Students must rent houses responsibly

Tulane students planning to live off-campus should know that the city of New Orleans is working to pass a new series of rental regulations to protect against abusive landlords and unacceptable living conditions.

The city will hopefully do its party to help renters, but students must do their parts before signing the dotted line on a lease.

If successfully  revised and passed, the Healthy Homes Ordinance will go into effect in January 2018 or 2019. It would require that landlords register all rental properties within the city. Landlords would be required to pay a $60 registration fee and a $30 inspection fee. Regardless of these new regulations, students must be proactive and ask their landlords about the properties and check with the city regarding the inspections.

The ordinance would bar landlords from renting out properties that do not pass inspection, but there are exemptions that students should be concerned about. Most importantly, short-term rentals are exempt from the new regulations, so students must ensure they have a long-term lease.

Students who do have long-term leases and are still struggling to have their landlord address their concerns would have new recourse under the new ordinance, which offers legal protections for tenants that file complaints against a landlord. The ordinance also gives financial assistance to landlords to make repairs.

Students should report repairs proactively and speak with landlords about average repair times, and costs that the renter is responsible for which often include air conditioning filters, utilities, lightbulbs and sometimes yard maintenance.

If students are struggling with a landlord, Tulane University Legal Assistance Program offers free or significantly reduced legal help for various issues. TULAP can assist students with writing a formal complaint to a landlord or appealing a landlord’s report claiming tenant wrongdoing.

Despite these new protections and the legal resources available to Tulane students that many residents of New Orleans do not have access to, the Tulane community needs to be far more vigilant.

There are numerous Tulane students who rent on month-to-month contracts or have nothing but a verbal contract with their landlord. As a result, they are completely unprotected from potential abuse or eviction and could even be reported as unlawful residents.

Many students that do have lease contracts sublet their rooms to other students when they go abroad with no record besides a verbal agreement. While that may seem efficient, it leaves the students with full legally responsible for all rent and payments owed to the landlord, including those for any damages incurred. Subletters have no legal responsibility to uphold contracts that they did not sign.

The Tulane community has the legal and assistive resources to avoid landlord issues, but those resources must be used effectively.

Being uninformed is not the fault of the student, but choosing to stay uninformed could be an expensive and irresponsible decision for any renter.