Students are often unaware of their rights as renters and exploited by fraudulent landlords. However, new solutions for attaining safe, legal and affordable rent are emerging online.
Many students are unaware of their rights as renters, and overlook housing flaws that could render the residence unsafe.
With this in mind, some off-campus landlords have ignored legal standards and practices.
They have taken students tenants in, as Linda Argo explained, “to make a quick buck at your expense.”
Argo is the director of a new campaign to counter such predatory approaches to renting.
City housing officials established thisshouldbeillegal.com to offer student renters:
- Accessibility through sites like Facebook, Twitter and WordPress
- Links to housing codes
- An inspection checklist used by the city
- A searchable database of landlords’ business licenses
- The opportunity to anonymously report violations or request inspections
“We want to put the power in your hands,” Argo said, and so far, a third of the site’s 9,000 vistors have used the database.
According to Micahel Rupert, a city official involved with the campaign, over 200 inspection requests have come in from students, at least 50 of which have led to investigations.
Student renters have faced the exploits of landlords at a greater expense than mere inconvenience.
Investigators said metal bars over windows and a furnace blocking the rear exit prevented his escape.
Rigby’s death was not unique.
According to Campus Firewatch, 108 of 129 campus-related fire deaths since 200 occurred in off-campus housing.
Response to the Rigby tragedy has spread nationwide, and thisshouldbeillegal.com is only one attempt to challenge the inbalance of the landlord-tenant relationship.
Other consequences have emerged with varying degrees of impact:
- Many colleges and universities now provide rental lists, inform students of their rights as renters, and refer students to the proper authorities for housing disputes.
- Illinois Student Tenant Union spends over $20,000 each year to advertise its services.
- Georgetown University Officials have organized an annual safety day.
- Investigations have become more frequent around the country.
While student renters continue to gain help with housing, the problem remains prevalent in many countries.
According to Esther Pratt, coordinator of Illinois Student Tenant Union, “A lot of people listen, but a lot of people don’t.”