Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

New West Side launches lease renewal watch

12. October 2005 • Murph
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While landlords claim that they don’t put any pressure on tenants to renew leases early in the school year, several management companies have begun asking for renewal commitments.

New West Side has taken up the role of renewal clearinghouse, and is asking renters to send in the details of their renewal requests: when the current lease expires, when the landlord has requested renewal by, and what rent the landlord has offered/accepted for next year (up, down, or same as current). This last is seen as especially important, as previous discussion about the state of the rental market on this site indicates tenants might be able to negotiate lower rents, but landlords probably won’t offer reductions unless asked.

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate here (given that AAiO has decided that the lone letter from one management company ‘disproves’ EVERYTHING that is said by others):

    We got our first request for housing for the 2006-07 school year on September 9th; precisely one week after our new residents had moved in to their current homes. After having had people calling, emailing, and showing up in our office asking about new leases for the past month, we’ve just started signing new leases today. We would much rather have waited until November, at least, but we can’t keep pushing people off until ‘later’ and we can’t let every other landlord in town start renting in October and end up with a chunk of our places unrented in May.

    Once again, if there was a way to ensure that new rental agreements for students couldn’t begin being signed until January, we would be all for it. But unless someone knows how to ensure that everyone will comply with such a statute and/or how to get it past various legal challenges (‘free commerce’ and all that) we are stuck with the student demand for early rentals and the landlord desire not to get left behind rivals and lose money.
       —Marc R.    Oct. 13 '05 - 01:10AM    #
  2. What it disproves is that it’s a “myth” that students are forced to make decisions about housing in October, which some have argued based on the existence of some available housing in the spring. If you live in a property owned by one (more than one, if you read the Daily article) of the biggest landlords around campus, you do have to make at least one housing decision in October: whether you’re willing to allow your current place to be rented to someone else.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 13 '05 - 03:39AM    #
  3. What AAiO said – if landlords want to claim that they’re in no way reinforcing the fall lease-panic, well, they ought to actually not reinforce it. If half a dozen major landlords (as mentioned in the AAiO thread) are pushing re-signing in October, well, maybe that’s something that older and more experienced tenants are wise to, but I certainly think it feeds the tendency of new renters to unquestioningly pay too much for poorly maintained units and then gush about how they were so lucky to have found them.

    I think a big part of the solution is tenant education/organizing – getting young renters to understand that there is other housing available, that it won’t all disappear, and that they should take their time to find something actually decent and decently priced, and be comfortable asking for things like basic maintenance from their landlords. (And, heck, if young renters suddenly start becoming a little more picky, maybe we’d see the cost/condition ratio improve a little…) Ordinance changes might also be part of the solution, if that’s what it takes to convince tenants that they’re not going to be victimized. (Getting the management companies to exercise some voluntary mutual restraint, sorry Marc, not something I’m willing to attribute them enough desire to serve the public good to hope for.)
       —Murph.    Oct. 13 '05 - 12:36PM    #
  4. I can understand the landlords wanting to resign tenants on request, but what I don’t understand is why they extend that to all other tenants. If someone comes to you and asks to resign the lease two weeks after they move in, then sure, let them sign a new lease (just like if someone wants to sign a two-year lease). But if they want to move into someone else’s apartment or house, well then, they need to take their chances and wait the ten or eleven months until the other party decides if they will renew. It seems like this doesn’t really need to be so complicated. I lived in two apartment complexes in Ann Arbor and one rental house (all within walking distance of downtown) before we bought our house and we had standard 30-day notifications for all three.

    The problem with changing the ordinances is that a) most apartment buildings and houses around the city don’t have these policies b) not all renters are students so setting certain dates for writing leases wouldn’t work for a lot of people not on the standard student schedule and b) sometimes there are good reasons for wanting to resign early (say you are going to be on sabbatical or semester abroad and want to make sure you have housing for the next year).

    I assume this is only done for properties that landlords know are “student” properties, which isn’t right, but as Marc points out, is based at least in part on student requests. And really, if you are 19+ years old and not living in the dorms, you are an adult and have committed to making your own decisions on housing. If you don’t like how a landlord treats you, don’t re-sign the lease. Right now, with the rental market the way it is, the landlords need renters, not the other way around.
       —Juliew    Oct. 13 '05 - 02:04PM    #
  5. “What it disproves is that it’s a “myth” that students are forced to make decisions about housing in October”

    I can only speak for my company (Campus Management), but we have never dismissed this as a ‘myth’ of any sort. Students do have to make early decisions, but the fact remains that at least part of that is driven by the students themselves.

    “What AAiO said – if landlords want to claim that they’re in no way reinforcing the fall lease-panic, well, they ought to actually not reinforce it.”

    As I said before: How would you propose doing that in an equitable fashion?

