Have you found your roommates for next year yet?

Several major off-campus realtors think you should have.

A number of realtors, including Oppenheimer Properties and Dan’s Houses, have already contacted their residents about renewing their leases for the next school year or notifying them if they will be finding housing elsewhere.

Oppenheimer Properties sent out a letter to all of its tenants last week asking them to make a decision by Oct. 21 as to whether they wanted to resign with the company for the 2006-07 school year. If a response was not delivered by that deadline, the house would be considered up for grabs.

LSA sophomore Noah Kingery, who recently moved into an Oppenheimer property, said the pressure limited his options for housing, because neither University Housing nor pursuing another realtor seemed like appealing alternatives.

“It’s weird having to look all over again for a house, when I just moved in to my current one last month,” Kingery said.

Similarly, LSA sophomore John Tshiamala, who lives in property owned by Dan’s Houses said he received an e-mail from his landlord notifying him that if he didn’t respond by Sept. 18, the house would be available for other people to rent.

A representative from Oppenheimer Properties said that the company sends out letters like this every year, due to a high student demand early on in the fall semester.

“We just get bombarded with phone calls with people asking about places and it seems earlier and earlier every year. We’re basically just satisfying the public,” the source said.

Every year students are reluctantly thrown into this same ritual with off-campus housing companies, resulting in a scramble to sign a lease at the start of October out of the fear of being left without any off-campus options.

A proposed ordinance that Mayor John Hieftje said would be established by the start of the fall 2005 academic term could have worked to prevent such a rush. However, students don’t have a chance of seeing any protection from this ordinance until at least next fall, the mayor said.

Last year, Hieftje proposed to create an ordinance similar to one established in Madison, Wisc., that prevents landlords from showing housing to prospective tenants until a fourth of the lease period had passed. In Ann Arbor, this would mean that most tenants would have until December to decide whether or not they want to remain in the same house, or to move elsewhere.

Hieftje conceded that representatives from Madison have said the ordinance they have in place takes care of the annual housing rush.

In March, Hieftje told The Michigan Daily that his plan was to start working on developing this ordinance internally with legal aides and City Council members and to have it in place by the end of this past summer.

But in a recent interview, Hieftje said an ordinance was not yet in place because he did not want to do it in the summer when students would be gone.

“(In the summer, students) wouldn’t have been able to come to a public hearing and say (whether) this was a good idea,” Hieftje said.

“Our attorneys were dragging their feet a bit over the summer, and then I decided it would be best to do this when students were back in town.”

Michigan Student Assembly President Jesse Levine and former MSA Rep. Stuart Wagner met with the mayor over the summer to discuss the importance of lease dates, and said they were assured that preparations were underway.

Without protective housing legislation, students continue to grapple with high-pressure rental situations.

LSA junior Abby Czap said she received a letter that said she and the nine other residents in her house had to reply by Oct. 21 or Oppenheimer Properties would allow any prospective tenants to view and lease their house. Czap said Hieftje’s proposed legislation would definitely alleviate this problem.

“We would not feel forced to leave or stay, it would give us more time to decide. We know we can get housing other places, but it’s easier to stay, particularly if I want to live in a house with nine other girls next year,” Czap said. Czap added that factors such as plowing fees, heating and other seasonal costs would be helpful factors to consider when determining whether to renew the lease.

LSA senior Matt Dickman said he has been renting from Oppenheimer Properties for the past three years. While he admitted he hadn’t suffered any detrimental consequences as a result of signing his lease so early, he also said he would have preferred having extra time to plan for next year.

“I think (the legislation) would be nice because often times it’s hard to know within the first months of school what your plans are for next year, so it would be great to have some extra time to figure things out,” Dickman said.

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