Monday, July 22, 2013

Students Not on Summer Break from Rental Health and Safety Issues

It may be the “summer break” at Western Washington University but the students have not forgotten about the condition of rentals as many of them prepare for another rental season and the ensuing crap shoot of finding a place that is safe.  Absent any rental inspection law in Bellingham, students often vie for the best of the worst.  The city council voted recently to push the noodle of licensing and inspection up the hill a bit more by deciding to place the topic on the agenda of budget priorities for 2014.  [More on that decision in an article later this week.]  Here is a recent editorial opinion from the Western Front:

Students deserve decent housing

Opinions of the Editorial Board | Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 7:45 am 

Everyone who’s rented property in Bellingham, Wash. for more than a year probably knows at least two people who have had problems with their rental company. Whether insects, leakage or the ever-present black mold that is the scourge of our moist seaside climate, renting in Bellingham can be a nightmare if tenants are forced to deal with unresponsive rental companies. Never mind the unsightly or unhygienic elements in living in such conditions; the health risks associated with black mold inhalation can be serious, even life-threatening.

It’s easy to understand a business’ reluctance to rent to college students. Images of wild parties, cigarette-burned carpets and gaping holes punched through drywall must dance through a landlord’s head every time pen touches lease agreement. The large college population in Bellingham leaves them little choice in tenants, too. However, ensuring that a property is up to code is not optional, and certainly in a landlord’s best interest. The lawsuits that can result from shoddy maintenance can be worth much more than mere cosmetic damage.

Having cleaner, safer apartments is in everyone’s best interest. People will be more inclined to treat their apartments with respect if it’s respectable to begin with. There is not a lot of initiative for either landlord or tenant to maintain a disgusting apartment, any more than someone would feel the need to repaint a car in a junkyard.

Just because students typically rent lower priced units doesn’t mean our health and well being are any less important.

The editorial board is comprised of Editor- in-Chief Steve Guntli and Managing Editor Shannen Kuest.

This is not the first Western Front editorial on the squalor that students meet yearly in their quest for housing.   The Editorial Board speaks to the students regularly from the pages of the Front.  You can read prior editorials by clicking on each of the years:  2010, 2011, 2012.  Perhaps a 2014 editorial may announce the passage of a rental health and safety ordinance.  With a city council election this fall that will see new council members replacing Stan Snapp and Seth Fleetwood, who have consistently opposed attempts to clean up Bellingham’s rentals, the students and all other renters may finally get the legislation they deserve.

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