Some students unaware of tenant laws

Many college students are moving into houses off-campus, only to find that their newfound “home sweet home” isn’t what they signed up for.

Ashlei Hudson, 21, a nursing student from Little River, S.C., is one of these students. In the third week of July, Hudson and her two roommates told their landlord they planned to move into her house on August 20.

Hudson said there was a verbal agreement to have necessary repairs made to the house, including redoing the hardwood floors.

Upon moving in, Hudson and her roommates were surprised to find that none of these repairs were done.

“I felt misled,” Hudson said.

Hudson and her roommates had to clean the house for three full days before they were able to move in.

“A lot of repairs were supposed to be made and the house was supposed to be cleaned,” Hudson said. “Overall the house was just in a bad condition when we moved in.”

She said she felt she was taken advantage of because she is a college student.

“The repairs should have been made, and the landlord had adequate time to make them.”

Johnathon Sellers, 24, a Florida A&M University alum and Army Corp engineer from Jacksonville, said he has experienced similar repair problems as a tenant.

“When I called for repairs to be made, it took a long time for people to get [to the house],” Sellers said. “When people finally did come, they were not actual professionals.”

Sellers said he also experienced problems with pests in his former off-campus resident.

“When it came to pest control, the landlord would buy a department store chemical, instead of paying for a real exterminator.”

Sellers said the pests always came back.

In Chapter 83.5 of the Florida statutes, the law states that a landlord is responsible for maintaining all structural components in a house including roofs, windows, floors, doors, and porches. All structural components must also be in good repair so that it will resist normal forces and loads. Plumbing must also be in reasonable working condition.

Florida law states that a landlord is responsible for safe and clean conditions of common areas, and they must get rid of any unwanted pests such as mice and bugs.

Betty, who declined using her last name, a regulatory specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and consumer services, deals with landlord-tenant issues frequently.

Betty recommends that all tenants should know the landlord-tenant laws found in chapter 83 of the Florida statutes.

“When you sign a lease, know what you are signing,” Betty said. “You are responsible for the law. There are about 24 pages of laws for tenants.”

Betty suggests that tenants get acquainted with landlord-tenant laws by contacting the division of consumer services for a free brochure.

“When tenants become familiar with these laws it is beneficial because it is important to know what your rights are,” Betty said.

Sellers said he believes that landlords take advantage of their tenants who are college students because college students lack the knowledge of these laws.

“Landlords take advantage of college students because there’s a stereotype that students don’t know their legal rights,” said Sellers. “Landlords think that students won’t take the time or energy to find them out.”

Hudson agrees that college students are taken advantage of.

“We should have had the home inspected and gotten everything in writing,” Hudson said. “We should have gotten to know landlord-tenant laws.”

Hudson and her roommates were forced to get their families involved to make sure that the problems were handled correctly. Only then, were the problems in her house addressed.

“I felt like less of an adult having to get my parents involved,” said Hudson. “How are we supposed to learn to take responsibility if there’s always an adult taking advantage of us?”