April 10, 2013

City of Ithaca Considers Changes to Lease Policies

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Responding to students’ concerns about the pressures of renting in Collegetown, the Planning and Economic Development Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to circulate a proposal to delay the signing of leases.

The decision comes after what some landlords described as the fastest renting season in recent memory, which resulted in some students sleeping outside to sign leases for the next academic year in late September.

The proposed amendment to the city code would create a minimum notice period of 60 days for landlords to alert current tenants before they renew rental agreements, show the residential unit to prospective tenants or enter into a new agreement with future tenants.

The period, however, may be waived under the proposed changes if the current rental period is less than nine months, if a summons and complaint to recover possession of the premises has been filed, or if the landlord and tenant mutually agree to waive the notice period.

Eric Silverberg ’14, chair of the Cornell Collegetown Student Council, said it is very important for the proposal to be considered.

“I believe that the current system is not tenable,” Silverberg said. “Currently, there is an immense amount of pressure on students to enter into leases early.”

Alderperson Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward), however, said this is not just an issue that applies to students and said he has received calls from residents living downtown about the issue. He described the proposed changes as “trying to … give people breathing space.”

“This is an opportunity for both [landlords and tenants] to get more information,” he said, adding that he did not see the minimum notice as a waiting period.

Additionally, Silverberg said students need to be better informed about the decisions they make in regards to renting.

Student Trustee Alex Bores ’13, echoed Silverberg’s sentiments, saying tenants need more time to get information about housing.

“The perception exists that if you don’t sign [a lease] by the end of September, you’re never going to find a good place,” Bores said.

Bores also said he believes the proposal is a good compromise and that it will please both landlords and tenants.

Like Bores, Silverberg said the proposed changes to the city code will also benefit landlords by allowing them to gather more information about potential tenants.

“Changing the current proposal allows [landlords] to evaluate who is living in the property and make a good decision moving forward,” he said.

Garrison Lovely ’16, freshman representative for the Student S.A., said he thinks “these policy changes might give freshmen a chance to get good off-campus housing.”

Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 thanked the students for giving their input at the committee meeting Wednesday. Alderperson Stephen Smith (D-4th Ward) added that they “did a great job providing the student perspective.”

The proposed changes to the city code will be distributed to the public and other government bodies before being voted on again by the committee. If passed, the proposed changes will be sent to the Common Council for voting.

Original Author: Tyler Alicea