Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

KU Student Senate to lobby for renters

Revisions sought on deposits, renewal clauses

December 1, 2005


Slugs squirmed out of the walls in Allyson Flaster's old Lawrence apartment. In the bathroom, the shower walls crumbled.

When she left, the former Kansas University graduate student lost hundreds of dollars for cleaning fees, though she says she left the apartment in better condition than she found it.

"I refuse to rent ever again in Lawrence," said Flaster, who lived in the city from 2000 to 2004 and now lives in Basehor.

Kansas University's student government wants to make the rental experience - a reality for roughly 80 percent of KU's student population - a little bit better.

A measure moving through KU's student government would press state lawmakers to amend the Kansas Landlord Tenant Act. The students want to address automatic renewal clauses and the language regarding security deposits on leases.

"The things we're proposing are not ridiculous or outrageous," said Josh Bender, a KU student and Student Senate legislative director.

Allyson Flaster, who now lives in Basehor, says she will never rent in Lawrence again. She and her husband had a bad experience with a landlord while attending Kansas University; even though they had fixed up a crumbling bathroom, the landlord charged them a cleaning fee after their lease was up because they left a few items in a drawer.

Allyson Flaster, who now lives in Basehor, says she will never rent in Lawrence again. She and her husband had a bad experience with a landlord while attending Kansas University; even though they had fixed up a crumbling bathroom, the landlord charged them a cleaning fee after their lease was up because they left a few items in a drawer.

Bender said students were still working on the details. But they want to set a standard for the time when landlords must notify tenants about the automatic renewal clause.

Many leases have a clause that indicates the contract will be renewed automatically if a tenant does not give proper notice otherwise. Landlords give tenants advance notice of the date of automatic renewal. KU's student governments want to make this process more uniform.

The students also want to make sure tenants are charged for actual costs of cleaning and repairs, which are now set by landlords.

Bender said many landlords already did what these plans called for.

"We simply want to make sure everybody is following the same practices," he said.

Legal hurdles

But some say the students won't succeed in getting changes to the Landlord Tenant Act.

"I think they're fighting a dead dog," said Bob Ebey, vice president of Landlords of Lawrence Inc. and legislative liaison for Associated Landlords of Kansas.

Ebey said he believed the Landlord Tenant Act equally aids both landlords and tenants and he opposes attempts to change it.

"Once it's open, then legislators can make any change they want," he said. "Once it's opened up, these legislators will try 10 or 15 different changes."

And one word can change the whole law, he said.

Bill Larzalere, a staff attorney with KU's Legal Services for Students, said automatic renewals and damage charges were among the two biggest problems reported by students.

He said the automatic renewals had few benefits, if any, for tenants.

"Our position is the automatic renewals are unconscionable and unenforceable," he said.

And pre-set charges for damages also can be unfair, he said, because the pre-set charges are always higher than the actual cost of fixing something.

"It is an uphill battle for the students to get the money back if a landlord withholds money," Larzalere said.

Horror stories

While many maintain that not all landlords in Lawrence are bad, horror stories remain.

Mike Moeller, a KU junior, called one rental episode in Lawrence the "worst experience of my life."

Electrical outlets that didn't work. Cable channels paid for but not received. General filth and disrepair.

"The real chart topper was the fiasco with our bathroom on the main floor," he said.

Two sides of the shower were made of a painted plastic. The spraying water caused the paint to flake and peel off, clogging the drain. A plumbing problem led to a hole in the bathroom wall. It took months to fix the pipes.

Calling for assistance was a struggle, Moeller said.

"We just had to stand by in this crappy house as it fell down all around us," he said.

At move-out time, Moeller said he was charged for a broken fan that didn't exist and for window blinds that he, not the landlord, bought and discarded.

"It was a very strange thing," he said. "I had not realized how cold the world could be until this happened. It changed my life."


sweatpeagj 12 years, 1 month ago

I have had many poor experiences while renting in Lawrence. Amen to all of it.

magnificentbastard 12 years, 1 month ago

First Management is the worst. $20 to clean a toilet?

bkgdog 12 years, 1 month ago

As a landlord in Lawrence for nearly 15 years I can appreciate the argument for NO automatic renewal. I really do not see how this can benefit the tenant, only a lazy landlord. I can't imagine the law being changed but maybe they can do it. For now I think the kids need to know that if they see something like this in a lease just ask why it needs to be there. Most things are negotiable if they can speak to the person with the authority to make adjustments. As for the deposit issue these things are site specific, I mean we all hear the horror stories like the ones mentioned in the story above. Am I to believe that his place was wonderful when he moved in and suddenly the shower had painted plastic walls. Kids today are quite savvy but seem quick to plead ignorance. When you look at renting a place take a digital camera. Document everything. Take pictures of the yard, the house or apartment and be sure to include the interior with the agent showing you the house. Then do some research on the landlord. Check with the existing tenants or adjacent tenants. Trust me, good landlords are doing research on prospective tenants and those tenants should be investing the time to check out the landord or managment company. It seems pretty simple, if things seem a little out of place or if you get a list of excuses for disrepair you may not want to sign a lease. So document everything, negotiate if possible, take pictures, keep a copy of the lease and understand the provisions in the lease. Good Luck!

magnificentbastard 12 years, 1 month ago

And good luck to you with taking our money.

