MEHLER | The rights of student tenants evolve in your favor


After the Ithaca Common Council passed a law on April 6, student rental rights are changing in their favor. Take advantage of a rare opportunity to improve your off-campus living situation.

After joining the Ithaca Common Council in October 2021, I’ve spent hundreds of hours speaking with thousands of collegetown students, homeowners, and longtime tenants. Among a host of issues shared by voters, housing came up time and time again. The issue of urban housing is more complex than it can be explained in a few hundred words or resolved in a few years by a few elected officials. But I believe the role of public servants is to listen to the needs of our constituents and find creative ways to improve lives. As city officials, we face a multitude of restrictions from the state legislature and Congress, but we remain the first line of defense in helping those who live within our city limits. For housing, I have sought to ease the burden that students face in finding accommodation, and since April 6, we have made fantastic progress.

For the class of 2025 and all thereafter, Cornell now requires all freshmen and sophomores to live in on-campus housing. While some freshmen may want that taste of living on their own for their sophomore year, I think Cornell made the right choice in protecting students from Ithaca’s overly competitive real estate market. In a city of 32,000, nearly two-thirds are students; half of these students rent from landlords in the city of Ithaca. The off-campus housing schedule is unnecessarily tight. For all parents, prospective students, and freshmen, it is important to understand the old schedule to understand just how much change is coming for Cornellians.

Under the old system, landlords would approach new Cornellians during their first two weeks at Cornell and explain their options: You can enter Cornell’s housing lottery and maybe get on-campus housing in March or get an off-campus apartment now in August. At first glance, the fear of going to look for accommodation on campus in March and getting nothing is frightening. However, what wasn’t said was that second-year housing was guaranteed, the lottery only existed to determine which specific dorm you were assigned to. In response, many freshmen were forced to find roommates in their first two weeks at Cornell, pay the first month’s rent and a deposit of thousands of dollars, and agree to live in an apartment. for a year, almost a year in advance.

If the idea of ​​finding roommates, paying thousands of dollars, and agreeing to live in an apartment a year up front sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Fortunately, a host of changes have occurred. First, the New York State Legislature passed the New York Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which relaxes payment rules for tenants. Second, as noted earlier, Cornell now requires sophomores to live in on-campus housing, which means freshmen won’t be pressured into making quick decisions until they learn about it. more about the Ithaca real estate market. Finally, I passed an amendment to Ithaca City Code Chapter 258-10(A) through the Ithaca City Council on April 6 that takes effect May 31.

The new law does two essential things. First, all tenants, including all student-tenants, are legally entitled to 120 days before their landlord shows the apartment to new people, before the landlord asks the tenant to renew the apartment, or before the landlord does not sign with new tenants; Second, if tenants and landlords mutually agree to waive this 120-day waiting period, the waiver must include the following wording on the first page of the contract:

Pursuant to City of Ithaca Municipal Code Chapter 258-10(A), landlords must provide at least 120 days written notice to current tenants of a residential unit before taking any of the following actions :

  1. Renewal of the current rental contract
  2. Showing the residential unit to potential new tenants or suggesting to potential new tenants or suggesting to potential tenants that the unit is available for rent
  3. Conclude a rental agreement with new tenants

By initialing here ____, I fully understand and voluntarily waive my rights to 120 days written notice prior to the foregoing.

This statement may seem like legalese, but its inclusion in all contracts is something you, as a student tenant, are entitled to. You are entitled to 120 days. 120 days may seem like a lot, but do the math: 120 days after a lease starting June 1 means you must decide to renew before October 1; those with August leases, you have until December. You and the landlord can waive the 120 days if you both choose, but a discussion of why you’re waiving the days should be your first question when asking to rent somewhere. From May 31, if you sign a contract without this language, your landlord is breaking the law.

I believe that every tenant and every student in Collegetown and all of Ithaca has the right to ask themselves if they want to renew a lease without pressure from their landlord so soon. I’ve changed our local laws to reflect that, and I think every tenant in the city should take advantage of laws that give tenants more time to make decisions.

Patrick J. Mehler ’23 (he/him) is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected] The Mehl-Man delivers takes place every other Tuesday this semester.


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