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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for

An+attendee+speaks+during+the+%E2%80%9CBe+a+Good+Neighbor%E2%80%9D+Town+Hall+in+the+William+Pitt+Union+on+Thursday+evening.
Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer
An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.

Liz Gray highlighted a red flag that she’s seen “commonly affect students” when renting apartments and houses in Oakland. 

“If all the tenants’ names are not on the lease, that’s a big red flag,” Gray, a neighborhood consultant with Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, said. “If your landlord is willing to give you a very illegal lease, what else is he going to do?” 

Students, staff and community members gathered in the William Pitt Union for the spring Tenant Town Hall co-hosted by Student Government Board and the office of Off-Campus Student Services on Thursday afternoon. This event provided students with tips and advice for successfully moving off campus.

The event featured a panel of Pitt and community organizations answering pre-written questions from students, as well as a Q&A for those in attendance. It also had tables to get familiar with resources available to students looking to live off-campus.

Some organizations and offices in attendance included the Pitt police department, the University Counseling Center, Neighborhood Legal Services, the Office of Student Affairs and more. 

Jules, an Oakland student ambassador for the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, moderated the panel. She opened the discussion by asking the panelists to explain some of the rights tenants have when renting. 

Adam DiBuo, a managing attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services, explained the warranty of habitability and what it means for tenants. 

“You have the right to safe, sanitary and habitable housing,” Dibou said. “Regardless of what’s stated in your lease, you have the right to make requests to your landlord to have them make repairs to your residence in a reasonable amount of time to make your residence more habitable.” 

Gray emphasized the importance of having a good relationship with your landlord in case issues arise. 

“You are buying something from your landlord,” Gray said. “If there’s an issue, you have to let them know. You have basic rights.” 

Jules asked if someone renting in Oakland can apply for a parking permit, and if so, what their options are. 

Lucy Klug, a mobility specialist for Pitt Sustainability, explained some of the parking options that students have. 

“Students and commuters can apply for university parking permits, depending if you live on or off campus,” Klug said. “There’s also some parking on campus that doesn’t require a permit. Park Mobile is an app that allows students to park on campus and pay to park through the app.”

Erika Strassburger, a councilperson representing Pittsburgh’s District 8, added information about permits through the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

“For smaller apartment buildings, you do have the ability to pay $25 per year for a street parking permit,” Strassburger said. “If you live in a large apartment building, permits are typically not allowed because it would just flood the system.” 

Strassburger urged students to consider not bringing their cars to campus. 

“If you don’t need to have a car or you don’t need to have a permit, just consider not doing that,” Strassburger said. “We live in such a transit-rich area, and there are a lot of people who come here from outside of the city who really do need to rely on parking.”

SGB President Ryan Young asked about red flags a tenant should look out for when renting. 

Andrew Elliot, vice chair of SGB’s Renters First committee, said the “biggest red flag” to look out for are areas of a lease that directly contradict PA law. 

“Pay attention to things on your lease like ‘we don’t have to give notice before entering your apartment’ or ‘we don’t have to give your security deposit back’,” Elliot said. 

DiBuo added that areas of a lease that are illegal cannot be enforced by a landlord. 

“If your landlord says they can’t return your security deposit, that’s just not true. They can’t just do that,” DiBuo said. 

DiBuo said renters should pay attention to how their landlords are asking them to pay, and that cash is a red flag. He also said he would never rent an apartment without looking at it first. 

“When you do tour the apartment, if there are other tenants there, ask them about the landlord. There are plenty of awful landlords out there,” DiBuo said. 

The panel concluded with some final tips and remarks from community members.

Sarah Ramaley, assistant director of basic needs for the Division of Student Affairs, emphasized the importance of finding “good” roommates. 

“Put a lot of thought into who you’re going to sign that lease with,” Ramaley said. “There are pros and cons to living with a friend versus a roommate who you find on a search board, but it’s important to know it’s really near impossible to break that lease.” 

DiBuo emphasized that tenants are accountable for their share of the rent and the entire rent amount. Should a roommate move out, it’s the responsibility of the remaining tenants to cover their portion of the rent.

Trisha Margiotti, property management liaison for Pitt, noted a resource for students who need help reviewing a lease. 

“My office is always open to help you review your lease,” Margiotti said. “I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll find answers for you, and I want you all to know that that resource is available.”