This is a crack in one of the windows on Eaton’s property.

Tenants Angry with Athens Rental Companies

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By Devon Hannan

Living in the dorms can get expensive. After their sophomore year, upperclassmen at Ohio University often go in search of off-campus housing possibilities to save money.

However, moving into an off-campus housing situation can come with many of its own problems.

Ohio University student, Maddie Eaton says that she and her roommates are working to break their current lease because of extensive damage to the house including a leaking ceiling, cracked windows and faulty heat.

This is a crack in one of the windows on Eaton’s property.

“We’ve talked to each other in the house about possibly breaking the lease, but we broke our end of the lease by having four tenants live here instead of three, so they kind of have us pinned down for that. Which they probably did on purpose – acting like it was all cool and then throwing us in this really bad house.”

The Community Engagement Program is a service offered by Ohio University to students who may come in contact with a plethora of problems. The Community Engagement Program helps students resolve roommate arguments, select problems with the landlord, and offers tips on how to avoid noise complains and trash violations. Its website even includes links to where to get internet in Athens.

However, if students have more serious problems with their lease, Student Legal Services on Court Street also frequently deals with cases between Athens landlords and their tenants. Unless students waive the form in their student accounts, Student Legal Services is available to all students for an extra 12 dollars.

It can help students with a variety of different things. If a student wants to break a lease, submit a code violation, or better understand his or her role as a tenant, Student Legal Services offers the resources to do so.

Student legal Services is located at 50 S. Court Street in Athens, Ohio.

Student Legal Services attorney, Kimberlee Francis claims that most of the problems are based on improper communication between tenants and rental companies.

“We see problems with how communication with the landlord is handled. We see problems with discounted and non-discounted rent. We have had the unfortunate situations where students take the keys and don’t actually go to the unit to look at it. These don’t preclude us from moving forward, but it makes it harder evidentiary-wise to say ‘This is the condition we took the property to begin with.’”

Francis says that most complaints are settled outside of the courtroom, aside from the few where both landlord and tenant are unwilling to compromise. “A lot of it is negotiation between the landlord and us,” she says.

Ohio University student, Ethan Gower, was one of the few cases that went to court last year. He claimed that the property did not have heat for the entire of winter and because of that, he withheld rent. He believed that this was a code violation.

“The whole process was extremely frustrating. I was threatened to my face by them (the unnamed rental agency). It was very frustrating dealing with people who were making my life harder than it needed to be,” Gower said.

Despite reporting a code violation, Gower said that Athens City Code Enforcement left no written record of ever coming to his property, and he thinks that may be a big reason why he lost in court.

“Within the city, we do have code enforcement,” Francis says. “Every landlord that is renting a property obtains a renting permit. Then Code enforcement checks the residence. They look at it initially, but then aren’t in a cycle to see it again for 18 months. The nice thing is, however,  students can contact code directly – if you make a complaint, they will come out.”

While there are many things that Ohio University students can do to properly handle problems within their leases, many are still feeling stuck and hopeless. Eaton says, “We can’t really beat them at their own game. We’re really on the short end.”