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February 23, 1990 - Image 18

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-23
Note:
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-1 T T I T I I I IiI I I I I I I I . . . . . . . . ..I I I I I I I I I. . . . . . . . . .

I t F I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I . i --T T T--T-- I f f I I I I I I I I I I t -j . . I I I . . . . -
I I I t I I I I L I . I . I . f . i I I . I . I . I I I . I . I I . I . I . I . I . I I f
I I F i I I I z I I I I I I . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ........... .
I I t I I I . . . . . I I . I I I I
I , I , I I I f I I I I I I

'I1:111
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Y'IN'- t T r ..

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L .1 A
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-F

Ann Arbor's housing nightmare
The race is on. It's February, time for students to commit themselves to housing and housemates for the
next school year - seven months in advance. Many have already signed leases. Others are not quite so
organized. Everyone wants to pay the lowest rent for the best living conditions. But no matter how good
a deal they get, no matter whether they sign on the dotted line with the University, a big management
company, or a small independent landlord, students will be entering an uneasy relationship which often

or apartment
complexes.
If the
company is
lax about
getting
repairs done
for one
tenant, the
logic goes, it
is probably
treating its
other
tenants with
equal
neglect. The
larger the
number of
tenants
putting
pressure on
a
management
company,
the more
likely it will
be to reform.
Another
way the
AATU and SLS
watch out for
the rights of
tenants is by
catching
clauses in
management
company
leases that
attempt to
limit the
Julie HollmanNeekend rights
tenants have
under the law. Roumel and
Green are currently pressuring
Campus Rentals - which
manages 140 units in Ann
Arbor - to change two clauses
in its lease regarding tenants'
privacy rights.
The first clause reads:
"ACCESS TO PREMISES -
[M]anaging Agent through its
representatives will make
occasional visits to inspect the
interior and exterior of the
leased premises.... Such
Managing Agent visits will be
at reasonable times; barring
emergency conditions, efforts
will be made in advance to
notify tenant. Tenants hereby
give their irrevocable
permission for such entries at
the convenience of Managing
Agent."
Roumel points out that, "In
essence, what it gives with one
clause, it takes away with the
other, and the result is
unchecked authorization to
invade tenants' privacy."
The second questionable
clause regards the procedure
tenants must agree to in order
to get repairs done.
"MAINTENANCE REQUESTS BY

TENANTS - Whenever a
Tenant requests such service,
Tenant agrees that permission
has automatically been given
for entry by service personnel
at their convenience to
accomplish the task involved.
Should Tenant deny such
entry for any reason
whatsoever, Tenants agree to
be billed for, and to promptly
pay, the full costs of the
service trip [personnel,
equipment and parts]."
Roumel says that under the
law, "Just as an owner has
privacy rights, and the power
to maintain trespass actions
against unwanted entry, so
does the tenant during the
time of a valid landlord-tenant
agreement. This includes the
ability to exclude even the
landlord from unwanted entry.
It is my legal opinion that
these particular lease clauses
are unenforceable and illegal."
Victor Solano, the General
Manager at Campus Rentals,
defends the clauses as a
legitimate and necessary
protection for the company
against damages that may
happen to its properties.
"We
receive so

we're going t
maintenance
trained. The)
to go and knc
no one answe
minutes and
yell, 'Hello, (
to let people
there."
Roumel sai
reasonable fo
procedures tc
"Landlords h
protect their
Campus Ren
farther than i
But Solano
tenants unde
procedure wl
lease, and th:
Rentals has o
calls from ter
about privac}
"The tena
always go to
Union," he s
Tenants Uni
landlords are
they always t
very bad adv
The tenants
they call and
law.' I explai
the lease. Yo

turns into a struggle overpower and legal rights.
EREDITH couldn't just be in my own
McGhan, for house, because it wasn't my
example, does house."
not like her Copi claims that although he
landlord, and does sometimes enter his
her landlord, tenants' apartments without
David Copi, does not like her. notifying them, complaints
Copi owns 54 campus about it are "pretty rare."
properties, and is planning to "Only one or two people out
run for City Council this year. of 250 of my tenants would say
"He never called before he anything like that about me,"
came over," she says. "Once I he says. He explains that such
was in the shower and I heard complaints stem from a
the doorbell ring, I ran out and misinterpretation of the
got in a towel, and I heard him privacy clause in his lease,
opening Lhe door, and I said, which says that he will make a
'this is a bad time right now, "good faith effort" to notify
please go away.' I asked him in the tenant before he enters.
the future to always call before "If they don't have an
he came over, but he only did answering machine and I try to
about half the time. call them and I can't reach
"Another time I came home them," he says, then he will go
and someone was ripping up do the repair or show the
my bathroom floor. I didn't apartment anyway. He does
know anyone was going to be not see this as a privacy .
there, or that that was even violation because, "I've made
going to be done. Then once a a good faith effort, I've
guy came over when I was still complied with the lease."
sleeping.... I never felt really McGhan is currently
safe there. I couldn't walk negotiating with Copi for
around in my underwear. I reparations, but she says the
suit has less to do with her
by Am y Harm on privacy rights than with what
she calls "massive cockroach