    – Pass a law? Well, that can be attacked as restraint of trade and the city has ZERO interest in getting into a protracted legal battle which it does not have the $ to conduct.

    – Have the major landlords sign some sort of mutual agreement? How would it be enforced? What would be the penalties for not adhering to it? For that matter, how does one define ‘major landlord’ and where is the cutoff point and why? (Just as an example, we have close to 350 rentable units among almost 100 buildings in town (student, non-student, and commercial) but we do this with a maintenance staff of 6 and an office staff of 5, including the two owners. With that level of staffing, we qualify as a micro-business with the SBA. Are we a ‘major’ landlord?)

    – Inform students that they may not seek housing for the following year until some specific period of time (as they are unable to apply for spaces in the dorms until a certain time at present)? How would that be enforced? What happens to those, as Julie says, who may be heading overseas for the winter term and won’t be present to look for housing?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blindly defending the landlords in town. I know plenty of bad ones. But assuming that Oppenheimer’s letter blows the roof off the ‘secret’ that it’s the wicked landlords out to take advantage of the student renters is more than a little distorted, in perception and response. There are certainly a lot of other ways I’d rather be making a living right now than crunching numbers for a bunch of landowners (and please believe me when I say that the owners happen to be wealthy; the management companies frequently are not) but I’m also not willing to let another ‘myth’ be fostered that this bad situation is solely being created by one side of the equation. That way lies blindness…

    Pure and simple: if the demand was not there in October, we (at least) would not be doing it.
       —Marc R.    Oct. 13 '05 - 02:34PM    #
  6. “Students do have to make early decisions.”

    Taken on its own that statement is obviously false; students don’t have to do any such thing, because (a) at least some landlords (both the Ann Arbor landlords I’ve dealt with) will allow renters to postpone the decision if asked, and (b) if their current landlord rents their place to someone else, there will always be other alternatives available later.

    It all depends on the renter’s particular circumstances, of course, but if I were a student without a lot of stuff to move and no huge special attachment to my current place, I think I’d rather take the risk of having to move than commit to another 12 months with a place I’d only one or two month’s experience with.
       —J. Bruce Fields    Oct. 13 '05 - 04:03PM    #
  7. Yes, you would be willing to make the decision to take that risk. A decision you would have to make in October if the landlord doesn’t allow you to negotiate. The fact that you don’t have to decide exactly where you’re living if you move doesn’t negate that fact.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 13 '05 - 04:28PM    #
  8. Marc R.

    It’s funny, but I used to believe that I had to sign somewhere by October. Then every year I waited a little while longer. I don’t believe I signed on my current place, a decent deal in the neighborhood I exactly wanted, until January. My friend is in a student neighborhood immediately accessible to the Commuter bus line – yet half the apartments in his building and the adjacent building are empty. Your argument rings terribly false at this point.

    I’ve also never had a landlord (I’m up to my 3rd company now) ask for renewal before late October. Somehow, I think your cry that “other landlords will get the renters before us” is BS – you ARE leading the way in that regard.
       —Jen    Oct. 13 '05 - 07:58PM    #
  9. Quite frankly, I’m entertaining the idea of advocating a passive resistance. Signing the sheet that you want to renew the property for another year, I don’t believe, can be a legally binding document (someone correct me if I’m wrong, please). So what’s stopping renters from sending in the sheet, then stringing the landlord along while they decide for sure if they want to remain in that house?

    It took me two weeks for my landlord to properly respond to a leaking kitchen ceiling; I’m sure one could buy at least a week or two in release-deciding this way.

    Unless, of course, that renewal sheet is legally binding. Somehow, I don’t believe it could be.
       —Jen    Oct. 13 '05 - 08:02PM    #
  10. Jen,
    All you’re doing is exposing your willful ignorance with this kind of crap. Nowhere have I suggested that anyone taking a contrary position to mine is putting up any ‘BS’. On the contrary, I have a great deal of respect for Murph and AAiO.

    If your friend is living in a half-empty building, then I’m assuming it’s very hard times for the company that owns/manages said property. We operate on a pretty thin margin around here and we have only two student vacancies at this time.

    If you’re able to wait out the rush, congratulations. Perhaps others will begin to think like you and decide they don’t have to look for new housing a year ahead of time. So much the better, AFAIC.

    Just so you know, we don’t demand that people renew in October. We send out letters asking about their interest. Then, after a certain period of time, we start showing the place. But there’s never been a instance when we haven’t granted the current residents priority over new residents who may have been interested. It’s easier (and far less costly) for us if they don’t move.

    And, just for your edification, our renewal sheets ARE legally binding and say so right in their language (e.g. they’re considered a rider to the lease.)
       —Marc R.    Oct. 13 '05 - 08:13PM    #