Housing Woes Affect Students
Justin Sullivan

Students are faced with a myriad of obstacles, such as securing funds for school, dealing with family issues and simply finding time to get all of their schoolwork finished. All of these issues can be amplified when combined with housing problems, such as rising rent prices and poor housing management.

Michelle Nieuwenhuis, a senior theater and English major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, experienced housing issues when she was accused by her landlord of causing over $1,400 in damages after moving out of her apartment. Before she was aware of the charges, Nieuwenhuis had tried contacting the landlord multiple times in order to get her security deposit returned but never received a response. Because the landlord waited over 21 days to notify Nieuwenhuis of the charges, she was not obligated to pay them.

Nieuwenhuis credited UWSP’s Student Legal Services, a Student Government Association funded program, for helping her better understand the rights she had as a renter.

“I definitely think that this wasn’t an isolated incident. I think that it needs to get out there that there is an on-campus attorney who can help you out with this kind of stuff,” Nieuwenhuis said. “The lawyer was very helpful, and we found out there is a list of tenant rights that many students don’t even know about. Without the help of the attorney, we never would have known that, and that landlord would have taken a bunch of our money.”

Many changes were made to tenant-landlord rights in Wisconsin last March, which can further complicate renters’ understanding of what their rights are. Some of the changes include allowing landlords to declare a renter’s property abandoned if they think the renter has left and sell the property for profit. Landlords are also required to use a standardized check-in sheet where the conditions of a new tenant’s dwellings are recorded. Tenants are given seven days to fill out the form. Along with these changes, landlords now have 21 days after the end of a tenant’s original lease to return a security deposit if the tenant moved out early.

UWSP students who have questions or concerns can visit UWSP Student Legal Services in the Allen Center. For further information, including advice on what to do before one rents, visit the Tenant Resource Center (tenantresourcecenter.org), a non-profit organization working to foster a positive relationship between tenant and landlord.