science major, said he has had no problems with his landlord, but a friend of his was once living in dangerous conditions that appeared to be disregarded by his property management company.
“His house was falling apart,” Guaderrama said. “When he bought the house he didn’t realize how bad it actually was…it was horrible. (There were) leaks in the roof, there were nails coming up out of the steps…the landlord just never really did anything about it. The guy complained about it all year and threatened to call a lawyer, but the landlord just never did it.” If you encounter this kind of problem and need immediate professional roof repair services, then make sure to contact a local roofer similar to the local Durham, NC roofer. You may also visit a place like bondocroofing.com for expert services. And if you need commercial roof replacement services, you may consider hiring a commercial roofing company.
Stafford said most of the students who come to OCSS for assistance are usually experiencing roommate conflicts, as opposed to landlord issues. These conflicts range from arguments over rent to arguments over overnight guests and sharing food.
She said those who come to address landlord issues usually are seeking advice concerning landlords who aren’t returning security deposits in full.
Some students may not be aware of OCSS services and advocates like Sarbaugh. Guaderrama said he thinks increased awareness of resources at students’ disposal would help in situations such as that of his friend.
Both Stafford and Sarbaugh emphasized the importance of always corresponding with landlords and property management companies in writing. If students only lodge complaints in person or over the phone, there is no paper trail of the correspondence, which could be to students’ disadvantage.
They both also said that students should not keep their concerns silent for fear that they will only be ignored.
“If you’re silent and really annoyed by this situation, that’s not doing you any good and it’s really not doing the landlord any good, because you’re not giving that landlord the opportunity to correct the situation,” Stafford said.
Sarbaugh echoed the sentiment that students should not be of the mindset that there is nothing that they can do to make sure their needs as tenants are met.
“The first thing students can do is to get empowered,” Sarbaugh said. “Get rid of that whole mindset.”
Contact CU Independent Deadline News Editor Sara Morrey at Sara.Morrey@colorado.edu.