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January 27, 1978 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1978-01-27

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Page 4-Friday, January 27, 1978-The Michigan Daily

Eighty-Eight Years of Editorial Freedom

Vol. LXXXViII, No. 97.

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mt 48109
News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

's

delay in cancelling

classes was uncalled for

HEN University administra-
tors were meeting yesterday
morning to decide whether or
not to close the campus, the snow drifts
outside the Administration Building
were knee-high. The weather
forecasters were predicting more snow
and high winds through the night.
But by mid-morning, with hundreds
of profs, students and staff already en
route to campus through the most
severe winter storm in the Midwest in
three years, the administrators had
not yet decided whether to close the
University.
In fact, it was not until shortly before
noon that the decision was made. And

many of. the bedraggled commuters
got here just in time to find out they
didn't have to come to campus at all.
The delay in announcing the closing
was an act of stupidity.
It would be nice to blame a bloated
bureaucracy and mounds of paper-
work for this particular delay, but it
would serve no useful purpose and
would certainly not comfort those who
suffered to get here. No, this one must
be chalked up to the credit of slow-
acting and unfeeling administrators,
who, while pondering yesterday's snow
drifts, no doubt reasoned, "If I could
get to campus, so could everyone
else."
That is no way to run a University.

By STEPHEN HERSH
Under Michigan's Tenants
Rights Acts of 1968, tenants in the
state have the right to stop
paying - rent if their dwellings
need repairs which their landlor-
ds refuse to make.
The right to withhold rent is
meant to be a lever for tenants to
use in persuading their landlords
to maintain their housing in
keeping with the minimum health
and safety standards set by the
government.
WHEN TENANTS withhold
rent, landlords usually take their
complaints seriously, because
withholding rent often means
withholding money which lan-
dlords rely on. A rent strike may
cut into alandlord's regular in-
come; it may make it hard for
him to make his car payments;
and it may make it difficult or
impossible for him to make his
mortgage payments.
when a group of tenants under
a single landlord organizes to
withhold rent collectively, the
results are usually even more ef-
fective than when a single tenant
goes on rent strike.
Here follows some information
on when exactly a tenant can
legally withhold rent, and what
procedures it is best to follow in
doing so.
QUESTION: How do I know if
my place is in bad enough shape
to justify withholding rent?
ANSWER: A good rule of
thumb is, if you think the
dwelling is in bad repair, it
probably violates the housing
codes, which would give you the
right to go on rent strike. Accor-
ding to Michigan law, "Every
(residential rental) dwelling and
all parts thereof.. . shall be kept
in good repair by the owner."
You can pick up a free leaflet
giving a fairly detailed summary
of the housing codes, by stopping
in at the Ann Arbor Tenants
Union office. The TU is located on
the fourth floor of the Michigan
Union, in room 4109, and the
phone number there is 761-1225.
QUESTION: If I decide to go on
rent strike, should I let my lan-
dlord know that I plan to stop
paying my rent?
ABSWER: Yes. You should tell
your landlord in writing what you
plan to do, by sending him or her
a registered letter (certified
mail) saying that you are exer-
cising your right to withhold rent
becayse of poor conditions in
your dwelling. You should keep a
carbon copy (not a Xerox) of the
letter for your own file. Also, get
some evidence that repairs are
needed-take pictures, collect
bugs in a bottle, or do whatever is

necessary to prove that your rent
strike is justified.
Sometimes, just telling your
landlord that you plan to stop
paying your -rent. will be enough
to convince him or her to make
the needed repairs.
QUESTION: Is there anything

You say you
want to hold
a rent strike?

you have the right to keep con-
fidential the reason that you're
opening a bank account.
QUESTION: Should I start
paying my rent again in ex-
change for a promise from my
landlord that the needed repairs
will be done?

Everything you 've always want-
ed to know about a tenant's priv-
ilege to withhold rent.

Making intelligence units
operate more intelligently

IN SPITE of all the talk lately about
our President's crumbling cam-
paign promises, there has been at least
one pledge preserved in the past year:
reform and reorganization has begun
in the country's intelligence agencies.
Progress toward reform has been
steady since Jimmy Carter took office.
Among major changes for the CIA
alone are a considerable reduction of
"spy" personnel and a pledge by that
agency to not use American journalists
in intelligence activities anymore.
On Tuesday, Carter signed an
executive order altering some of the
procedures by which the U.S. Defense
Department, CIA and other intelligen-
ce gatherers have come to operate. As
the President himself and many others
have noted, the move is another step
closer to an intelligence community
atmosphere more reflective of a free
society.
There is certainly a wealth of other
procedures undertaken by these agen-
cies which could stand renovation-the
whole sphere of domestic spying ac-
tivities, for instance-but the ad-
ministration appears to be ap-
proaching such problems with an open
mind.
This week's reorganization applies
mainly toward foreign intelligence ac-
tivities. A series of codes and restric-
tions has been put in place to prevent
the future misuse or, as was many
times the case, complete disregard for
U.S. laws. One restriction bans
outright any future attempted political
assassinations by agencies. The new

