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CSLS: Left out in the cold

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Dripping pipes, leaking ceilings, damp basements, mold, faulty appliances, broken furnaces…the list of uncomfortable, or unsanitary, housing conditions faced by some Ohio University students goes on and on. The Center for Student Legal Services consistently sees these disappointed students, many of whom are justifiably angry over landlords’ unfulfilled promises to make needed repairs.

So what’s a student to do? Suffer in silence or quit paying rent in protest?

The correct answer is: neither.

Although we recognize why some students might demonize landlords who fail to provide safe and sanitary housing, withholding rent will only result in evictions and legal judgments against students, not the property owners.

Though the law requires you to give the devil his due, you can take action to ensure the quality of housing you deserve.

If you are experiencing problems with the condition of your rental property, you must notify your landlord of the problems in writing as soon as possible. Obtain proof that you delivered this notice and keep a copy of the letter for your records. In addition, take pictures or video of the problem you are experiencing in case you need to prove that the problem existed.  A landlord is required to conduct the necessary repair within a reasonable time of receiving notice of the problem. Generally, a “reasonable time” is approximately 30 days unless the issue is urgent.

If you have provided written notice and your landlord has not taken steps to resolve the problem within a reasonable time period, you have the right to deposit your rent with the Athens County Municipal Court through a process known as rent escrow, which may entitle you to a court order requiring repairs, a release of rent money to secure repairs on your own or a court-ordered reduction in rent.

To be eligible to deposit your rent with the court through rent escrow, you must do the following:

1. Provide written notice to your landlord of the problem;b.  Allow the landlord reasonable time (usually at least 30 days except in case of urgent repairs) to address the problem;

2. You must be current on your rental payments

3. You must pay your rent on or before your rental due date.

Lastly, with cold weather approaching, we advise students to check heating systems now to make sure they are working properly. If not, take immediate action using the steps above to make sure that you are not left in the cold this winter by an inattentive landlord.

This column was brought to you by Managing Attorney, Patrick McGee,Staff Attorney, Melissa Greenlee and Program Coordinator, Tracy Kelly, at The Center for Student Legal Services.

The Center for Student Legal Services (CSLS) is a non-profit law office created to educate, represent and protect Ohio University students in matters related to identity theft, landlord / tenant issues, alcohol consumption, contract reviews, traffic violations, misdemeanors, credit law and more. All legal situations are different and students are advised to contact our office for advice specific to their case. For more information, call us at 740-594-8093 or visit our office at 50 S. Court St., Suite D (above College Bookstore).

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