First-time renters often unaware of tenant rights

Students living off campus said they did not know about Temple’s resources.

An “apartment for rent” sign hangs on a house on Berks Street. Students have faced issues renting when they venture to off-campus housing. GENEVA HEFFERNAN | ASST. PHOTO EDITOR

Jayme Ziegler, a senior French major, had to vacate her apartment on Jan. 3 after an inspection from the city’s Licenses and Inspections department found her landlord had made unauthorized repairs to the building which turned it into a fire hazard. It was Ziegler’s first time living off Main Campus, and she said most of her knowledge about renting came from her friends.

Even though there is an increasing number of Temple students choosing to live off campus, renters and landlords said students are unaware of their rights when they move into independent living spaces.

Peter Crawford, the founder of Crawford Development Group, which rents housing around campus, said the challenge in renting to students “comes from inexperience” on their part.

Compared to older tenants, students living independently for the first time may not know how to fix something around the house, remember to pay rent or know how to write a check, he said.

Crawford added if something is bothering his tenants, he wants them to speak up about it. Communication is also an issue, he said, and landlords sometimes learn about problems months after they occur.

“I don’t know how we could have known [about the violations],” Ziegler said. “I don’t even know how I would have been able to see about that ahead of time.”

Doretha Starling, the administrative specialist for Temple’s Off-Campus Living and Conference Services, said there has been an increased use of the office’s resources.

“Basically we try to provide them with everything they would need to have a successful off-campus housing experience,” Starling said. The office also provides contacts to groups that advocate for tenants.

Several students who ran into issues while living off campus said they were not aware of resources the office provides for renters.

Vanessa Gaie, a sophomore communication studies major, said her apartment was without heat for two weeks in December. She leased her apartment through the realtors MK Management Group, which could not be reached for comment.

Gaie said she reported the issue, but the request took too long to be addressed before it was eventually fixed.

This was the first time Gaie and her roommates were living off campus, and she said she was unaware of the resources offered on campus for renters.

“We weren’t really educated about [our renter’s rights] because it was our first time in our own apartment,” she said. “We didn’t really know that much.”

Although Gaie said she has learned more about renting an apartment, she is still not “100 percent informed” about her rights and responsibilities as a renter.

“The best customer that I can have is somebody who understands their responsibilities, takes their responsibilities seriously and also holds me to my responsibilities,” Crawford said.

Crawford said he believes the university could play a bigger role in educating students about landlord-tenant relationships.

The university’s online and print brochure, the Off-Campus Housing Resource Guide, details the various nonwaivable rights that renters have, like the right to a safe home, privacy and to have damages repaired by a landlord.

Tenants also have responsibilities when entering a lease, including abiding by the specifications in the lease, keeping the apartment clean, reporting damages to a landlord and paying rent on time.

The guide also provides students with samples of a maintenance request letter, subleasing form and housing code checklist.

Kelly Brennan can be reached at or on Twitter @_kellybrennan.

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