News Round-Up March 1, 2012

I find many interesting stories about off-campus housing, thanks to Google Alerts. Not all of these articles need an entire post dedicated to them, so I thought it might be helpful to do a round-up of some of the stories.

  • Edinburgh University Students’ Association launches campaign to protect tenants – EUSA launches the Fair Housing Campaign, which includes a charter of eight commitments that students felt were important when renting. Letting agents, or landlords, can sign the charter, and then the EUSA will list the services who are committed to those standards. Some of the commitments include “deposits are returned within one month of the final information being available and that landlords show a commitment to improving the energy efficiency of the property.”
  • Students turn to Google, not traditional ads to find apartments – Catalyst, an Austin-based marketing firm that specializes in the student housing industry, surveyed more than 500 college students about their use of digital/social media and the types of marketing tactics that typically impact their housing decisions. Of those surveyed, 53 percent of students ranked Google/Internet searches as most important in helping them find a place to live.
  • ‘Student housing at varsities is shocking’ – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande presented the report, “A Review of the Provision of Student Housing at South African Universities,” which found that there is a shortage of 195,000 beds at university residences across the country.

Also, an update on House Bill 4425 – as of 1:41 p.m. today (March 1, 2012), it’s been introduced to the Senate.

– Leann

Advertisements

Be wary when looking for housing on Craigslist

Two women in South Carolina were recently arrested for scamming students out of money by lying to them about leasing apartments, according to an article from wltx.com.

(Photo credit: Lexington Co. Detention Center. Cynthia Louise Allen (left), Coreshia Malasia Henry)

According to the article:

West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall says the victims would place ads on Craigslist looking for people sublease their student housing leases.  Allen and Henry, Tyndall says, would contact the victims and take money from them in exchange for assuming the lease. However, officers say once they got the money, they stopped contacting the victims, and never took over the lease.

I’ve not heard of any Craigslist housing scams in Morgantown, but when I spoke to Carrie Showalter from WVU student Legal Services, she said there was an incident with a landlord renting out apartments he didn’t own.

The WLTX article has some tips from West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall for subleasing an apartment:

  1. Never pay, wire transfer or give money to any person to take over your lease.
  2. Always follow the rental property sublease terms.
  3. Have the person who is taking over your lease fill out the necessary contracts with the rental property staff.
  4. Don’t mail, fax or e-mail a blank lease agreement to a potential sub-lessee.  Have them work details out through the property rental office.

-Leann

Residents reject new student housing projects all over the country

I try to follow news of off-campus housing closely, and one story I keep seeing over and over is student housing plans are being rejected all over the country. Many times residents are rejecting the plans because they don’t want students in their neighborhoods, but there are other reasons, as well. Here are a few of the stories I’ve gathered recently with some excerpts explaining why the housing plans were rejected.

Landlords say there isn’t a need for more student housing in the city, citing their own increased vacancy rates as proof. They question why the city would subsidize a new complex with out-of-town owners while ignoring local landlords.

“We’re not a college town.  We’re a resident town that happens to have a college.  Student housing should be the university’s problem, not ours.”

  • We just don’t want you here’ Ann Arbor residents tell student housing developer – AnnArbor.com:
“Bottom line is we moved into this neighborhood to get away from campus,” one resident said. “With you building right there, we all just might as well move back downtown.”

  • Neighborhood wins against off-campus wildness – msnbc.com:
Westwood’s former frat-row feel has nearly faded and property values have been saved, locals say, thanks to homeowners who won new zoning and parking restrictions limiting the number of OSU students in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood residents raised concerns about the traffic, competition for on-street parking spaces, and noise they say would be generated by the apartments.

  • Are student-only rentals on their way out in Evanston?Wilmette Life:

“This town cannot tolerate two private rental markets, one for students and one for families,” said Gail Schechter, executive director of the Interfaith Housing Center. “It is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.”

The commissioners generally agreed that students living off-campus have had a demonstrated, negative impact on the quality of life for neighbors. They also agreed that they would like to see enhanced efforts by the university to address those issues and evidence that their solutions are working.

  • No relief for neighbors of Quinnipiac students in Hamden Post Chronicle:

From now on, whenever there is an application for student housing or an application is being renewed, the Planning and Zoning Department will prepare a guide for all neighbors within 200 feet of the property rented to students, Town Planner Leslie Creane said. The homeowners will receive information on when to call a university hotline, town police or the property owner, and other relevant telephone numbers.

I think the last story listed, “No relief for neighbors of Quinnipiac students in Hamden,” has an interesting concept – alerting residents within 200 feet of the property of the plans and providing them with important contact numbers. Not everyone keeps up with the news, so it’s possible neighbors may not know about a new development until it begins, so that’s a good way to keep residents informed.

– Leann

Does WV limit late fee charges for rental units?

Today I found a column from the University of Minneapolis’ student paper The Minnesota Daily that brings up some good points.

The writer, Courtney Johnson, mentions issues that I notice are a problem in Morgantown, as well:

“One important thing to remember is to never feel rushed when preparing to sign a lease. A lot of times, due to limited availability of off-campus housing around the University, students feel pressured to sign something — anything — as soon as they can. However, while in a frenzy to sign, inexperienced renters might not be aware of all of the expectations placed by landlords.”

I’ve seen people looking at apartments as early as December for the next school year. Sometimes if a student hasn’t found something by late January, they think they’re not going to find anything decent.

More importantly, Johnson mentions this:

“… a law passed through the State of Minnesota legislature, effective Jan. 1, 2011, which states that landlords are not legally able to charge late fees in excess of 8 percent of the overdue rent payment. This new law prevents landlords from overcharging their tenants and is particularly helpful for the inexperienced renter.”

In many cases, the reason a person’s rent is late is because they don’t have the money. So by charging them more money that they don’t have, it’s only making things worse.

I’ve searched West Virginia’s state code for a law regarding late fees, but I didn’t find anything. It’s possible that I’ve overlooked it, but I’ve contacted someone who will know for sure. I’ll update when I hear back.

UPDATE 1/19/12: According to Brian Walker, who works with Commuter Student Programs/Off Campus Housing for West Virginia University’s Office of Student Life, currently “West Virginia does not have a cap on allowable late fees.”

-Leann