The absence of the Ann Arbor Tenant Union
for the past year left students without the effective and necessary
resources required to address their tenant-landlord grievances. For
35 years, the AATU served as a student advocacy group, providing
legal services and addressing the concerns of tenants and the
shortcomings of their landlords. The AATU was undoubtedly one of
the most effective student services, representing students legally
and defending tenants’ rights. Unfortunately, the service
ended after the University Board of Regents refused to implement a
student-supported proposal mandating students to contribute $1 to
the underfunded program through tuition.

Beth Dykstra

Every year, students find themselves in the hands of landlords,
signing leases and writing checks for outrageously high security
deposits a full year before their move-in date. Upon moving in,
students find their landlords’ enthusiasm has diminished and
they no longer make tenants a priority for their landlords.
Landlords often provide undesirable living conditions and neglect
tenant necessities, such as reliable maintenance and effective
security.

Although AATU dissolved last year, student housing problems
still persist. Housing shortages are a frequent complaint of
students, and often, they have no choice but to live in a
low-quality home — the campus norm. With students living in
converted residence hall lounges and compromising between price,
quality and commuting distance, housing concerns are heightening.
Ann Arbor’s commitment to halt urban sprawl will heighten the
demand for student housing, a situation potentially advantageous
for landlords. This will lead to more tenant outcries and even more
landlord negligence.

Without the AATU, students are left confused, unsure where to
turn for help. Students have access to Student Legal Services and
the Housing Information Office, where they can receive free advice
regarding their concerns. But, students find these services are not
tailored to the housing grievances produced by tenant-landlord
relations. Students sometimes have questions that can only be
answered by a student service specifically designed to do so.

During last year’s Michigan Student Assembly elections, a
majority of students voted to increase funding to AATU, just weeks
before its dismantling last spring. MSA did not value the program
enough to provide it with adequate funding in order to sustain its
functions. As the defeat of the program approached, then-MSA
General Counsel Jason Mironov felt the demise of the AATU was a
consequence of the union’s inability to effectively help
students in their disputes. However, he has since changed his tune
and places the return of the AATU services near the top of his
agenda. During MSA’s most recent elections, Mironov argued
that $20,000 needed to go toward the redevelopment of such a
program.

Students should hold Mironov, the newly elected MSA president,
accountable for his promises. The demands for student housing
continue to soar. Students need and deserve a thriving tenant union
to counter the abuses of local landlords. Once a new tenant program
is implemented, it is also important that MSA provides it with
adequate funding and the resources needed to function properly.
Somehow, the campus community must find an adequate way to meet the
needs of student tenants.

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