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Know your rights

Students are legally allowed to have keg parties, and many do.

But some landlords have made the decision to prohibit kegs on their property. Several realtors – including Mecca Management and Newlove Real Estate – have reasoning behind why they don’t allow kegs.

If a tenant decides to go ahead and have kegs after signing a lease that forbids them, it may be considered a breach of contract, and legal action can be taken against the tenants.

Banning kegs is solely the landlord’s decision, and the University has encouraged local landlords to adopt a Standard Lease that Student Legal Services drafted – but it doesn’t mention prohibiting kegs.

The Standard Lease was drafted to simplify the process of disputes between landlords and tenants. It also makes student’s rights with their landlord similar across the board in Bowling Green.

“If there are 30 different leases, then we will need to understand 30 different leases,” said Valerie Bullard, coordinator for campus programs in Student Life, who also assists off-campus residents through Resident Life.

To avoid getting into trouble for violating a lease, Rodney Fleming, attorney for Student Legal Services, recommends students know what they are agreeing to on their lease.

For example, if a lease doesn’t cover yard maintenance then the student will be expected to mow the grass. If they aren’t willing to do this, then negotiations need to be made prior to signing the lease.

When a student signs a lease, they’re responsible from that point on for returning the property in the same condition they received it in – with exception to normal wear and tear. Landlords typically require a deposit to ensure that repairs to the property can be made once the tenant moves out.

But many students are left asking themselves, “What am I responsible for repairing?”

This ignorance often results in charges once they’ve moved out, and many BGSU students feel they’ve been overcharged by landlords.

Last year, Fleming talked to more than 300 students having landlord issues, and opened 150 cases dealing with off-campus issues – plenty of which included deposit recovery.

But students should know that the security deposit is still their money, and that the landlord must present a legitimate reason for repairs to keep it after move-out.

“A deposit is still your money, the landlord is just holding it,” Fleming said. “They have to prove they have the right to withhold money from the deposit.”

Reid Marlowe, senior, said that his landlord took too much money from his deposit for repairs that weren’t his fault, or for damages that were invisible.

Marlowe and his roommates refused to accept the overcharge, and decided to take the issue to Student Legal Services in summer 2004 – and won.

“We were being taken advantage of,” Marlowe said. “He said there were holes in the walls that I know didn’t exist, and he overcharged for those repairs on top of it.”

Marlowe recommends any student who has a question with their landlord to go to SLS. At first Marlowe was unsure whether it was worth his time to take his case to SLS, but it proved beneficial when he got back $600 of his deposit.

Students also should know that they’re only responsible for damages that they or their guests do.

Just because someone lives in a residency when the damage occurs doesn’t automatically place responsibility on the tenant to fix the damage.

If a rock is thrown through a window and the tenant wasn’t involved, it isn’t their responsibility to pay for its repair.

But if the tenant does break something then it is their responsibility to fix it. Even then, students should be reasonably charged for the repair, Fleming said.

If a five-year-old coffee table is broken the tenant shouldn’t be expected to pay for a brand new coffee table.

“The amount charged should be equal to the amount suffered,” Fleming said.

And when it comes to off-campus living arrangements, the student can suffer just as much as the landlord.

If a light doesn’t work then the tenant will suffer, so landlords are required to fix any supplied appliance.

If the appliance broken is considered a “luxury,” the landlord is still required to fix it. For example, if a dishwasher breaks down it must be repaired within 30 days, unless it poses an immediate health risk.

“You agreed to pay for that appliance, so it must be in working condition,” Fleming said.

If a landlord doesn’t fix repairs after a complaint is filed, students have the right to seek legal action – and could put their rent payments on “layaway” with a clerk at the municipal or county court until the landlord steps up to their responsibility.

Students furniture and possessions are also protected by the law if they fail to pay rent because of a legal dispute – nothing can be confiscated by landlords to recover missing rent.

But if students fail to follow the proper legal procedures, they can still be evicted.

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