infestation."
Nicholas Roumel, a staff
attorney at Student Legal
Services (sts), says the kind of
landlord harassment that
McGhan experienced is
common. "Landlords believe
they have the right to enter
whenever they want, that
they're doing the tenant a
favor by giving any notice."
Although Ypsilanti's City
Council recently passed a
Privacy Ordinance mandating
that landlords give their
tenants 72 hours notice before
they enter, a similar ordinance
proposed by tenants activists
in Ann Arbor has been "in
committee" at City Council for
almost a year and does not
appear to be being addressed.
Staff members of the Ann
Arbor Tenants Union (AATu),
located in the Michigan Union,
estimate that they receive at
least 150 complaints of privacy
violations a year. The AATu
provides walk-in and phone
counseling for tenants and
sponsors workshops on specific
housing problems. Tenants
Union staff member Claudia
Green says that in' addition to

privacy violations, the most
common complaints are about
repairs, landlords refusing to
give back portions of security
deposits, and wanting to break
a lease.
Tim Ream, an LsA junior,
recently asked the AATIJ's
advice on what to do about
Amvest Properties' failure to
respond to his complaints.
Amvest manages 200 units in
Ann Arbor.
"Amvest has shown
complete disinterest in our
problems with our place,"
Ream says. "I've made half a
dozen calls trying to get hold
of a maintenance person,
they've never returned any of
them. The insulation is
substandard. There's a lot of
cold air. One of our front walls
leaks water and drenches the
carpeting. They've known
about it at least since
September. They may even
have known about it before we
moved in, because the guy
who used to live here just
moved to another apartment
upstairs."
Jerry Spears, president of
Amvest, dismisses Ream's case

as "an exception to the rule."
He claims that maintenance
requests are usually responded
to in 24 hours. "I'm sorry to
hear that someone isn't
satisfied," he says.
Ream says the Tenants
Union helped him formulate a
plan. "I wrote them a letter
telling them we're withholding
our rent till they fix this, so
hopefully that will get some
kind of results. We're also
going to try to get reimbursed
for our MichCon bills."
Susan Westreet, who
graduated from the University
last year, had problems with a
different sort of leaking but a
similarly unresponsive
landlord - Modern
Management. "In the
bathroom, the shower
constantly leaked water onto
the floor. I called several
times, and they said they had
sent people over and they
couldn't find anything wrong
with it. Eventually I slipped,
and I wasn't seriously hurt, but
that was a significant factor in
my wanting to move out."
Westreet says she usually was
not notified before a repair

person or manager came over.
"Basically they would just
knock on the door."
For Penny Weersing, a
senior in Engineering, renting
from Modern Management
meant living for several
months with mold on the
walls. She said they told her
not to worry, it would
disappear when the weather
gets colder. "But how cold
does it get inside an
apartment?" she asks. "65°
does not kill molds." She says
that "after countless phone
calls, at least two letters and
the threat of legal action," the
company cleaned off the mold
and did several other repairs
she had complained about
months earlier.
Sandy Sergeant, the office
manager at Modern
Management, denies that
there has been a delay in
repairs except possibly during
the month of September.
"When tenants move into
apartments," she explains,
"they of course feel that its
their home, and they want
everything to be just so. When
you have a large number of

people feeling this way, its
hard to satisfy everyone
immediately." Modern
Management runs 140 units in
Ann Arbor.
Tenant complaints like
these are run-of-the-mill at the
Tenants Union and Student
Legal Services. Many students
suffer similar abuses without
reporting them because they
aren't aware of their rights as
tenants. "Tenants have the
right to withhold rent for non-
repair," Nicholas Roumel
emphasizes. If a landlord fails
to do a repair after being
notified in writing, tenants can
pay their rent into an escrow
account until the repair is
done. "And they can often get
a rent abatement," Roumel
says, depending on the degree
of inconvenience they
experience and how long they
have to wait.
A LT HOUGH
tenants usually
come to them
with individual
complaints, the
AATU staff encourages tenants
to organize in their buildings

many calls,
30-35 a day,
its very hard
to know
when we'll
be able to
go into the
unit. Most
of the time
when our
tenants call
us by phone
and request
some kind
of service,
they don't
care when
we come
over, they
want it to be
fixed. Also,
if there is
some

r
-77 wll lll--
q

leaking or
something
that's going
to destroy
the property
. the tenant
has to have
some
consideration
for us. We
always try to
let them
know when
For Rent
Signs like these reflect this year's 6.9% vaca
advocates, this means tenants have more ro
for lower rent and better leases.

8 WEEKEND

v.

WEEKEND

February 23, 1990

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