Baille 12 years, 1 month ago

I rented from a few bad landlords in my day. The worst was a house down the street from the Crossing. When the basement walls started to cave in from the rain, we packed up our stuff and moved out. The landlord tried to get us for the rest of the rent and we mailed him copies of the pictures we took at move in and through the rains, the correspondence we sent him regarding fixing the place, and a copy of our contract. He told us not to worry about the rent.

I know it is tough on both sides. There are some crappy, irresponsible tenants out there. But the crooked landlords are the worst, and is tough to sue them for just a few hundred dollars.

More people should document everything: pictures, copies of letters, everything done in writing with nothing of substance ever left to just a phone call. Then take to small claims court. No attorneys are allowed in there (for the most part) and people have a good chance of winning if they have evidence of what they claim.

Ragingbear 12 years, 1 month ago

You think First Management is bad with toilets? 15 dollars to replace each light bulb that isn't out, but not the wattage and brand they want. So if you left 60w Reveal(tm) bulbs in your apartment, they would go in, claim to replace them with 25. cent bulbs, and make 14.75 a bulb.

Heck, I would replace bulbs all day for even half that money.

magnificentbastard 12 years, 1 month ago

They charged me for "spots" on my carpets even though I had them cleaned as part of my cotract. The person there before me didn't pay have them cleaned, now I see why; they charge you for it anyway.

hawkbygod 12 years, 1 month ago

No matter what condition the apartment is in, First Management will take the deposit, and then charge an extra $5.00 to $15.00. You know why they get away with it, because most students (my girlfriend included), are to lazy to challenge the company. Most of the time all you have to do it threaten to take them to small claims court and they drop the charge. If you actually file they typically give in. Come on people, if we started calling these companies on this crap they might not be so quick to do it.

remember_username 12 years, 1 month ago

There are two sides to this. Renters do not have the only righteous position. I've rented in a "luxury" complex occupied by mostly K.U. students for almost two years. I've had to endure almost nightly loud parties lasting to dawn, trash, vandalism, urination off balconies, vomit in the walkways, and random violence. I've a collection of disgusting photos (caused by other tenants) in case I need to opt out of my lease. The police can do little - and the owners less. So I would suggest to the K.U. Senate that they learn to police their own for a change.

DaREEKKU 12 years, 1 month ago

I lived at Park 25 and never had better treatment renting. I now live at Hutton Farms which is supposed to be "luxury living" and I've never encountered a bigger group of idiots. The office staff is completely incompetent, and the materials are CHEAP. The carpet sheds so much when I vacuum that it has almost burned up my vacuum cleaner four times. The windows are brand new and let in large amounts of cold air. Just be forewarned that luxury living doesn't always mean what it says. A decent place to live, but not for what you a LONGSHOT. Check out Park 25, I had good luck with them.

Confrontation 12 years, 1 month ago

My worst experience was with Kaw Valley Property Management. We lived in an apartment that kept flooding. They would fix little things, but never got to the problem. The owner was rarely in the office, and he never returned calls. He left some 18 year-old brat in charge of the office. She spent more time in that office with her boyfriends than doing any work. So many things happened that were totally disgusting. This was a true slumlord. We are will M&M Rentals now, and they are great!

etdl83 12 years, 1 month ago

Everyone here has a valid point. And there are several sides to every story. I have lived in numerous apartments, not only in Kansas, but in California and Colorado too, and more money than you think should be, is always taken out of the deposit. However, I have also worked within the apartment renting business, and have seen first hand what it takes to get aparmtents ready for new move ins. If it is not perfect, the new tenants come in and complain. I walked into an apartment a few years ago to do the final inspection upon move out, and found black carpets, which were brand new a year before that, busted down interior doors, holes in the wall and a window missing. Naturally, they were charged for it all, and it wasn't cheap. And they still fought what we charged them. It took days to get that apartment ready for new move in. After fighting us and taking us to court, they were ordered to pay us back. We won the case, but it still cost us hundreds of dollars in lawyer fees. Just be a smart renter, take pictures on move-in day and move-out day, and please make sure you understand all of the lease. Be informed. Don't cry after wards when you made no attempt to understand that lease inside and out.

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 1 month ago

The students demands should include being paid interest on their deposits.

