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Know your renters’ rights

BY GEOFF WARING | MARCH 5, 2009 7:29 AM

Greg Bal, the UI Student Legal Services’ supervising attorney, wants students to know something about local landlords.

“Landlords in Iowa City are trying to get every penny out of you,” he said at a presentation Wednesday.

Around 100 students attended Bal’s lecture in Macbride Auditorium to gain some valuable insight on owning and keeping an apartment.

“Based on information we keep in our office, the biggest problem that students have is with their landlord, and lots of these problems can be prevented if students knew their rights,” he said.

“Hopefully, this will give them information that will help them in the future.”

Bal advised apartment shoppers to be wary of scamming landlords.

“The most important thing to do is to review your lease,” he said. “Read your lease thoroughly; don’t be in a big rush.”

He also spoke about the importance of seeking out hidden costs, knowing personal insurance, and other landlord scams.

“Some landlords in downtown Iowa City charge $15 to replace a light bulb,” he said.

UI junior Parker Thirnbeck said he attended the presentation to learn more about the process of leasing an apartment.

“I’m living in an apartment next year, and I’ve heard stories about people getting kicked out, and I want to know my rights so I’ll be prepared in case something like that happens to me,” he said.

UI graduate student Grace White was concerned with the disruptions she had been experiencing in her apartment, so she decided to seek Bal for help.

“I came here hoping I could find out what to do about disruptive neighbors,” she said.

Much like he did in his October presentation, “Don’t get Busted,” Bal also discussed how to keep one’s apartment from being targeted by the police.

“Police here are as bad as I’ve ever seen in a college town,” Bal said, who has lived in Ames and State College, Pa. “Police can’t come in your apartment without a warrant. The worst thing you can do is waive your right to privacy.”

Bal said he hopes his presentation will help students — who are preparing to sign their leases for the fall be aware of upcoming issues they may face with their prospective landlords.

His lecture received positive feedback from students in the audience.

“I am definitely going to be more aware of the tricky ways that landlords try to scam you,” Thirnbeck said. “I liked the presentation a lot, and now, I have a much better idea of what to look for next year.”


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