This Thursday, ASM’s Legislative Affairs Committee will be attending a meeting of the Landlord and Tenant Issues Subcommittee, and it is important that as many students as possible join them to show support for fixing something that has hampered students for a long time.
Usually, a meeting of this obscure, city-level subcommittee would not warrant notice from anybody. In fact, there are only two issues on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. However, one of the items it will be discussing, a proposal from Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, could seriously impact the way students rent in Madison.
Currently, landlords must wait until one-fourth of a lease has passed before they can rent the space for the next leasing period or show it off to prospective renters. For the typical one-year lease in Madison, this means the space is up for grabs starting after three months — in mid-November.
This makes for a rushed process in which the landlords and property managers have all the power, forcing students to make housing decisions for their future after having just three months to get acclimated to their current space. This leaves students ill prepared to dive into a very hectic and competitive housing market around campus and downtown.
Students are so worried about taking too long to figure out whom they want to live with or what kind of place they want to live in or what kind of situation they can afford, they can be pressured to make haphazard decisions. And they must live with those decisions — for a very long 12 months.
This policy probably affects freshmen the most. Freshmen have to make 21-month investments (from the start of the “leasing season” until the end of the lease itself) on people they may have known for only three months, completely unaware of that person’s annoying habit of making large, elaborate earwax-and-boogers sculptures and leaving them everywhere.
Yet, who could blame them for wanting to get an off-campus apartment? Of course they want to get out of the residence halls. Despite the benefits of being forced to forge long-term friendships with their close quarter roommates, who does not want to migrate to live in a place where you are allowed to have a toaster?
Maniaci’s proposal would push back the leasing season, forcing landlords to wait until half of a lease has expired before seeking renters for the next period. That is an extra three months for students to get their shit together.
Of course, the proposal is not quite perfect. If it passes, the leasing season would start in mid-January while residence hall occupants are still suffering through the holidays with family waiting for the residence halls to let them move back in. However, this is still a huge step forward for student tenants’ rights in Madison, and I am sure there will still be plenty of places still available for the late-arriving freshmen who, by this time, will hopefully have a better idea of who they want to live with and who will be less than one week behind the ball.
It is my hope that ASM’s Legislative Affairs can mobilize a show of support for this proposal equal to the effort it made to get students a voting seat on the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee. ASM members have already told me they intend to speak at the subcommittee’s open forum and the more students we can get to show up, the better the chance the city will take action on this proposal and not let it die a lonely death within the city’s bureaucracy.
The city subcommittee meeting will be at 4:30 p.m. in room LL-130 of the Madison Municipal Building. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting with ASM’s Legislative Affairs Committee should e-mail Adam Johnson at [email protected]
Also, please don’t discriminate against all booger “artists” as prospective roommates. It really can be a stunning talent and is not so bothersome so long as you always watch where you sit.
Ken Harris ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.