Does anyone besides me see a glut of rental property in Lawrence?

b_asinbeer 12 years, 1 month ago

Before renting, videotape the whole place with the landlord before the day you move in. Then, if he/she doesn't give you the deposit back, you can show them the video that the damage was there before you came in. After all, it only takes about 5 minutes of video to save you hundreds of dollars.

nousername 12 years, 1 month ago

As someone who worked for a rental company I need to comment. Yes, landlords in Lawrence, as a general rule, suck and want to take you for everything you have. However, they also are generally like this after years of abuse and mistreatment from tenants. I left the rental industry after being assaulted in my office, having to call 911 several times due to threats of violence, finding live animals left behind in apartments to die, and also finding dead animals. The filth and horror a large majority of renters leave behind is unimaginable. I have left units covered in fleas, maggots, and goodness knows what else - in "nicer" units. The worst are college students who completely destroy their units and then have their lawyer mommies or daddies threaten to sue if you take them to court or keep their deposit. I will never rent or work for a rental agency in this area ever again.

hammysammy 12 years, 1 month ago

I rented from these people who charged one and a half times rent for the security deposit which is only legal if you have pets. After several problems I went to the library and looked the Kansas Renters Handbook and called them on this stuff. I only paid half my rent the next month, and they knew they were doing something illegal. They loved it when I showed all my neighbors the handbook.

Charla Welch 12 years, 1 month ago

If there is one person doing maintenance on your apartment complex, befriend him/her. My maintenance man lives in the apartment across from mine. If packages are left at my door, he'll put them just inside the door, and never lets my cat get out. We'll talk when we pass and he's helped me brush snow off my car before. I've had a generally good experience in Lawrence so far. But hey, bkgdog, I'm looking to move this summer. Got some nice houses not close to KU?

none 12 years, 1 month ago

I think everyone has a horror story, I have rented in Lawrence for six years and have only renewed my lease once and that renewal is at Hutton Farms, I have had no problems with the management or my home. When I put in a work order it is fixed that day and everyone in the office is very helpful. It's ironic becasue I have a horror story from when I rented from Park 25. The people below me were having water leak into their apartement from mine, they came into my bathroom and pulled my faucet handles off the shower when I was not home- I called them and said I knew it was the toilet and not the shower , they wouldn't give me back my faucet handles for two days- this was my only bahtroom. When they did put them back, they found the leak in the toilet like I had said two days earlier. It ended up taking them two weeks to take care of the leak and the repair included putting a hole in my bathroom floor. I could see into my neighbors bathroom everytime I used the bathroom, that hole was there for two weeks, not very private. I'm not saying that one company is better than the other, I think we all have horror stories. Renters need to protect themselves by documenting everything- if you are a smart renter those horror stories aren't so horrifying.

passionatelibra 12 years, 1 month ago

I'm also looking for a small house not close to KU. I live right by the campus, which WAS fine because it was also right by the high school so more convenient for my daughter, but now she has her own place and I want something less expensive and quieter. From reading the posts it looks like I have a hard road ahead if I do try move :o(

eotw33 12 years, 1 month ago

First Management sucks. They like to take constitutional rights away from you like the right to bare arms. they also love to not fix things for you that way when you move out they can charge you for it. my advice is take a video camera with you on the walk through before and after you move in.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

There's a Constitutional right to bare arms?

rolls up sleeves

Look, everybody! I'm exercising my Constitutional rights and my triceps AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!

Sorry, eotw, the typo just really made me snicker.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

offtotheright said:

"Is it not true that a potential renter inspects the property before signing a lease? Why is it that they always complain afterwards?"

They don't always get to inspect the property before they can sign the lease, and sometimes problems don't surface until they've moved in. Usually, if you're leasing, you sign the lease before the previous renters have moved out, or before the apartment is ready for you. You're trusting the management to replace or shampoo the carpet, to repaint, to fill in the dings and patch the paint, change the lightbulbs and the furnace filters, check the wiring, check the plumbing, fix leaks, and scrub the old renter's mildew out of the shower before your move-in date. You don't get to turn on the furnace in your unit to see if it kicks on, you don't get to go up in the crawlspace to see if there are roaches.

Then, you move in, and you fill out a checksheet of everything you can find wrong with the apartment, and you hope they fix it. You could move out at that point, and find someplace else, or you could believe them when they say, "Hey, we had a whole lot of move-ins this week, so it may be a few days," and unpack your things. By that point, it's really too late to back out without losing several hundred dollars, which most of us just can't afford to lose.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 1 month ago

Now I know what all the controversy is about....people who want to bear arms versus those who just want to bare them... ;o)

dex 12 years, 1 month ago

berkeley flats at 11th and indiana was great, i renewed for over three years. the apartments are a little old and show their age but the rent is cheap, they allow small pets, and the location can't be beat. kim does a great job managing the place and whenever i had a maintenence issue it was taken care of promptly. when i moved in the apartment was a little dirty (esp. the celing fans) but when i moved out i got almost all of my deposit back. the only real downside is that the walls are thin but big parties only tend to happen once per apartment so management probably deals with "big" parties aggressively.

