Within two months of my time here at the
University, I made a life-altering decision: to live in a house
with six other people. As a freshman, I naïvely signed at the
dotted line, sure that my new residence would deliver all the
promises of late night talks, movies and roommate bonding. It was
due to this optimism that I failed to understand that landlords,
especially those in Ann Arbor, will do everything to screw a tenant
out of money and comfort.

Janna Hutz

My housemates and I should have come to this conclusion soon
after we moved into our home because the carpet had not been
cleaned. Though some unseemliness is expected during move in, there
is an agreement that the landlords professionally clean the
carpets. Because ours failed to do so, one of my roommates stepped
on a nail and had to be taken to the hospital — during the
first week.

Our troubles continued since we had no furnace for two months.
To ease our cold, the landlords dropped off some space heaters,
which in turn blew out our electricity. It was around this time
that the landlord told its emergency line to stop accepting phone
calls from our residence.

Unfortunately, this was not a rare occurrence. Recently, a
friend’s home was ransacked and looted, which is common
during breaks. Though no claims have been filed, it is with utmost
coincidence that soon after the landlords came for maintenance, the
apartment was pillaged. Even without that consideration, her
landlord has failed to perform because they have yet to fix the
window and lock through which burglars did and can still enter.

The curse of no heat found me in a new home with new a landlord,
leaving us in the cold once again this year. The fear of theft is
especially high in our new home because the main doors of our
apartment building remained open for weeks on end. Also, there is
no adequate lighting, which makes dodging the puke in the hallways,
left uncleaned from weeks ago — a formidable task. The blame
clearly lies with the building manager, who, taking a cue from his
experiences as a Michigan Student Assembly president, has done
nothing to improve the quality of the filthy building.

It is not just through maintenance that landlords take advantage
of students; it is in the very leases themselves. To move in early,
a landlord often charges a prorated amount for the extra days.
However, though most leases end mid-August, tenants have to pay a
full month’s rent even when they are not permitted to live
there.

Until last April, students had an ally. The Ann Arbor Tenants
Union was a group that fought for our rights, demanding that
landlords provide adequate information about our rights and care
for our residences throughout our tenure. Due to both the
University Board of Regents’ refusal to increase tuition by
$1 to support MSA-funded programs and the MSA Budget Priorities
Committee’s superfluous allocation of funds, this program
ended. The BPC stealthily stopped funding AATU between semesters,
using trickery usually reserved for Jimmy John’s price
hikes.

Now that this service is no longer available, students are
forced to turn to either Student Legal Services or the Housing
Information Office. Though both specialize in the service they
provide, neither can coordinate both legal and housing aspects.
Thus, we are left to live in homes that are old (and not in that
wow-look-at-the-history-in-this-city way), poorly maintained (trust
me, there are plenty of stories like finding flies in showers and
small fires due to wiring) and over-priced. Because we are
transient residents in this city, we have very little say about the
conditions that are thrust upon us. For this reason, landlords
understand that they can take full advantage of our situation,
hiking up prices on shoddy homes and ignoring major problems.

It is embarrassing that while there was a 6.5 percent tuition
hike this year, the Regents couldn’t part with $1 per student
for programs like AATU. It is even more disheartening that BPC
could not save a program that actually benefits most students,
instead of squandering funds on groups that just host shows.

Daily, I trudge past the President’s House at 815 S.
University Ave. and often wonder how she would like living at my
home, which happens to be at another 815 South address. It is
comical to consider such an arrangement because she obviously
cannot live in such squalor. So, the question remains: If she
can’t live there, then why should we?

Chirumamilla can be reached at
“mailto:schiruma@umich.edu”>schiruma@umich.edu.

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