Signing a lease is an important part of student life at UW-Madison. Each year, a student can expect to individually contribute anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 to his or her landlord. This is a lot of money, and student renters need to realize landlords should be accountable for their actions.
Over the past few days, the Worst House in Madison contest brought to light several issues about landlord-tenant relationships in Madison.
In Wednesday’s Badger Herald (“‘Worst House’ Winner Retracts”) a landlord, whose property was atop the Worst House in Madison list, was quoted saying, “[The contest] does nothing but hurt people’s feelings . . . it brings a lot more hate into this world.”
Claiming the stories in the contest application were not factual, the landlord then threatened to sue the residents of the winning property. The students withdrew their application.
What a pansy this landlord is! This is a grownup landlord who created problems for himself through poor management and a lack of responsibility.
The Worst House in Madison Contest does not bring “more hate into this world.” Hate is only brought into the world by landlords like this one, who subjects college students to horrible living conditions. I have no sympathy for this man, especially because of the unjustifiable threats he made.
However, I do not understand why tenants would allow landlords to threaten them like this. In retracting their original winning bid, the party on Mifflin Street showed it was afraid of its landlord, a condition that should not exist. Not only is landlord retaliation illegal, but there is no basis for this landlord to claim slander. The Worst House in Madison contest exposes facts about negligent landlords who should be held accountable for their actions.
The contest is not a smear campaign to attack landlords; rather, it is a way of informing people certain living conditions exist and encouraging landlords to do a better job managing their properties.
To make sure the contest was fair, one of the prerequisites for entry was that the property’s landlord had to have previously been made aware of sub-par living conditions.
This contest was an awareness campaign to alert people that housing problems exist, and landlords should not be allowed to ignore standards that need to be met. The living conditions of the “winners” of the Worst House in Madison contest will be reviewed by the building inspector of Madison.
One of the entrants was told by his landlord to “bear out” a broken thermostat, and that he would fix it at his “own convenience.” Don’t you think his landlord will think a bit harder before he tells his tenants he will fix a problem at “his own convenience?” I certainly do.
Furthermore, the Worst House in Madison contest is only one part of a bigger campaign to improve landlord accountability. Students sign leases for one year but don’t know how their future landlord will handle emergencies or how they will handle the security deposit. And what about the maintenance staff?
These are all questions student renters should know the answers to before they sign a lease. However, there is currently no way to know the answers to these questions in advance.
That is why ASM, in conjunction with the Tenant Resource Center, is working with an online landlord evaluation database, which hopefully one day will serve as a reference for student renters.
I encourage all of you to fill out this survey, accessible through the ASM website, at www.asm.wisc.edu. Hopefully one day we will have a comprehensive guide to Madison landlords, which will not only good landlords but expose faulty ones.
Carleton Ashley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in economics.