Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass renters deserve better from their landlords

Why the relationship between renters and landlords is broken and how we can fix it
Daily Collegian (2010)

It’s not often that you encounter someone who has only good things to say about their landlord, and Amherst is no exception. There is a culture of contempt and exploitation that exists between many of the landlords in Amherst and the college students that rent from them.

I would like to clarify that not all landlords are bad people; many of them care about their tenants and want to provide the best possible service that they can. Being a landlord is not an easy job, and it can be especially stressful when your renters are young college students.

As the population at the University of Massachusetts continues to grow, the effects of overpopulation are being felt not only in the dining halls, recreational center and dorms, but also off campus. While on-campus housing is available for students of all grades and ages, many students decide in their junior or senior year to move off campus for more independence and space. The influx of students to the University this year has caused a shortage of off-campus housing and students are being forced to pay extremely high rent prices because of it.

In addition to high rent prices, landlords and rental companies often don’t make the move-in or move-out processes any easier by taking on additional fees for simple services, such as cleaning and basic repairs. The repairs I’m referring to are not the damages that students often cause, such as holes in the wall or broken windows, both of which should be compensated by the responsible party. With rent already as high as it is, there is no need for these companies and independent landlords to be taking on additional fees for college students where money is often not readily available.

Another issue that is very familiar to many UMass students is parking, and sometimes it follows students home. In my experience, my housemates’ cars were ticketed in our driveway for failing to obtain a parking permit. These tickets came only a day after a warning was issued, knowing full well that we are busy students with a lot going on in our lives. Additionally, landlords often have little to no patience for guest parking for visitors, even if the visitors are only there for a day or a weekend. Visiting cars have been ticketed and even towed for parking in the driveway of their friend or relatives’ houses, who they are seeing for only a short period.

But what can be done about this? To fix any troubled relationship, there must be a dialogue that starts with renters demanding higher service and respect from their landlords and landlord companies. Another possibility is a renter’s bill of rights: a list of written expectations and protections for renters, agreed to by the town and the landlords alike.

Students may be temporary residents in the Town of Amherst, but that does not mean that we can’t become involved with town housing policy and make our voices heard. Another simple solution is to take the time to get to know your landlord. Often the only interactions that renters have with their landlords are when there is a maintenance issue or it’s time to pay the rent. In my experience, people are much more likely to have patience with you and offer more help if you take the time to get to know them and they get to know you.

As Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy explained in the recent annual Community Breakfast, UMass will never house all its students, meaning it’s inevitable that a large population of students won’t just choose to live off campus, but will have to. All students living off campus deserve a landlord that will make their college experience better and not cause an unnecessary headache. For renters, it’s up to us to demand better treatment from landlords and hold them accountable for any exploitation that may arise from our time living in their properties, and that starts with speaking up.

Colby Sutton can be reached at [email protected]

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