Andrea Zang hopes for a world where there are no limits to who can access sustainable and truly affordable housing.
“It’s a rent crisis,” said Zang, a Kentucky resident, member of KY Tenants and a leader with the Homes Guarantee campaign. “People are making decisions to not buy food, to not buy medical care because they have to make rent.”
Homes Guarantee is led by tenants and aims to ensure everyone has the ability to find comfortable, safe, and affordable places to live. Over 250 tenant-led organizations have contributed to this cause and are working to meet with White House officials.
According to data from InvestFourMore, a blog started by Colorado landlord and real estate agent Mark Ferguson, Kentucky is the second-most landlord-friendly state in the U.S. with a ranking score of 88.33, while Alabama sits at first place with a ranking score of 71.00. Under Ferguson’s model, states with lower scores are more tenant-friendly than those with higher rankings.
According to InvestFourMore, many factors contribute to consider a state landlord-friendly; data such as crime, population change, median house value, property taxes, insurance rates, unemployment help Ferguson, compile a ranking list based upon which states are the most landlord-friendly.
Ferguson said that he utilized the data – and more – by weighting the categories differently based on the importance of each factor. Changes may occur to this list based on new laws being passed in each state accordingly, he said. Although other sites may be differently weighted, Ferguson said InvestFourMore compiled this specific list to show how friendly states are based solely on rental properties in that state, not the advantages of living there. In this case, the price of real estate is the number one weighted category whereas insurance is important, but not nearly as much.
In Kentucky, there are ongoing efforts to help ease the rent crisis and make the state more tenant-friendly. In the city of Lexington, tenants have been pushing local officials to adopt a tenants’ bill of rights, which was unveiled on Oct. 10 during a meeting of the city’s Social Services and Public Safety Committee.
The bill as written contains four parts: eviction prevention, anti discrimination, representation and accountability. Advocates say the bill will ultimately protect renters and their rights based on source income and how it affects discrimination.
If approved, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has said it believes the bill would positively affect renters of color, renters with disabilities, elderly people and women.
“Affordable housing” is generally housing that a household can pay for, while still having additional money left over for other necessities, such as food, transportation, insurance, and health care. What is considered “affordable” is ultimately decided based on a household’s income.
The federal government typically labels housing as affordable when it takes up no more than 30 percent of the household’s income.
Though popular among housing advocates, some believe Kentucky’s proposed Tenants Bill of Rights is unnecessary.
Stephen Marshall, Representer and Advisor of many Central Kentucky property owners and managers, says Kentucky “already has a bill of rights.”
“It was created back in 1984,” said Marshall. “The act, known as KRS 383.500-383.715, provides many significant rights for tenants.”
Marshall also said he has had conversations with tenants about these issues for the last 15 years, and believes many tenants may not be aware of the rights they possess or often overlook them.
KRS 383.500-383.715 is a section of state law called the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Over about 42 sections, it lays out Kentucky law governing the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. Local governments that chose to enact the provisions of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act must do so in their entirety without amendment, the law states.
Tenants can read state law through the official site of the Kentucky Revised Statutes under Chapter 383. Although many aspects of Kentucky Landlord/Tenant law are similar to those enacted in other states, one possible outlier lies in how Kentucky assesses security deposits.
Kentucky’s laws in this area are somewhat different from those of other states. As written in KRS 383.580, the landlord has to notify the tenant of any amount due, and the tenant has 60 days to claim that refund or forfeit it to the landlord. If the tenant leaves owing rent, they have 30 days to make a demand for their security deposit.
In Indiana, landlords have 45 days after the termination of a lease to return a tenant’s security deposit or provide a written itemized list of damages.
Although Kentucky laws provide some protections and rights for renters, sometimes tenants are quite hesitant to assert their rights for fear of angering their landlord. Kentucky law prohibits landlords from retaliating against the tenants through rent hikes and evictions, if they request repairs or complain about building code violations.
It is not uncommon for the rental experience to be a hassle at times. The odds of facing some kind of landlord-tenant issues are fairly high, Kentucky’s FindLaw website states. It can also be difficult to know which laws apply to the situation at hand.
Free case reviews are available for tenants, whether they are dealing with a minor issue or facing eviction. All tenants deserve an opportunity to get help asserting their rights under Kentucky’s tenant rights laws.
- Assess the rental information before you sign. Get all contact information from whoever will be responsible for repairs, and communicate with them accordingly. Be aware of any rules regarding allowing pets, noise levels, painting walls and hanging pictures.
2. Read the lease CAREFULLY, and be prepared to discuss any possible changes with the landlord. Ask questions before you sign. Make sure to keep any and all copies in a safe place with initials from both you and your landlord to ensure promises are kept.
3. Make a day where you and your landlord can inspect the unit together. Note and take pictures of all pre-existing damages in which could be charged to you later. The return of your security deposit could rely on these existing proofs.
4. Be sure to maintain good relations with your landlord. Before reporting problems, run them by the landlord first. If he/she does not comply, your cooperation is still evident.
5. Report any problems immediately to the landlord or manager. The sooner you report problems, the less time you have to live with them. It is also common for minor problems to become major ones if left unannounced. Keep accurate records of all problems that may occur.
6. Pay attention to your tenant responsibilities: paying rent on time, abide by landlord’s rules, keeping the unit clean and safe, no damages, and respecting the neighbors.
This piece was done in conjunction with journalism students taught by Heloisa Sturm Wilkerson (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) Assistant Professor of Journalism in the Communication Department of Purdue University Fort Wayne.
This content is distributed in a partnership between Purdue University Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Media Collaborative, a group of media outlets and educational institutions in Fort Wayne committed to solutions-oriented reporting. More information is available at fwmediacollaborative.com