Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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JSM threatens to sue tenant

As students sign leases for the upcoming academic year, many are looking forward to new leasing agents and landlords. When problems like faulty heating or leaky pipes are not fixed, tenants often become frustrated. One University of Wisconsin student vented his anger by informing prospective tenants via a note left on the door about the floods he has had in his apartment when it rains. In response, however, his landlord threatened to sue for libel.

“I posted a note on the door informing potential tenants what they were getting into,” wrote second-year graduate student Asher Langton in an e-mail to the Badger Herald. His leasing company, JSM Properties, discovered the notice while showing the apartment to people interested in renting it next year.

“We hope you enjoy your tour of the apartment,” the notice read. “But we suspect that JSM hasn’t told you all you need to know about this unit.”

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Langton described the flooding in his living room and stains on his carpets and walls which were not fixed before he moved in last August, despite alleged promises made by JSM.

“We’re in a half-below ground, almost basement-level apartment. [The water] seems to seep through the walls when there’s enough water in the ground,” Langton said.

He and his roommate first experienced the flooding after a heavy rainstorm last autumn. JSM Properties dispatched someone from maintenance to help, but the best he could do was skim the standing water with a wet-dry vacuum. The problem went unresolved.

“They said the ground would freeze soon and they couldn’t really fix it,” Langton said. “To do it properly they’d have to excavate … and they couldn’t do it at that time. It seemed clear to me that there was plenty of time for them to fix it.”

In the letter he received several days later, property manager Patrick Ludwig warned of legal action.

“If JSM Properties is unable to rent the apartment due to false statements made on your behalf, you may be held liable for rent for the next lease term,” read the letter.

But Ludwig also addressed Langton’s complaints.

“We are confident that we have identified the source of the leak, and work has been scheduled for the spring,” he writes.

As for the stains on the walls and carpet, he cites a section of the lease that appears to absolve JSM Properties of any responsibility for “painting, cleaning, or carpet replacement.”

He also points out that the property company inspected the apartment after the previous tenants had moved out.

“Any work that that our staff deemed necessary was completed,” he writes. Should Langton continue to make what he calls “false and/or unproven allegations,” JSM Properties will take action against him.

Cynthia Campos of the Tenant Resource Center is familiar with these sorts of problems. “You never know what dispute is going to lead to a lawsuit,” Campos said. However, she had not heard of a landlord ever taking a tenant to court.

The Center sends representatives to university housing to educate students about the problems they may encounter while renting, and how to avoid them. They also have housing counselors on their staff available to tenants for advice.

“Whenever they have disputes with their landlord, they should give us a call,” Campos said. The Tenant Resource Center can be reached at (608) 257-0006.

Both JSM Properties and Langton hope the situation is resolved. “If they were actually to sue me,” acknowledges Langton, “that would be a real problem.”

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