Landlords abuse the city’s student population

Most students, especially Laurier students who predominantly have access to residence in first year, share a common experience when they rent their first apartment.

They visit home after home with roommates-to-be until the perfect place is found and then they sign a lease.

But are they always getting what they think they’ve found?

Student housing has long been known as the “student ghetto” and at Laurier there is no exception. The 10 minute walking radius around campus are overflowing with students – and landlords know it.

They understand that as students we have certain needs: close to campus, usually about four to six bedrooms, a living area to throw parties and cheap rent.

Students are often inexperienced at searching for houses so they don’t know what problem areas to look for. They are less likely to identify leaks, broken appliances, and other types of safety or health concerns. They have little practice looking through lease details to identify if they are being taken advantage of.

Most landlords will expect students who are signing a lease to pay for first and last months rent as a deposit. That is their first offence.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, which came into effect in January 2007, renters are only required to pay the equivalent of one term of rent for a deposit and that money can only be used to cover the last month of rent, not any damages that may occur.
Some landlords will also try and slip a clause into a lease stating that students must vacate the house a few days before the end of their last month.

This is done to provide the landlord with time to clean and repair any damages before the new tenants move in, but it also leaves old tenants homeless for a few days until their new lease becomes effective.

Unless this situation has been agreed upon by both landlord and tenant and tenants have received the money back from their rent that would be owed for the few days the home is vacant, a landlord cannot force their tenants to leave.

You have paid rent for the whole month and therefore have every right to stay until 11:59 p.m. on the last day of that month.

There are also some situations that, while you may think you have an agreement with your landlord for certain services, unless it is written in the lease they may not always follow through. Services such as winter and summer outdoor maintenance is provided for tenants in apartment buildings but is not guaranteed for students who are renting houses.

While you may have been told that your landlord will take care of snow removal, a fine written to the house for thick ice on the sidewalk will fall on the students renting the house unless it has been officially stated in the lease that it is the owner’s responsibility.

Maintenance inside the home is a problem than many students experience, as the need for a good location often outweighs the condition of the home. Leaks, mould and broken fixtures are just a few of the problems you may have to face; landlords are not always efficient at repairing the problems they are responsible for fixing.

It is important to familiarise yourself with some of the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act before signing a lease in order to know and understand your rights.

In my experience, landlords abuse students by assuming that they either do not know or, with high demand for housing in the area, are not in a position to argue for the standards we want and deserve.

Landlords will often apply pressure, stating that other groups are interested in the home and that a lease must be signed immediately in order to ensure that you will get the place, but this is only to speed up the process and get a lease signed before it is properly examined.

Take your time and make sure you agree with and understand the terms you are signing to. Remember that a landlord will back down if you confront them on an issue when they are in the wrong and sometimes the only way to get repairs done is by sending an e-mail everyday.

Finally, if problems persist, don’t be afraid to call your local rental board office for clarification and information.