Learning safety & smarts in renting apartments

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By Addison Martin

addison-martin@uiowa.edu

For college students looking for their first apartment or house, leases and landlords may seem intimidating.

University of Iowa Student Legal Services helps to alleviate some of this through the lecture “Renting 101,” which it presented on Monday evening.

The lecture featured Christopher Malloy, the director and attorney at Student Legal Services, and a section on energy efficiency while renting an apartment by “Professor KW Therm,”also known as the energy-loving Doug Litwiller, the associate director of Energy Conservation at Facilities Management.

“I want to make sure that people understand that they can have an impact on their own energy consumption … I would so much rather have people pay 300 bucks a month going out to eat than giving it to the utility companies,” Litwiller said.

He emphasized that tenants should not be afraid to ask their landlord to take care of energy-wasting problems. Some issues tennants in older homes could face are: “If you don’t notice energy waste as you see it, you can’t do anything about it; you can’t bring that to their attention,” he said.

In addition to saving money, Litwiller said, these methods cut effects on the environment by wasting less energy.

Malloy also advises future tenants on how to get out of a lease if needed, what to do if the landlord is not holding up her or his responsibilities, and how to avoid trouble.

“Don’t get evicted … that’s something that’s key to understand,” he said, to simplify the problems of not paying rent on time or breaking lease agreements.

He spoke not only about the landlord’s and the tenant’s responsibilities but also how to sign a lease and, more importantly, with whom to sign a lease. Problems of roommates backing out of leases can leave tenants without options and stuck in apartments they can’t afford by themselves. One way Malloy suggests avoiding this issue is to consider living alone.

“It sounds silly, but it [living alone] is a good way to protect yourself,” Malloy said.

However, this does not keep renters safe from all renting issues. UI senior Eugenia Davis, a tenant with an Iowa City landlord, hopes to cut her lease short because of problems with a cockroach infestation in her current building.

“First, they didn’t warn me that there had been an ongoing infestation that they hadn’t really fixed, previous years it’s been here, and I’ve heard that now from a few people that lived in the building,” she said about the issue.

In his presentation, Malloy discussed that the landlord’s responsibilities includes keeping the property in a condition that does not affect the tenant’s health or safety; Davis said she believes an infestation of bacteria-carrying bugs could be considered a breach of this responsibility.

“They’re pretending to be like they’re willing to help, and they’re just kind of deflecting it,” she said. 

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