Tenant Support in MadisonPosted: March 14, 2010
Last week, someone asked me why I was working so hard on Tenant Support issues, specifically the $40,000 for Tenant Support Services in the ASM Internal budget for next year. Did I have a bad rental experience? she inquired. I laughed at the idea because I have had nothing but good relations, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that housing is the highest expense next to tuition in a student’s life.
Student Council Representative Erik Paulson, still working from DC, has written a new blog post on the rental season. His ideas center around changing the market for renters in the Madison area. Currently, the market (artificially) requires that renters get started as early as October and sign leases many months before they would be otherwisethinking about where to live the next year. For freshmen, this means signing a lease with someone you may have known for only a few months, and for others it means thinking about renting only a few short months after moving into your current residence.
How do we combat this? ASM Legislative Affairs Chair Adam Johnson says that we should move the date back. Currently, leases can be signed once 1/4 of the current lease has passed, falling on or around November 15th in most cases. But, as Erik Paulson has pointed out, this debate has happened before, and would likely happen again. In the end, pushing the date back–even if it could be achieved–would not stop rental companies from ramming advertising down student’s throats. I also don’t think that Paulson’s idea of forcing some sort of tax (or monetary incentive of some kind) would hurt anyone except renters.
Instead, I propose that education is the way to go. Johnson agrees with me, according to the Cap Times article:
“We need to get them educated about how to rent, what to look for, what to avoid, and hopefully they’ll remember these tips and tricks so the year after, they’re not falling into the same traps,” he says. “There are benefits to just being experienced, but we’re hoping you don’t have to go through one bad experience to make sure the rest are good.”
And that’s exactly it. By increasing education, we can effectively fight the artificially created market and help students with the second largest cost in their life. Of course, education is not in itself enough; a housing fair to “kick off” the rental season and a push-back on the rental date would also help alleviate the situation, but educating students about their rights and about the market would be the first step.
That is my goal with the Tenant Support Services Board. By next year, I hope to have a tool in place that will provide tenant rights education directly to students. Coupled with the Tenant Ratings Website, ASM will be able to help students make living here more affordable. Stay tuned on the Tenant Support Services, as I will be meeting with University Purchasing tomorrow to start getting it off the ground.