While living off-campus for many is cheaper than living on-campus, there are a lot more challenges renters can face.
When renting an apartment, duplex or house, students should be aware of their rights as a renter, as well as the laws that protect both them and their landlords.
According to the Missouri Attorney General, tenants are expected to do things like pay rent on time, not damage property, dispose of garbage and make sure to gain the landlord’s written permission before taking on additional roommates.
The Missouri Attorney General also has expectations for landlords including making repairs from wear and tear, providing written notice if the property changes ownership and not turning off a renters water, electricity or gas.
However, issues with landlords can also go beyond not adhering to their expectations.
Junior Stephanie Rauch said she and her roommates began renting a house in Maryville in December, and immediately began to have issues with the landlords.
“The first thing we noticed was that the wife's car never left the driveway, which was odd because there was four of us college students living there, so we had to have parking room too,” Rauch said.
Rauch said she and her roommates then became aware of other strange issues related to her landlord.
“The second was that their mail was still coming there,” Rauch said. “They claimed they moved into another place in another town, but we noticed all their mail still coming to the home, we thought it was just a little odd.”
Rauch and her roommates lived in the house for 26 days, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 27, 2018, and in that time Rauch said the landlords were in and out of their home at least nine times. Rauch believes the landlords were afraid they were going to damage the home while they lived there.
“They would constantly remind us of how much they ‘loved’ their home,” Rauch said. “It got to the point where it wasn't just making me and my roommates uncomfortable but was making our parents uncomfortable too. Us tenants thought they would stop coming by so much, but it never seemed to stop.”
According to Realtor.com, landlords are not legally allowed to show up unannounced or let themselves in if the tenant is not home. Landlords can only enter a rented property if the tenant is given notice 24 to 48-hour notice. The only time a landlord is allowed to break this rule is if they are required to do an emergency repair.
Rauch said at one point her landlord also allowed his family to stay in the house she was renting claiming all the rooms in the home were “common rooms” and they were allowed full access to them at all times.
Due to these issues, Rauch said she and her roommates ended up finding a new place to rent and moved out of the property Dec. 27, 2018.
“We were advised by the police department to do an overnight move so there wouldn't be any commotion in case one or both of the landlords did show up at the home,” Rauch said.
Rauch said she and one of her other roommates are taking legal action against the landlord to get their security and pet deposits back.
“We are also trying to get back prorated rent for Dec. 27 through Dec. 31, 2018,” Rauch said. “We are trying to keep our minds at peace, and avoid this man whenever possible, as he is also a professor on campus.”
Rauch said her landlord was Wayne Chandler. The Missourian tried to contact Chandler but he did not return calls by deadline.
Missouri’s Landlord-Tenant Law states: “If the landlord has wrongfully withheld all or part of a deposit, the tenant may sue to recover up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld.”
Rauch said she encourages anyone in a similar situation to hers to find out what laws are in place to help renters and to not be afraid to quickly remove yourself from the problem.
“If you are in a situation as such, you really need to find another place to live soon. Situations like these may seem harmless at first, but can be more dangerous later on,” Rauch said. “Lastly, I would 100 percent recommend that if you are planning on renting from somewhere, background check them first.”
Rauch said she will continue to rent in Maryville but will be more mindful of who she is renting from now and believes anyone else looking to rent should do the same.
“Always, always, always know who you are renting from, no matter where you are,” Rauch said. “It can end up costing you a lot of money, and it isn't something everyone has. Also, read a lease from front to back, because that's where a landlord will get you.”