Every morning during the first few weeks of school last year,
LSA sophomore Christin Siegele had to prop her apartment door open
before she left for class because her landlord didn’t have
the right key to open her door.

But that was the least of Siegele’s troubles when she
first moved into her apartment.

“When we moved in, there were holes in the floor. We had
to get our whole carpet replaced and had to clean all the
appliances. The bathrooms had long clumps of hair in the drains
too,” Siegele said.

Siegele and her roommate phoned her landlord to repair their
apartment. But she said her landlord made a bad joke of it
instead.

“They told us they were busy. … They told us since
college students had been living there in the past that maybe we
should lower our standards.”

Siegele isn’t the only one with off-campus housing
problems. Many University students have voiced concerns over the
lack of responsibility of some Ann Arbor landlords. Recently,
student concerns culminated at last week’s City Council
meeting where Michigan Student Assembly representatives along with
other students called for the council to begin discussing the
certification of landlords in an attempt to compel them to improve
the quality of their properties.

MSA Rep. LSA senior Rachel Fisher, who is working with MSA on
the certification, said while they are still in the early stages of
forming a proposal, the certification is meant to educate landlords
and ensure safe housing for students.

“The main concern of many students is that a lot of
landlords are irresponsible and a lot of them are ignorant to laws
that landlords need to abide by,” Fisher said.

MSA Rep. Sam Woll, an LSA junior, said the program also hopes to
specifically require landlords to abide to such rules like
environmental and energy usage laws while also ensuring the safety
and sanitation of their rental property.

So far, Fisher said the program might require landlords to
attend a class to train them on how to be responsible
landlords.

But local landlord and repairman Robert Noose said the
certification program would be pointless, since it would add one
more level of redundancy to the certifications already in
place.

Noose added that students should realize that many of the houses
in Ann Arbor are decades old. At the same time students who live in
the houses don’t care about taking care of their residence
easily leading a house to breakdown. Along with the many other
residences a landlord needs to manager, houses can take time to
repair, he said.

“To make a landlord certified, that is a trap. To be
responsible for that and all those old houses and
appliances?” Noose added.

Other landlords think it could benefit both students and more
responsible house caretakers.

Ann Arbor landlord Thomas Ewing said of the proposed landlord
certification “It might be a real good guide for students to
find the best housing.”

But he also said most students he knows don’t have
problems with other landlords. Ewing added that the student
government should just add extensions on to the off-campus housing
rather than create an entire new bureaucracy.

Currently, the city enforces that all rental property have a
certificate of occupancy. Larry Pickel Director of the City
Council’s Building department said the current standard for
renting property is meant to ensure the health and safety of every
residence. Pickel added that they have five inspectors who
throughout the year check all rental housing in Ann Arbor.

Yet in Fisher’s experiences with landlords, she said many
try to avoid and postpone inspections as long as possible.
“My landlord would install a fire door just for a day so he
could get around the law,” she said.

The University’s off-campus housing department is also
meant to prevent conflict between students and landlords.
Off-campus housing advisor Melissa Goldstein said their program can
act as a mediator if housing issues arise, but if all else fails
the University can remove the landlord from their off-campus
housing listings.

Still, Fisher said a certification program would be much more
rigid than the off-campus housing program as the University will
only take action based on complaints. Fisher said their program
would take more of a proactive approach to guarantee better
landlords.

LSA senior Tara Miller said she would support a landlord
certification measure. Miller said even though she has had no
problems with her landlord, some of her friends were taken
advantage of by landlords. In one instance, Miller said her friend
moved into a residence only to find it nearly un-livable. Yet her
friend’s landlord wouldn’t repair the place since it
was old and those were the conditions it was suppose to be in.
Miller said her friend couldn’t get out of the lease and so
had to live with it. She added that landlords need some sort of
accountability.

“Shouldn’t they be the ones fixing the place? Just
because it old, doesn’t mean it you can’t repair it.
Their job is supposed to be repairing and maintaining the
place.”

Fisher said they hope the certification program will be a
requirement in the future, but in the immediate stages of the
program it will probably be voluntary. Funding for the
certification could come from the University and the city, she
added.

Fisher said that along with MSA, she hopes to have a proposal
ready by next month.

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