Lisia 12 years, 1 month ago

I've been on both sides of renting here in Lawrence, and the automatic renewal clause seems pretty useless from both points of view. I never ran afoul of it as a tenant, but I was also very conscientious of when notifications of anything had to be given to my landlords. Now that I work for a rental company as well as having rental property of my own, I always call or email tenants about that time of year to find out if they will be renewing or moving out. It doesn't take much time and saves a world of headaches later.

With the security deposits, I love nothing more than the tenants taking videos or digital pictures of the houses and apartments before they move in. I wish I had done that as a tenant! We do that as well to document damage done to the properties. I also like when the tenants are very nitpicky on their walk through lists. I'd much rather take an hour doing a walk through and know exactly which storm windows are broken or missing and which blinds are damaged than incorrectly charge for them upon move out and have to refund 1 and 1/2 times the amount.

When I was a tenant (1995 - 2002) I always thought landlords should be able to provide receipts for the work/cleaning/repairs done on the apartment after move out. Now, whenever we send out the security deposit statement, we notify our former tenants that we will provide receipts for them upon request. Very few actually do request the receipts- but we keep them for those who do.

Laura Wilson 12 years, 1 month ago

As others, I highly recommend video taping or taking pictures of the condition of your apartment on both move in and move out but I felt the need to clarify one issue. Yes, as tenants you have the right to sue your landlord for various reasons, but if your landlord is a corporation by Kansas law they must be represented by an attorney. You can sue in small claims court but the case will most likely be elevated to limited civil. Regardless you'll be facing an attorney. So, if your landlord is First Managment and you want to sue, I suggest hiring an attorney because FM is incorporated.

There are lots of bad landlords; there are also lots of bad tenants. I've seen both sides and some of the grossest living conditions left behind by tenants. I wouldn't be a landlord for any amount of money.

Katie Van Blaricum 12 years, 1 month ago

First Management made me cry. I had my place professionally cleaned and left it in MUCH better condition than I found it in. Yet they still found bulls*it excuses to take half of my deposit. I had my carpet cleaned, got them a receipt, and they still charged me for it. They charged me for holes in the ceiling made by the drills of the incapable carpenters who built the place, and added a "misc" cleaning charge to top it all off. The carpet was FILTHY when I moved in, so OBVIOUSLY they did NOT clean it before I moved in, even though I'm sure they charged the previous tenant for it. It's stuff like this that makes me want to never rent again. But I have to, because I can't afford to buy. Renters get treated so unfairly in this town. Doug Compton doesn't need my $300.

Harry_Manback 12 years, 1 month ago

I've found that it's better to rent from smaller property management services or individuals, than huge apartment complexes. My expereince with a big complex was poor, and I have seen several friends have trouble with it as well. When I lived in a big complex they would take up to a week to fix problems. One time the heater came on in July and made the place 95 degrees and I had to stay with my boyfriend till they fixed it 6 days later.

Now I live in a much smaller complex. With less units to deal with, as soon as I report a problem it's fixed within a day or two.

Baille 12 years, 1 month ago

"First Management made me cry. I had my place professionally cleaned and left it in MUCH better condition than I found it in. Yet they still found bulls*it excuses to take half of my deposit. I had my carpet cleaned, got them a receipt, and they still charged me for it. They charged me for holes in the ceiling made by the drills of the incapable carpenters who built the place, and added a "misc" cleaning charge to top it all off. The carpet was FILTHY when I moved in, so OBVIOUSLY they did NOT clean it before I moved in, even though I'm sure they charged the previous tenant for it. It's stuff like this that makes me want to never rent again. But I have to, because I can't afford to buy. Renters get treated so unfairly in this town. Doug Compton doesn't need my $300."

Small Claims Court, people. It is so very simple. You get the form from the Court Clerk. Get your receipts, your photos (at move-in and move-out), all your correspondence of complaints, and you document their final inspection (with videotape if possible). Take that to small claims court where attorneys are not allowed and get your money back. I don't blame you for not wanting to get treated unfairly, but people need to start standing up for themselves.

Reason McLucus 12 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like a great idea. I didn't experience any of those problems 20 years ago when I was renting, but something needs to be in place for dealing with bad landlords.

Chris Millspaugh 12 years, 1 month ago

first management: $25.00 charge to wipe of diry blades of a ceiling fan.

JHE rentals: decides to claim bankruptcy at the end of my lease so i dont get my deposit back. and his lawyers wont return mesages.

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