Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Landlord Tenant Agreement: Signed and Forgotten?

Sara Shookman

For many Ohio University students, signing a lease is a first chance at freedom - a first look at the world outside the dorm.

Junior Jarred Goldner said it was an attractive deal, until the actual signing began.

"They give you all these papers and they say, 'Sign them!'" he said. "They put such a quick date on returning them nobody really reads anything. It makes it a little unfair."

One of those papers Goldner said he signed was the Landlord/Occupant Declaration of Compliance and Disclosure, more commonly referred to as a landlord tenant agreement.

The form is designed to educate tenants about several specific city rules regarding trash collection and party-related violations.

The form is similar to others used around the state.

To read a copy of the landlord tenant agreement, click on the images below.

What the City Says
At Monday's Athens City Council meeting, Law Director Pat Lang asked the council members to consider a review of the agreement. He said landlords were supposed to turn in signed forms to the city by Sept. 30.

But nearly half of city landlords did not comply.

Lang said the code enforcement office has not received agreements from 334 landlords of 965 properties in Athens.

"When there is a law that isn't being followed by literally half the people, I think it is appropriate to question is this a problem with the people or is this a problem with the law," he said.

What a Landlord Says

Thomason says the city hoped the agreement would mean compliance with city laws.

Caroline Thomason is the general manager of student housing provider Best of Athens Rentals. Although Thomason said she is in compliance, she said she dislikes the agreement not only because it is a pain in terms of paperwork, but also because it is prejudiced against student renters.

"It is biased. It's not for the entire city of Athens. It's not for permanent residents," Thomason said. "It's only for houses with rental permits. So it definitely segregates only the students."

Thomason says the agreement is partial to permanent residents.

What the Students Say
Although Goldner signed the agreement like many renters, he said the form isn't fulfilling its purpose.

"You don't know what the city codes are until you've broken them," Goldner said.

Some students we talked to had never heard of the agreement and had no idea whether or not they had signed it. Many of those who were familiar with the form supported Lang's idea.

Student renters discuss the landlord tenant agreements.

Ohio University's Student Legal Services Web site discusses the form, as well as many other issues related to rental properties.

The Next Step
City Council agreed Monday to review the agreement next week and decide whether to prosecute delinquent landlords.

Law Director Pat Lang said his office will not prefer charges against any landlords until that discussion.

Landlord Caroline Thomason said this problem will not be an easy one to fix, but necessary.

"Without Ohio University, the City of Athens would not be what it is. And of course we can't have Ohio University without the students. So you must find this cohesiveness for the city and the residents to live next to, not necessarily amongst, but next to students," she said.

"We can't have one without the other."

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