order, built upon previous orders han-
ded down during the Ford Ad-
ministration, establishes regulatory
bodies to oversee covert activities and
requires the U.S. Attorney General's
approval for many types of counterin-
telligence operations.
All the attention being paid to the
reform of the intelligence community
has had nothing but constructive effec-
ts on Congress, it appears. In the next
few weeks alone, lawmakers will con-
sider bills which would create new con-
trol over the electronic surveillance of
people in this country who are suspec-
ted of being spies for a foreign power.
The debate will be complex: not
everyone agrees that the legislation
proposed would have wide enough
coverage.
For example, while federal warrants
would be required for agents to elec-
tronically bug or wiretap individuals
under investigation new technologyi
permits surveillance without using
conventional devices, and such ac-
tivity would not be regulated.
There are other controversial por-
tions to the proposed legislation. The
American Civil Liberties Union, a
trusted ally of Constitutional rights,
has simultaneously acclaimed some
aspects of the bill and spurned others.
Both President Carter and Congress
are to be admired for their steps
toward cleaning up the intelligence
communuty's act. But it will take a
long time to straighten out a system as
lawless and inhumane as U.S. in-
telligence has proven to be.

in particular I have to do with the
rent money I plan to withhold?
ANSWER: There's no legal
requirement at all about what
you should do with that money;
however, you're probably best off
if you deposit the rent money in
an escrow account-a separate
bank account holding only the
withheld rent funds. Keeping the
money in escrow is a show of
good faith. It also guarantees that
you'll have the money available,
so when you decide to finally pay
any of the money to the land-
lord, all the cash will be ready.
Since it's money you were plan-
ning to pay as rent, it should be no
trouble to get the money to put in
escrow.
QUESTION: How do I set up an
escrow fund?
ANSWER: It's easy. Just open
a new interest-bearing savings
account at a bank, depositing the
rent money each month when you
would ordinarily by paying it to
your landlord. If the other tenan-
ts in your house or apartment are
on strike along with you, you can
open a joint account with them
under all of your names, or you
can open the account under a
group name, such as "The
Tenants of 999 Fifth Street." A
word of caution; several local
banks have refused to open ac-
counts for tenants who say
specifically that they want to
open an escrow account. You
may save yourself some hassle if
you just tell the bank you want to
open a savings account. By law,

ANSWER: Until the necessary
repairs are completed, don't
agree to' pay the rent you've
withheld, and don't agree to stop
withholding future rent checks.
You shouldn't be satisfied with a
promise that the work will be
done, because landlords have
been known to go back on their
promises to make repairs. And
you shouldn't be satisfied when
you see that the repair work has
been started, because landlords
have been known to have workers
begin making repairs promptly
but let the repairs drag on for
weeks and months. Wait until the
work is completed before you end.
your rent strike.
The more money you've
withheld, the greater your
leverage against your landlord, If
you've escrowed ten months of
rent, that's a lot of cash-and
your landlord will probably be
anxious to get hold of that money.
Bear in mind that one tenant
withholding ten months of rent
has about the same bargaining
nower as ten tenants withholding
one month of :n,
QUESTION: What if my land-
lord doesn't agree to make the re-
pairs, and decides to try to evict
me?
ANSWER: A legal proceeding
brought by a landlord against a
tenant can require a great deal of
effort on the part of the tenant,
and it can mean months of
litigation. But if you've brought a
responsible claim against your
landlord, you have a justifiable

