When renting apartments, watch your rights

Young adults attending colleges and universities across the country are eager to grow up. They are fervent to graduate, pay off their car and even own their own home. The latter of the three is where I ran into some problems. When making the transition from a renter to an owner, you must be aware of the laws that protect you.

At the end of last semester my girlfriend and I vacated our apartment to move into a new home. We played all our cards right and made sure nothing was wrong. After the move was complete, I went back to the complex to ask the sales associate for a move-out inspection, which they did not grant me. Confused, I asked to see the manager, who the associate could not produce. I explained to her that when we moved in there was an inspection with a checklist which a sales associate completed with me. On that same checklist was a gaping space labeled “Move-Out Inspection” with spaces for the tenet and the landlord to sign. Disgruntled, she turned to me and again said, “We don’t do that here.” Now humored, I turned and left, for there was nothing else I could achieve that day.

A little over a month passed and I received a certified letter from the complex. Keen to see what the assessment was of the apartment and to receive my security deposit back, I savagely tore open the envelope, only to find a letter. The letter assessed my immaculately vacated apartment and the remainder of the deposit. To my surprise, the letter made it seem as though a beast had lived there, and subsequently they only wanted to return a third of my deposit. Obviously outraged, I gathered all the material I had on the apartment and got on the phone with my father, who told me what I should do.

Being a pre-law student I knew much about the law, but not how it pertained to this type of situation. I thought that being a student, no one would listen to me. Satisfying my dad’s request, I contacted the apartment complex by writing them a polite, but to-the-point letter. I plainly informed them that I am a student who can’t afford to lose any money, and that if I did not receive the entire security deposit back I would take them to small claims court. Their reply: a check for $83.87. Bewildered, I began my research.

I contacted the Consumer Protection Agency and proceeded with a litany of research through the Better Business Bureau. What I found was not only shocking, but galvanizing.

I learned that the apartment complex has an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau and have had hundreds of complaints against them filed on Web sites such as Apartmentratings.com. The complaints range from security deposits to the cleanliness of individual apartments. I sat down and wrote them another letter informing them of my newfound knowledge.

I am not writing this to inform you of my individual experience, but to warn students of illegal practices committed by apartment complexes. As students, we are easily taken advantage of and the mentioned Web sites prove that.

Although the hassle for a modest sum of money was big, the knowledge I gained made it well worth my time. I urge students to take the steps necessary when entering or vacating an apartment.

Check out apartments with the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Agency before committing to one. After that, do anything possible to protect yourself, such as taking pictures and sending all correspondence via certified mail. As students, we are spending a lot of money on tuition, rent and other necessities; there is no reason why we should be targets of deceit.

Erik Raymond is a junior majoring in economics and pre-law.