Renter’s rights knowledge can save time, money

This illustration represents how renter’s rights are not always clear to student renters. With the help of Associated Students of Oregon State University’s Student Legal Services, they can save money and avoid disputes with their landlord.

Teresita Guzman Nader, News Reporter

Students can save money and avoid disputes with their landlords by learning about their renter rights, with the help of Associated Students of Oregon State University’s Student Legal Services.

In an email, Halli Barrios, ASOSU chief of staff and fifth-year biology student, said she is currently living off campus, and as a renter, not knowing her rights made her very stressed because she had to ask her campus mentors and parents about her rights all the time, which she said was time consuming. 

“As a student, instead of focusing on my homework, I was focusing on my rent or renter agreement because that was what took precedent,” Barrios said in an email. “Fortunately I was able to bounce back, but for some I know they skip class just because they have to meet with a landlord or company due to renter complications and it shouldn’t be that way.”

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ASOSU Student Legal Services, located at the Student Experience Center, room 232, is a resource provided by ASOSU for all Oregon State students of the Corvallis, Ore. campus, where students can seek help with several legal disputes or learn about their renter rights. These services are free for students attending the Corvallis campus because they are paid through the Corvallis campus student incidental fees. 

Noah Chamberlain, staff attorney at ASOSU Student Legal Services said students are welcome to review their leases on the second floor of the SEC, before signing them to understand what they are agreeing to.

“When you are working with a landlord that does electronic submissions, if you are unsure of what you are clicking, don’t click it. If you can’t tell that it is just a link to open for review, that you can read the lease in its entirety before signing, don’t open it,” Chamberlain said. “If you have any question about that, you should either go directly to a leasing manager at their physical office and ask for a physical copy of the lease to review, or come see our office, and show us what you are questioning in regards to a link that you have been sent and we will do our best to advise under the circumstances.” 

Marc Friedman, executive director of ASOSU Student Legal Services said an honest and legitimate landlord will have no problem with providing a copy of the lease for review. If a landlord does not want to provide a copy of the lease or is hesitant about it, then the student should be hesitant about signing that lease.

“The most common thing that we see are disputes with regards to recovery of security deposits, and security deposits are the money that tenants are often required to put down when they initially rent an apartment or a house, and they are entitled to get that back,” Friedman said. “However, landlords often will try and keep all or some portion of the deposit, and depending upon whether or not they are on the right or the wrong, we will often see students with regard to those matters and often help them to recover the money that is due to them.” 

Chamberlain said one thing that tenants should do before asking themselves what their rights are as renters,  is what are their responsibilities, because a tenant can have issues with their unit, but if they never tell their landlord about the issues, then their right to ask for repairs could be taken away.

“On day one that a tenant takes possession of a unit, they must document the condition of pre-existing damages. Fill out a form from your landlord for pre-existing damage to the unit, while video is okay, I definitely recommend photos because they are easier to present in court as evidence, and then any time an issue arises,” Chamberlain said. 

Chamberlain said according to Oregon law notices to the landlord need to be on writing and delivered to the address that is on the lease agreement, and such notices should be immediate. If tenants have a problem with the condition of the unit, such as a water leak, the tenant has to send a written notice to the landlord. If the tenants do not notice the landlord for several months that there has been a water leak in the unit, then the tenant might be liable and responsible for damages that such water leak caused, because the tenant never properly notified the landlord.

Chamberlain and Friedman said that each case is unique and that all OSU students are invited to reach out to the ASOSU Student Legal Services with any questions about their renter rights. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, in SEC 232.