UVM assists students dealing with landlords

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Students dealing with landlord issues can turn to a UVM program.

The Consumer Assistance Program is a joint program between UVM and the Vermont attorney general’s office that can be a resource for students facing landlord problems.

“Because a landlord is a business, we can take a complaint from students on a range of issues, including security deposits,” former deputy attorney general and UVM professor Janet Murnane said.

The two biggest problems that students have reported are failure to return a security deposit or living issues, she said.

Students mostly complain about mold, electrical, water and heating issue, Murnane said.

“Bathrooms that don’t have vents, just creating all kinds of situations, water that’s not really hot, heat that’s not working effectively, she said. “You know everything that can go wrong in an apartment.”

Murnane said she recommends students check the Burlington property database before renting an apartment to see the history of code violations.

Senior Gabriela Kaplan said she moved into 282 Pearl St. this July while the apartment was undergoing roof repairs.

This address is currently under investigation for repair and replacement of the front porch roof without a zoning permit, according to the Burlington property database.

“They fixed it but they didn’t really fix it very well,” Kaplan said.

“Part of the roof is leaking, it’s a really old house and there is no gutters so there’s a lot of water damage on the walls. They fixed the walls sort of but just painted over it and didn’t put in any gutters. They didn’t fix the roof really, I don’t know what they did honestly, she said.

Landlords must meet specific health and safety building standards under the Vermont Departments of Health and Safety, according to the Vermont rental housing codes.

The Vermont rental agreement statute outlines obligations of landlords that include maintaining properties that are safe, clean and fit for living.

The statute also outlines the specific process of returning security deposits.

The Burlington Housing Board of Review handles complaints about rental units in Burlington.

Senior  Alex Ivanciu said she had a meeting with the board of review to dispute deductions made from her security deposit.

“It was pretty easy,” she said. “We set up an appointment and waited several weeks to get a date.”

Ivanciu said she received most of the money back for the charges she disputed.

“They said there was a fire door in the house when we moved in and that we removed it and threw it away,” she said.

“We had pictures to prove it and they tried to say we falsified pictures that had iPhone factory timestamp,” Ivanciu said.

Students need to read  and understand the law, Murnane said.

“When you rent an apartment, you want to do a walk through and do the checklist to make sure that you note any issues with the apartment that were there,” she said. “So that when you go to move out, you don’t get held responsible.”