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Explosive Journalism - Opinion Columns by Michael Giardina

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Property Manager's Abuse Davis Students
by Michael Giardina

Last night, I dreamt that all property managers in Davis were poking me with red iron pitchforks. I prayed to the gods of tenancy for forgiveness, but the devils laughed at me, dropping my security deposit - one dollar at a time - into boiling lava. I escaped on the back of a heroic cow from the dairy fields and awoke in a cold sweat, only to realize that the wetness (rain water) came from the broken windows in my room that maintenance hasn't gotten around to fixing. Rental companies are notorious for taking advantage of students who are often inexperienced with leasing law and rarely have the time to fight back against inappropriate managing conduct. Currently, apartment complexes are not required to impose a reasonable deadline for lease renewal. Students should not be pressured into signing contracts long before the school year's end. Some complexes require tenants to sign renewal leases in January, offering managers incentive bonuses for each renewal. Students should not be expected to plan for two years of their lives in four months' time. Apartment complexes have also been known to corner students into vicious Catch 22s. A complex in north Davis has crafted a service called "the roommate program," which any reasonable person would assume is aimed at helping tenants find roommates. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Instead, this "roommate program," which might as well be called the "lose your deposit program," allows the complex to write up separate leases for each room in the apartment. Most students have never heard of the program, nor have they requested to participate. Under the program, managers lease out rooms without notifying tenants and refuse to release any information about these new roommates. These companies charge students ridiculous amounts of money for services essential to education. An apartment complex in east Davis recently banned tenants in the same apartment from sharing an Internet connection. Promising a more stable service, the complex now requires each person to sign a separate `Internet contract' for $20 per month, which allows the complex to make an enormous profit per apartment. It is also suspicious that other Internet providers don't appear to work in the complex. Since all students need to be in a temperate environment to study, we may soon be forced to sign separate electrical and water contracts. We'll have to slide our reg cards into the toilet so managers can be sure who flushes it. If you move into an apartment where an old tenant is continuing to live, you will be signing a continued lease. Managers can use continuing leases to avoid certain responsibilities including painting walls and re-carpeting floors. As a result, new tenants are responsible for all damages, even those caused before they move in. What's worse, one property manager in downtown Davis recently discovered how to use continued leases to rake in cash. He calls it a continued lease, then adds new clauses to the contract. When two students signed a continued lease last summer, the company hid a new clause that held them responsible for "city services" ($76 per month). They hold students responsible for other people's damages, refuse to fix the place up, and still feel justified changing the lease. The only way to protect yourself against abuse is to know your rights and to fight for them. Dealing with housing hell is a real frustration, but submitting complaints to the city and threatening legal action against inappropriately behaving companies should always be seriously considered.