This article was originally published in The Polytechnic.
Over the past few months, Campus Habitat has worked with the Rensselaer Union to address alleged New York State Law violations found in their lease by Student Legal Services. They’ve recently made more revisions to the lease and are awaiting feedback.
Executive Vice President of Operations Rob Martin stated that “[Campus Habitat] took initiative and approached RPI to look over [the] lease” asking for feedback.
A fax from Student Legal Services Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo & Johnson was received on January 21 by Director of Community Relations Erin Crotty which outlined the violations. Since then, there has been at least one more revision; after changes were made, the lease was much improved, but problems were reported as still present. Campus Habitat is waiting for the results of the latest evaluation.
Student Legal Services explained that they reviewed the lease with various members of the RPI community and felt the lease did not sufficiently protect the tenant and suggested that students not sign “unless drastic changes [had] been made.”
R. Martin stated that many of the comments referred to vague terminology, which was used because the lease was a national lease that was supposed to satisfy the laws of multiple states.
One of the main concerns mentioned in the fax had to do with Paragraph 20 “Default/Landlord’s Remedies.” The lease had originally stated that the tenant, by signing the lease, waived their right of due process if evicted from the premises and allowed the landlord to trespass, remove the tenant, and remove the tenant’s personal property from the premises. R. Martin clarified that the original intent of that paragraph was to ensure that Campus Habitat could reclaim properties and find a new lessee if a tenant, with or without notice, leaves for a prolonged period of time, and make sure the original tenant isn’t held responsible for rent payments due during that period.
Other violations that were addressed included charging the students for utility fees accrued from common areas (Public Service Law section 52) and asking tenants to waiver their right to be notified of a default in rent payments (three days notice is required by law before the eviction process can begin).
“We want to show the university that we are very serious about having this type of relationship with residents in Troy. One that gives the residents tools and us tools to have a great relationship throughout the term of the lease.”
It was also mentioned that Assistant Vice President for Administration Paul Martin requested that Campus Habitat have all current tenants re-sign the new lease once it has been finalized. P. Martin agreed to help Campus Habitat contact all residents regarding re-signing.
R. Martin and Crotty have been having monthly meetings and will be having their next one on May 1.
Follow-up article originally published May 5, 2010
Director of Community Relations Erin Crotty ’92 has been working to ensure quality community relationships by meeting with local landlords to address concerns of community members. A large part of her effort has involved working with student-housing organization Campus Habitat, who Crotty said has shown “incremental improvements” over the past few months.
Six months ago, after Crotty received complaints around the neighborhood regarding unruly tenants, she invited Executive Vice President of Operations Rob Martin to her monthly meetings with local landlords and other community members such as members of the Office of Student Life, and the Department of Public Safety. Various topics are discussed at these meetings, one of which is Campus Habitat’s lease revisions.
Campus Habitat announced that they anticipated having a new lease for the upcoming academic year and sought RPI’s input. Crotty obtained a copy of the lease and it was reviewed by the Student Legal Services and other external counsel. Campus Habitat stated that they wanted to improve their relationship with RPI and the community and create a lease which wouldn’t raise any concerns by outside attorneys. Assistant Vice President for Administration Paul Martin plans on making sure that once the new lease is complete, Campus Habitat reaches out to students and has current tenants sign the new version of the lease.
Despite optimistic expectations from Crotty, some members of the student body feel that Campus Habitat has been resistant to working with the Rensselaer Union, insisting that they retain certain allegedly illegal parts of their lease. Two examples mentioned were retaining the right to fee students for noise violations without due process, and the ability to relocate the tenant at will. It was mentioned that Charlie Emala ’10 will be giving a copy of the recently revised lease to a non-Union lawyer to perform another review. Other concerns regarding Campus Habitat has been that employees have not been respecting the Institute sign policy, which states that non-RPI-affiliated groups are only allowed to post in the Union after receiving a Union stamp of approval.
Andrew Armenia ’08, member of the Senate’s Finance, Facilities, and Advancement Committee, attended Crotty’s Monday meeting and felt that, “Mr. Martin’s attitude toward their feedback was quite negative at [Monday’s] meeting. Mr. Martin seemed to indicate that Campus Habitat’s intent was to exercise as much control over tenants within the boundaries of state laws.”
Other than the recent lease revisions, Campus Habitat has made other changes related to recent requests brought to Crotty and the Rensselaer Union. Changes include having removed many of the banners from their properties around the Troy area, and working to remove references to RPI in their advertisements. In addition to the work with Campus Habitat, Crotty has largely been working to improve the quality of living in RPI’s surrounding areas by getting involved in improving garbage removal, snow removal, and lighting. Community leaders are working to reestablish the “neighborhood association” which will potentially include a neighborhood watch.
Crotty stated that with the advent of the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students initiative, Vice President for Student Life Eddie Ade Knowles has been working to appoint an off-campus dean who will be the contact for off-campus students who might be having issues with their off-campus living arrangements. Until this appointment, Crotty has agreed to act as a conduit, so students can have their opinions heard.
“I’m not your voice. I’m a voice, and I’d like input,” Crotty stated.
Crotty’s monthly meetings are the first Monday of each month at the Troy Office of Government and Community Relations, at 2021 Peoples Avenue, and students are encouraged to attend. Students can contact Crotty at firstname.lastname@example.org.