reason for having stopped paying
rent, and you have a valid legal
defense, If you handle a court
case properly, you have a good
chance of winning court orders
dictating that your landlord
make the needed repairs and give
you a refund of part of your rent
for you inconvenience. If you
have a serious claim and you can
afford the effort to pursue it, you
should pursue it. It's your right to
defend yourself against unfair
treatment by your landlord-and
when you go to court with your
landlord, you're helping not just
yourself but all tenants. When
landlords know that treating
their tenants unfairly will likely
lead to a court battle, they will be
less likely to violate tenants'
rights.
As to what specific things you
should do when faced with the
threat of eviction: if your lan-
dlord gives you a "Notice to
Quit"-a notification that he or
she wants you to move out-you
should contact a lawyer, a free
legal aid society (such as
Washtenaw County Legal Aid),.
or the Tenants Union. A Notice to
Quit doesn't legally require you
to do anything, but it puts you on
notice that your landlord may
want to fight you over the rent.
If you receive a Summons to
appear in court, you should get
legal help immediately.
If you decide to fight the thing
out in court, you can do it with a
lawyer representing you, or with
advice from Legal Aid orb the
Tenants Union. However you do
it, good luck!
* * *
Most Ann Arbor tenants don't
know much about their right to
withhold rent-or any of their other
legal rights as tenants. That's why the
Coalition for Better Housing is put-
ting two proposals, aimed at spreading
information about tenants' rights, on
the city ballot for the April election.
The proposals are called "Truth in
Renting" and "Fair Rental Infor-
mation. " If you care about tenants'
rights, you'l/ want to votefor them.
You can cast your ballot for the two
proposals only if you're registered to
vote in Ann Arbor. If you live in Ann
Arbor, you can register to vote here at
City Hall, or at the Tenants Union of-
fice (4109 Michigan Union). And in
the next few weeks deputy voter
registrars willbe going-door to door in
dorms and in various parts of the
community; if a registrar comes
knocking on your door you can
register with him or her.
S
Stephen Hersh is com-
munity education director
of the MSA Housing
Reform Project.

Smoke issue can 'tget igniteo

I

By FRANK CORMIER
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON-The anti-smoking drive
launched by Joseph Califano, Jr., the refor-
med smoker who, is secretary of health,
education and welfare, has gotten a decidedly
mixed, if not skeptical, reaction at the White
House.
Press secretary Jody Powell gave it a mild
endorsement, while snuffing out one cigarette
and igniting another at a daily news briefing.
PUBLICLY, President, Carter has said
nothing at all. Privately, the non-smoking
president has decided it's not his fight.
When an aide sent him a memo on the sub-
ject of smoking a few months ago, Carter sent
it back with a terse, handwritten message: "I
ewduar to be drawn into this fruitless issue."
Another skeptic is Fr. Peter Bourne, the
president's special assistant for health issues.
Bourne, a psychiatrist, finds much to applaud
in Califano's personal crusade, yet has deep
misgivings about one of its aspects.
"A PART of my skepticism," he told an in-
terviewer, "derives from what's happened in
China. The Chinese have dealt with virtually
every social problem that you can imagine by
fiat. The one thing they haven't touched is
cigarette smoking."
Bourne is particularly concerned lest the
Califano approach make the nation's 60
million smokers feel like outcasts. He argues
that experience with treating drug addicts,
alcoholics and the mentally ill shows that
"the more you stigmatize people ... in manu
instances the more difficult it is to get those
people to overcome the problem they have."
Although Bourne applauds Califano's call
for strengthened efforts to educate smokers
about the hazards of their habit, he said a

number of studies "show that virtually
everybody who smokes is already very aware
of that information, and that 60 per cent to 70"
per cent of the people who smoke want to quit
"THERE'S a limit to what you can further
achieve by telling people how bad the hazards
are."
Bourne also is skeptical about smoking
cures, saying "the success rate has been very
WASHINGTON TODAY

THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL
DIST.FIELD NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE, 1979

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low," with about 85 per cent of the quitte
retrning to cigarettes within six months. I
said other ways should be found to "he
people achieve what they would like
achieve anyway."
Seeing a parallel with efforts to mal
driving safer, despite the certain knowled
that some will drive recklessly, Bour
agrees with Califano that government shout
do more research on hazardous elements
ifh
7/l

tobacco and cigarette smoke and "look for
things like safer cigarettes," with Uncle Sam
subsidizing the search if the tobacco industry
balks.
BUT BOURNE has serious reservations
about a Califano proposal to ban smoking on
airliners. Because "a lot of people still have
severe anxiety about flying" and find relief in
cigarettes, he believes a ban would cause a
dramatic increase in the consumption of
alcohol aloft, "and I'm not sure that's a useful
tradeoff." He also believes a ban would be
unenforceable.
Bourne also has questions about a Califano
suggestion that workers who do smoke be of-
fered work space separate from those who do.
"There is some rather tenuous evidence
that the inhaling of ambient smoke by non-
smokers may produce some health con-
sequences," said Bourne. Bur he said the
evidence is so shaky that until the facts are
established, "I think it's a very hard
argument to make as to whose rights are
being violated."
Bourne also has some distrust of laws that
try to "dictate personal behavior," believing
they raise grave questions of civil rights ver-
sus government interference.
Although Bourne personally is opposed to
smiking, and quit while Califano still was a
tow-pack-a-day man, he does not view the
problem as a black and white issue. He feels
it raises fundamental questions "in terms of
how much one has a right to misuse one's own
body, and how much the government has a
responsibility to protect you from yourself."
With Carter standing above the- battle,
Califano's crusade seems certain to fall short
of its objectives

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