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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Landlords challenge students on leases

Tenants seek law that standardizes clauses, ends arbitrary charges

March 10, 2006

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— 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 had left unbelievable messes in the company's rentals.

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

But for all the tenant horror stories, Josh Bender said there were landlord horror stories, too.

As legislative director for the KU Student Senate, 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 were 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 said the proposal also would hurt military families from the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division, which is returning to Fort Riley.

"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 cleanup charges if they were forced to make that determination one month before the tenant was to move out.

The committee took no action. 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 paid whatever the landlord demanded because they couldn't pay for a legal 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 St., also spoke against the bill.

Ironically, Lindstrom said that in the 1970s, 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 was fair to tenants and landlords. Problems, he said, "would better be handled on an individual basis."

Comments

lunacydetector 8 years, 9 months ago

how about ..... landlords seek relief from unscrupulous students?

students are slobs.

bankboy119 8 years, 9 months ago

Don't standardize it. That is completely against being in a free market. Both parties have responsibilities.

Jamesaust 8 years, 9 months ago

As to Rep. Mike Kiegerl, the LJW will not print what I think of the guy. Let's just leave it at: our FREE nation has not been improved by the addition to it of this Kay O'Connor clone.

Alison Roberts 8 years, 9 months ago

maybe its just me.. Im a student.. and I scour my entire apt when I first move in to find all the crap the previous tennats have left messy or broken.

I also clean the apts when I leave.. bc well.. Id like to keep my deposit. But I was raised to take responsibility for things.. so whatever. I know most college students dont care bc their parents pay for their apts etc.. but for working students who dont get any help, I think it matters more.

when I have moved out of my apts (I lived in like 4 here in town) I have NEVER had a landlord or leasing agent check out the apt with me--then later I get stuck with a bill for things that I didnt clean/were broken and what not.

Its annoying to me--if landlords are going to complain about the condition of the apts after tennants leave, they should make more of an effort to make it MANDATORY to get the apt checked out before any deposits are refunded etc.

its not just the students who are to blame.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 9 months ago

I can see how landlords' gouging of the gullible, easily intimidated and vulnerable could allow them to be more competitive on rent rates. Doesn't make it right, but it could the case for some.

Jamesaust 8 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps the article should have read:

'Attorney Matthew Hoy said with tears streaming down his face that the proposal also would hurt military families from the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division, which is returning to Fort Riley, by forcing landlords to increase rents..."What would we have to greet them? Increased rents," he said as he choked back sobs. "I for one will not stand by quietly while these spoiled renters attack military families. If we pass this law the terrorists will have won." He then stamped his foot in frustration while biting his lip.'

Laura Wilson 8 years, 9 months ago

It is impossible to standardize all repairs and cleaning and estimate this a month before move out. While one tenant might scrub their fingers to the bone and leave a place in excellent condition, another might have a blow-out party in that final month and leave cigarette burns, holes in the walls, torn blinds etc. I have seen way too many pictures of the way tenants leave apartments--they'd turn your stomach--dog feces on the floor, toilets that have never been cleaned, rotten food in fridges, holes punched in walls, doors torn off hinges, etc.

I have no real problem with making leases and renewal clauses standardized, and even having a landlord provide a checklist of possible move-out costs before a tenant signs so they know that a lightbulb is going to cost X, but the early walk-through demand is ridiculous. That should be done after the tenant has cleaned and moved out.

thomgreen 8 years, 9 months ago

Are you kidding me? How hard is it to have standardize charges for things such as carpet cleaning, simple repairs. It is definitely a two way street here. There are landlords out there that overcharge students because they are betting on the odds that the students won't sue them. But at the same time, there are plenty of students that just screw landlords. There should be equal means for students and landlords to settle disputes in a fair and timely manner and anytime legislation can help make it fair for both parties, I'm all for it. I just hate to see someone throwing up the "this is going to raise the cost" fear tactic.

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