Tenant association hosts renters’ rights workshop

Kierra Frazier

Residents and students met Tuesday night at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 900 Normal Road, to discuss the significance of written rental contracts and security deposit regulations.

The workshop was hosted by The DeKalb Tenant Association, a group formed earlier this year. The group works to improve the living conditions for tenants in DeKalb through direct action, according to its Facebook page.

Joseph Lovelace, director of Student Legal Services, and Jeffery Salmon, associate director of Military and Post-Traditional Student Services, answered questions about the legal obligations landlords have that tenants submitted prior to the meeting.

Lovelace said landlord-tenant law is constructed around the rental contract between the landlord and the tenant.

“As an attorney, my position is always going to be that [tenants] get anything necessary in terms of memorializing that agreement in writing,” Lovelace said.

Lovelace said often when landlords are showing possible available units to tenants, they’ll show them amenities that aren’t on the rental agreement. Lovelace said it’s a good idea to have a contract written that can be reviewed by an attorney before being signed.

{{tncms-inline content=”<p>"The larger goal of this organization, the Tenant’s Association, is that we all don’t have millions of dollars to hire attorneys to take care of our problems for us, so we kind of, as a community, have to resolve that ourselves."</p>” id=”a12f5fd7-7803-4a38-8733-a902b32bc9fb” style-type=”quote” title=”Maas” type=”relcontent”}}

Lovelace said the first document tenants should look at with landlords is the move-in inspection document.

He advised tenants to document the condition of the property with video recordings before moving in.

“The condition of the property during that gap is going to be what the landlord is going to determine should be attributed to normal wear and tear or is going to be attributed to something they’re going to deduct from your security deposit,” Lovelace said.

The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act applies to property owners who own more than five units. If a tenant is protected by the Act, the landlord is not allowed to withhold any amount of the deposit unless they have provided an itemized list within 30 days of move-out and a deposit return within 45 days. If a landlord violates the Act, the tenant is entitled to two times the amount that was wrongfully withheld.

Lovelace said his position involving legal assistance is only free to students, but tenants can go online to Illinoislegalaid.org for more resources involving legal help.

Salmon said there is a tab on the NIU military and post-traditional student services website where students can communicate what they’re experiencing with their landlord.

“It’s a newer mechanism that launched in August to help students with buying and renting,” Salmon said. “We wanted to provide a space of dialogue with students so we can continue helping you as you rent.”

Jacob Maas, an organizer for the DeKalb Tenants Association and a senior history major, said the role of the tenant association is what DeKalb is lacking: an institution that speaks for tenant needs.

“We have to have an organized, unified voice to make sure our needs are met,” Maas said. “The larger goal of this organization, the Tenant’s Association, is that we all don’t have millions of dollars to hire attorneys to take care of our problems for us, so we kind of, as a community, have to resolve that ourselves.”