Matt Crowley/The AS Review
Moving off campus can be an exciting experience and not only because it means no more RAs and dining halls. Unfortunately for the young and naïve, however, there are plenty of obstacles on the path to independence. At 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 6 in VU 552, the AS Legal Information Center will host Renter’s Rights, an event offering advice to students concerning off-campus housing. It will include a discussion of renters’ rights followed by a Q and A session with a lawyer from the Lustick Law Firm.
The event will focus on four categories: tenants’ right to privacy, environmental hazards in the home, minor repairs and maintenance, inspection and moving in. Additionally, the LIC will provide materials with advice on issues including what to look for in a lease and how to communicate with your landlord. While the event focuses on those new to renting a home or apartment, there is plenty to learn for those who already have experience.
Students who have had negative experiences renting are invited to come share their stories. One of the best ways to avoid problems is to learn from others. Students with advice or suggestions on how to make the entire process easier are also encouraged to come.
There will also be a discussion on responsibilities, not only of the landlord, but the renter as well. For instance, while the landlord must make sure that they respect the tenant and fix any damage to the property, the tenant must also do what they can to help the landlord: pay rent on time and obey the law, for example.
As far as laws go, it seems that the issue that always comes up when renting property in Bellingham is partying. Partying and party control is a push-and-pull issue that involves many players, from neighborhood residents to the police. As a tenant it’s important to not only respect the property of your landlord, but the property of your neighbors as well. Such responsibilities may seem unimportant to new renters, but as a member of the community, it’s necessary to keep the interest of others in mind.
Washington recently passed legislation to make sure both parties hold up their end of the bargain. The Landlord Tenant Act outlines everything from deposits to obligations and can be found at www.wsba.org.
The landlord is responsible for keeping the premises up to code and safe, providing adequate locks, providing a reasonable program for pest control and maintain and supply necessary facilities for heat, electricity and water. Additionally, the tenant should make sure to properly use all fixtures and appliances, dispose of garbage properly and make sure the property is kept in its initial condition.
In case of a dispute, a neutral party may be necessary in resolving it. Informal mediation can be used as well, in which a third person intervenes between the two parties to help find a solution. Mediation may be requested and made available without charge from a city or county agency.
Ultimately, communication is key. Whether it’s with your landlord or your neighbors, discussing issues and potential fixes will make your living arrangement a lot less stressful. When a problem comes along, it’s important to deal with it right away; issues that are left unsolved can be forgotten or made worse by neglect. While your landlord is expected to deal with problems as they arise, it is up to the tenant to make them aware of the issues. Putting agreements or promises in writing will make sure things get done.
Along with the LIC, located in VU 528, there are additional resources available for students to check out. Off Campus WWU (www.offcampuswwu.com) provides students with valuable information about everything from safe partying to being a good neighbor. The site is run in part by the Campus Community Coalition, a local group that deals with related issues within the Bellingham area.
The LIC also connects students with resources and has plenty of literature available for students to use as reference.