Published September 4, 2007
Whether it's leaky faucets, clogged drains, cockroaches or a collapsing roof, everyone who has lived off campus has had trouble with his or her apartment. That doesn't mean you have to buy a monkey wrench yourself. Stephanie Chang, an attorney for Student Legal Services, offers these tips on how to deal with intrusive landlords, avoid losing your security deposit and stave off predatory insects.
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1 Don't put more people in the house than the city zoning allows. Inevitably city housing inspectors come around and start kicking people out. Some students are unknowingly living in unsafe conditions because the unit isn't zoned for as many tenants as it has. Every so often I get a disgruntled student telling me their landlords asked them to hide their beds.
2 If you put utilities in your name, make sure there's no previous balance on the account.
3 Don't bring in furniture from the street because it might have bedbugs. I have a special file on them. They can go up to 18 months without food and they live on blood.
4 To avoid paying for damage you didn't cause, take pictures of the apartment when you move in. Also, landlords are required to give an inventory checklist. Some landlords don't do that, but you can find them in the office of Student Legal Services on the second floor of the Union.
5 Your landlord has to give reasonable notice before coming into your apartment. And you can enact a more restrictive policy if you want - it's city law.
6 Bat infestation can be another big problem. The fruit bat is an endangered species so it's illegal to exterminate them, they have to catch them with nets.
7 If your landlord isn't making necessary repairs in a timely fashion, contact our office, because you have other remedies available, which may include withholding rent or hiring someone to do the repairs for you and deducting that from the rent. For example, I've had clients with bat problems whose landlords aren't doing anything. So they can say, "I have bats, I'm going to an exterminator, er, a pest eradication expert" and take the cost off their next month's rent.