Too little, too late?
Tenant rights meeting presented by Sub-Board Inc. legal
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Although it was unclear what prompted the “Tenant Rights” meeting Monday, Attorney Francis C. Amendola said there has been an increase in complaints from UB students about their landlords.
“I was just reading an article in The Spectrum about the bed bug thing and it doesn't sound like a great situation,” said Megan Furrer, assistant director of Sub-Board Inc. Legal. She was referring to the recent events that unfolded over the last few weeks during the University Heights housing blitzes.
SBI Legal, a free legal service provided to all UB students, presented a question and answer session for students living off campus about their rights as tenants.
Amendola - an SBI Legal attorney - provides free council for students involved in legal disputes. He spoke to those who attended about what to do before signing a lease, when and when not to pay rent, what to do if roommates fail to pay their bills and how to receive a security deposit refund.
Three people attended: one student tenant, who did not wish to release her name; Chris Bragdon, an international student adviser; and a pre-law student.
Amendola said students frequently ask him to read their signed leases and help them understand. He said many do not realize leases are legally binding contracts; any changes to the lease agreement must be put in writing.
He advised those at the meeting to take a few precautions before signing the lease, like documenting problems by taking pictures or having an eyewitness verify damages.
A landlord has 30 days to return a security deposit as long as the apartment is in the same condition as it was initially, minus normal wear and tear.
“Just because a landlord says they will take care of this or that after you move in, if you don’t get those statements added to your lease, whatever the landlord says is not admissible in a legal dispute,” Amendola said.
Amendola referred to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s “Tenants Rights Guide,” to show attendees when tenants do not have to pay rent.
According to the section Warranty of Habitability, if a landlord does not provide heat or hot water on a regular basis or fails to rid an apartment of an insect infestation, tenants do not have to pay rent until the problem is fixed.
Additionally, landlords of multiple dwellings in New York State are mandated by law to “maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerators and stoves, in good and safe working order,” under the section of Cuomo’s guide labeled “Landlords’ Duty of Repair.”
One of the main concerns students have when they seek Amendola’s help is their roommate stopped paying rent. In this case, Amendola advises the concerned student to sue for right of contribution.
Bragdon voiced concerns about the number of international students coming to his office with complaints against their landlords. The student tenant who attended wanted help in resolving an issue with the return of her security deposit by a landlord who lived out of the country. The legal student attended the meeting as a class requirement.
Amendola hopes the next meeting, which has yet to be scheduled will include more students – not just those involved with student organizations, but anyone living off campus so they can learn how to advocate for themselves.