The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday night to pass a resolution condemning the landlords who signed onto a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor. The resolution asks that listings from landlords involved in the lawsuit be removed from Beyond the Diag, an off-campus housing website run by the University.
The Washtenaw Area Apartment Association, a non-profit organization in support of local rental property owners, filed a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor following the City Council’s changes to the Early Leasing Ordinance. Effective since Aug. 15, the new ordinance now requires landlords to wait 150 days before the end of a lease to begin showing properties to prospective tenants, rather than the previous 70 days after the lease began.
LSA senior Zackariah Farah, vice president of LSA Student Government, said he wasn’t aware of how mistreated students and other renters are in Ann Arbor until he compared Ann Arbor’s old leasing rules to those in other cities. Farah commended the City Council and the Graduate Employees’ Organization for listening to renters’ concerns.
“I think the City Council is finally listening to renters, and specifically student renters, so we have their ear,” Farah said. “I think this is a really opportune time to get some change done. I know that GEO was really instrumental in getting the change in the early release of (the) ordinance done.”
CSG President Nithya Arun, Public Health senior, said if landlords do not abide by the Early Leasing Ordinance, they are effectively breaking a local code, indicating they should be removed from Beyond the Diag to protect students from unregulated behavior.
“(Landlords not abiding by the Early Leasing Ordinance) are basically baiting students into signing a lease earlier than what the city has deemed appropriate,” Arun said.
Arun said the University employs a third-party company to scout landlords to list on Beyond the Diag. The University holds a contract with the third-party service while the service holds a separate contract with each of the landlords.
The One Ann Arbor, an off-campus student living development involved in the lawsuit, has already been removed from the website. Several hundred students were left without housing in Ann Arbor at the beginning of the semester after The One failed to complete construction of new units in time.
Law School student Deborah Rookey, chair of the CSG Ethics Committee, expressed concern that removing the landlords involved in the lawsuit from Beyond the Diag would severely limit housing options for students.
“There was discussion of the wisdom of removing all these places from Beyond the Diag because it would essentially remove possibly the majority of rental companies on Beyond the Diag,” Rookey said. “And there was concern about whether or not that would mean that students just won’t use Beyond the Diag and not have any sort of screening for their landlords at all.”
Arun said she has spoken to Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones about which landlords will potentially be removed from the website.
“The plaintiff in this case is the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association,” Arun said. “A lot of the landlords that are associated with them are not on Beyond the Diag in the first place. So that’s also something to consider.”
University President Mark Schlissel said in an interview with The Michigan Daily Friday that he considers dealings between students and landlords to be private interactions and not something the University is directly involved in.
“I think that the (Early Leasing Ordinance) that was passed was a good law – I like it and I agree with it — but I don’t think it’s really the University’s place to get in the middle of a commercial interaction between students and private businesses in town,” Schlissel said.
The resolution passed with unanimous consent.
Daily Staff Reporter Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.