Landlord-Tenant Relations Council Looks to Improve Community

The Tenant-Landlord Relations Council, along with special guests, met on Wednesday, March 2, sending the community a simple message: just communicate. In a college-town, where tenants are changing every year, it grows hard for a neighborhood-like atmosphere to emerge. How will students know about their rights as tenants? And who will protect the relationship between the two?

The Landlord-Tenant Relations Council,  serves as a resource for New Paltz tenants and landlords who are looking to improve their relationships with each other.

Among the guests were Victoria Kossover, a local criminal defense lawyer; Kathy Moniz, the Village of New Paltz building inspector; and Ben Miller, a representative of the the New Paltz Property Owners Association.

Each speaker addressed his or her willingness to assist tenants and landlords in settling disputes that often grow confusing and hostile. 

“The common issues that tend to rise between landlords and tenants are issues that develop from miscommunication,” said Amanda Sisenstein, 29, the youngest member on the board.

Sisenstein explained that the issues that rise are not only common, but recurring. Landlords often complain about tenants disrespecting their property, and tenants complain about illegal evictions, privacy laws or security deposits that are unreturned for unknown reasons. The council tried to meditate these issues and others.

“We want to introduce services that will offer help to students and the elderly, the more helpless people of the community,” Sisenstein said. “We want to educate both the public and ourselves on what the current issues are between landlords and tenants.”

Most of the issues that student tenants face sprout from being unaware of their rights. Kossover is attempting to reach out to students, urging them to meet with her with their leases before signing them to fully understand their contracts. Moniz, who has been the building inspector for New Paltz the last four years, is involved in ensuring safe and up-to-code living conditions for tenants.

Moniz, 53, discussed the idea of meeting with SUNY New Paltz freshmen and transfer orientation groups to let them know these resources exist.

“Most students are new to renting,” Moniz said. “If we were actively involved in college orientation, we could provide positive information for students who are away from home.”

One obstacle facing the Landlord-Tenant Relations Council is the lack of landlord representation. The ideal council would have three representatives each for tenants and landlords, and one impartial representative. Presently the board has two tenant representatives, an impartial appointee and one landlord representative, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Many landlords, however, do not live in New Paltz, and, according to the village code, only New Paltz residents are allowed to be part of a village council or committee.

“We don’t want to use superior numbers to push something here,” said Ira Margolis, 62, a tenant representative. “It’s just hard to find landlords limited to the area.” 

Despite its unbalanced membership, the council is regularly involved in town meetings and community events. Not only does the council want to reach out to the community, but it wants to refer New Paltz residents to the local resources that are willing to help.

The council and guest speakers are aware that problems are going to form, but that they can be resolved. “There’s good tenants and bad tenants, and there’s good landlords and bad landlords,” Moniz said. “And it’s building an educational relationship between them that’s starting to work.”

Peter Spengeman

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