Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

KU students hear tenant horror stories from Kansas Legislature

March 9, 2006


Kansas University students on Thursday went to the Legislature seeking relief from what they said were unscrupulous landlords.

What they got was some student-bashing.

"I'm a landlord," said Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe. "And with all due respect, I do not consider college students the most desirable tenants, particularly males in their early 20s."

Alicia Smiley, district manager for First Management Inc. of Lawrence, said college students have left unbelievable messes.

"They naturally don't clean up after themselves," she said.

But for all the tenant horror stories, Josh Bender, legislative director for the KU Student Senate, said there were landlord horror stories, too.

Bender has been pushing for changes in the Kansas landlord-tenant act that would standardize lease renewal clauses, eliminate arbitrary lists of charges and require walk-throughs within one month of the end of a lease to determine move-out charges.

"Our goal is to amend current law in such a way as to create an equitable relationship between landlords and tenants," Bender said.

Bender said tenant allegations of unfair landlords in Lawrence was reaching crisis level with student legal services at KU spending half its time sorting through the complaints.

"It's not really a fair market," he said. Some landlords are charging exorbitant cleaning and repair costs, forcing students to renew leases too early in the lease agreements and hiding other kinds of charges, he said.

Last month, the Senate adopted, 23-17, many of Bender's recommended changes.

But several members of the House Commerce and Labor Committee noted the large number of KU students and Lawrence landlords at the meeting, and told Bender he should take his proposal to Lawrence City Hall.

Bender, however, said the problems existed in all college towns across Kansas and needed a statewide solution.

Attorney Matthew Hoy, representing the Lawrence Apartment Assn., which includes 20 landlords owning 2,000 units, said the proposed restrictions on landlords would lead to increased rents.

Hoy argued it would also hurt military families from the headquarters of the Ist Infantry Division, which is returning to Kansas.

"What would we have to greet them? Increased rents," he said.

One of the main complaints from landlords was that it would be impossible to estimate damage and clean up charges if they were forced to make that determination one month before the tenant was to move out.

The committee took no action, but it appeared several members wanted to kill the bill, though some lawmakers rose to the students' defense.

Rep. Stephanie Sharp, R-Lenexa, said most students just pay whatever the landlord demands because they can't afford to challenge.

"I know most students live on Ramen noodles and can't afford to hire a lawyer," she said.

Clark Lindstrom, a regional property manager with The Peterson Cos., which manages Park 25 Apartments, 2401 W. 25th, also spoke against the bill.

Ironically, Lindstrom said that in the1970s, as a political science student, he was in the same position as Bender.

Lindstrom said he was an intern for then-Gov. Bob Docking, and that he helped draw up the original landlord-tenant act from notes written by attorneys on a cocktail napkin in a Lawrence bar.

He said when he presented the legislation to a committee, landlords jumped all over him.

Now, more than 30 years older and representing rental property owners, Lindstrom said the current law is fair to tenants and landlords. Problems, he said, "would better be handled on an individual basis."


DaREEKKU 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm a college student and have left units in better condition that some of the families I've seen! How prejudice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

Photographs/video are a good idea, but the landlord/tenant act requires walk-throughs at the beginning and end of a lease. The tenant should take that opportunity to note anything that is damaged or substandard, including how clean the apartment is, and make sure it is on the walk-through document that is attached to the lease.

If a landlord fails to do a walk-through at the beginning of the lease, unless they have some other proof of damage done by a tenant, they don't have a leg to stand on if they seek damages at the end of the lease. If they try it, take them to small claims, and they will lose.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 2 months ago

20-something males' money is just as green as middle aged landlords'.

If the landlords don't want to rent to students, then they should stop running student slums. They should renovate their properties such that students are priced out the the market and the properties become desirable to higher-income, more stable individuals.

It's the market, stupid!

Harry_Manback 12 years, 2 months ago

I am a female college student in my early 20s, and when my 2 female friends and I went to look at a house for rent 2 years ago here, we were told that they would not rent to us because they didn't believe that girls would be able to mow the lawn! That's about the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, but it's probably best they never rented to us.

I once lived in a place that would take nearly 2 weeks to repair things, so I really do see a point in this law, but maybe not just for college students, but all people who might not have the money to protest unfair landlords like this.

magnificentbastard 12 years, 2 months ago

I've been incredibly lucky to find a good apartment complex with a responsible manager. However my year with First Management was awful. My roomate and I were exceptionally clean for two young men and we left the apartment in better conditiont than we found it. The kitchen, bathroom were clean and I had the carpet proffesionally cleaned which is when I realized that it hadnt been before we moved in. Still we barely got half our deposit back because of charges like "dirt in the tub." If there was anything in the tub it was SOS. Its a shame students won't win this fight, reform is needed.

kris10p4 12 years, 2 months ago

Ya, they need to hear the horror story from everyone that has every rented from Stonehouse Rentals in Lawrence. That guy is a slum, and KU Student Legal Services thought the same thing. We had to contact the housing authority to get our main sewer line fixed after four days of not being able to use any kind of water. Gross, huh? Needless to say we moved out fast!!!

That's the kind of landlord that screws students!

justthefacts 12 years, 2 months ago

Most tenants fail to do what they can to help themselves in advance. For example, taking a video of the property BEFORE move in would go a long way towards proving that it was left in approximately the same condition when they leave - thus giving the tenant the power to force a landlord to return deposits against damages. Most landlords regard a deposit as theirs no matter what "normal wear and tear" occurs; and it's hard to prove that a property was not already beat up if the tenant doesn't take pictures etc. ahead of time. Many landlords put clauses into a lease that would be regarded as adhesion contracts in other agreements. And many tenants lie and destroy property, and skip out, without a twang of conscience. So there is bad stuff on both sides.

usaschools 12 years, 2 months ago

True story: I rented an apt. in a house in the 800 block of Louisiana st. when I was going to KU. The house is still there, still a rental, and the problem is unresolved. The apt. was a "2 bedroom" but the back bedroom is simply a porch with plywood barely holding windows in place and a plywood floor. Under the porch is on open cistern (sort of like a well, often filled with water). A dog got under the house, fell in the cistern and drowned. Imagine the smell in the house! Well, my landlords - a well-established management service - refused to do anything about it. Since neighborhood kids had been known to crawl under the "bedrooms" in the past, I was concerned a child could drown or become trapped. I contacted the city. I was directed to speak with a woman who was said to be in charge of these inspections (mid 80's) and I was told in no uncertain terms that there was nothing the city could or would do about it. We had a lease and we had to live there with the stench of death and rot for the 3 months or so it took to go away. It was disgusting. You can't make this stuff up.

Anyway, I also worked cleaning apts. for a chain that operates apts. in Lawrence. I TOTALLY recommend renters to take the advice given by justthefacts and VIDEOTAPE your apt. when you move in!!!!!! Show everything, the appliances, every wall, the floors, fixtures, toilet, tub/shower, outside. This is your only protection.

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