Feb 012012
 
Authors: Sabrina Norwood

Student renters looking for housing help need to venture no further than Student Legal Services (SLS), a university resource offering legal advice, counsel and representation.

Located right on campus in Room 182 of the Lory Student Center, SLS has three professional lawyers on staff.

“Students often come to us when they are scared or in trouble,” said Director of Student Legal Services Kathleen Harward. “ … Mostly anytime when they have something serious going on and don’t want to go at it alone.”

SLS sees nearly 1,000 clients within a year, with the majority of students using the service for problems that arise with off-campus housing.

“This includes lease agreements, contract signing and roommate troubles,” Harward said.

Many students find that, upon signing a lease, circumstances change that are beyond their control or knowledge.

“Life happens,” Harward added. “But things like not getting along with your roommate, or damages done to the house are not solid grounds for breaking a lease.”

One suggestion Harward has for students is to invest in renters insurance. It is relatively inexpensive, yet very effective in the long run, she said.

Student Legal Services also helps students with the recognition of city and state-issued laws.

This includes the Fort Collins “U plus 2” ordinance, which states that in single unit residential areas, only one family may occupy the space.

Another law, the Warranty of Habitability law, states that it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep the residence “habitable.”

“We have a great resource for students who find trouble with their roommates after signing a lease together,” Harward said. “We often send them to Melissa Emerson, who does conflict resolution within Student Conduct Services.”

While most students do not find themselves in sticky situations with landlords or lease agreements, they are grateful to have such a helpful service on campus.

“Luckily, I haven’t had any problems [with renting],” said junior engineering major Alex Funk. “So, because of that, I haven’t given much thought into student legal services.”

SLS encourages students to contact them if any legal problems arise.

“We want students to come to us early,” Harward said. “The point is not to wait until they are too deep into trouble.”

It is not uncommon for students to find themselves in trouble or in a situation they are not ready to handle alone.

“The whole first-time renting process is exciting and nerve-racking,” said undeclared freshman Julian Lujan. “I haven’t really heard of people getting screwed by their landlords or bad leases, but I also want to make sure that doesn’t happen to me.”

Collegian writer Sabrina Norwood can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:33 pm

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