- It is important to read and understand your lease or rental agreement before signing. It is a binding legal contract. Contact the Center for Student Legal Services to review your lease before signing it.
- It is illegal for a landlord not to rent to you based on your race of nationality. Read your lease (housing contract).
- If you pay your rent in cash MAKE SURE you get and retain your receipts.
- To increase the chances of getting your security deposit back, photograph, video tape and/or document your apartment when you first move in and again when you move out.
- Contact your landlord at the first sign of a problem with the condition of your residence. Write a letter to your landlord listing the problems that need to be fixed and KEEP A COPY of the letter. If you are having difficulty getting your landlord to make repairs, contact the Center for Student Legal Service for guidance.
- Recycle paper, cans and bottles.
- Landlords must give you notice before coming into your home.
- Know where the fire extinguishers are and make sure they are in working order. Check the smoke detectors monthly.
- Know how to contact Housing Code Enforcement (740-592-3306)
- Follow all rules in the lease, especially rules about visitors, pets and other rules that affect everyone in the residence.
- Do not drive any car unless you have a valid United States driver’s license and car insurance. If you are caught driving without a license you will be charged with a crime and have to pay heavy fines.
- If you buy a car, purchase it locally. It something goes wrong and you need legal help, The Center For Student Legal Services can help you. However, it will make it more difficult to help you if you bought the car outside of Athens.
- Do not buy a used car from anyone before having it checked by a reputable mechanic. Have the mechanic give you a written list of any problems with the vehicle.
- Always get the seller to sign the title over to you in front of a notary when purchasing a used car from a private owner.
- Do not purchase a vehicle just because it seems like a good price or the seller is pressuring you. A vehicle is a large purchase that requires research, time and comparison shopping.
- If you own a car that needs repairs, you have the right to w written estimate from the repair shop if the repair is over $25.00 USD.
- A car title that has a “salvage title” means that the vehicle has been severely damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it. Some car sellers will try to conceal this, so make sure that you find out before purchasing the vehicle. A car that has a salvage title is usually not worth purchasing.
- NEVER give bank account numbers or other confidential information to people over the phone. If you must release this information, it is best to do it in person.
- Make sure your household knows which long distance phone company is handling your international phone calls. Be cautious of changing your long distance carrier.
- Read and understand all documents in any circumstances before you sign them. ALWAYS GET COPIES of all papers you sign. Never sign a contract with blank spaces. Make sure all oral promises are written into the agreement. If you have to sign something that you don’t completely understand, bring it to our office and an attorney will help you.
- Beware of lending money to friend. If you lend money to someone, get a contract written to specify the details of repayment. An attorney at our office can help with this. Keep in mind that it can still be very hard to recover your money even if you sue someone in court and win.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE:
- Be polite and respectful. Stay calm and in control of your words. Don’t get into an argument with the police. Don’t resist verbally or physically even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong.
- Do not make any statements regarding the incident. It is not against the law to refuse to answer questions.
- Write down everything you remember about the incident that leads to police involvement in case you are asked to be a witness.
- You must show your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration when stopped while driving a car.
- You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your home. If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division. Contact The Center for Student Legal Services for assistance with this.
- Domestic violence is against the law in the United States: no person shall cause or attempt to case physical harm to a family or household member. If you are the victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, please contact our office immediately.
http://www.ohio.edu/isfs/ : Ohio University International Student Services
http://www.nolo.com : A Self Help Law Center
http://www.lawguru.com : General Legal Information, includes an Internet Law Library
http://www.immigration-usa.com/is.html : Immigration Resources
There are ways to ensure that you have an enjoyable year off-campus. As long as you prepare correctly, most problems can be prevented. Here are some key issues to focus on while getting ready to move in.
Shopping for a Landlord
Finding the right landlord is every bit as important as finding the right apartment or house. Having a bad landlord can mean having a bad off-campus living experience.
1) Go to the Code Enforcement office. From Shafer Street, turn left onto W. State Street, turn right at Miller’s Chicken onto Central and then left on Clark Street. Take a right on Curran Street and Code Enforcement is located at 28 Curran. They will let you see all records regarding the house/apartment you are looking at. Just give them the address of the property! Their phone number is 592-3306. Beware if there are a lot of code violations!
2) Talk to former and current tenants. This is your best source for information about the landlord. Ask about their experiences with their landlord.
Move – In Inspections
- Upon arrival make sure all facilities are in good working condition. This includes all sinks, showers, and toilets.
- Become acquainted with the location of the fuse box and make sure all outlets are in safe working condition.
- Before moving in, make a list of all damages to the dwelling. A good way to do this is by videotaping and picture-taking.
- Call ahead of time to change all utilities into a resident’s name. A good time to do this is spring before you leave for the summer.
- These utilities include gas, electric, water and sewage, garbage, phone, and cable.
- A security deposit will be required for gas and electric.
- Water, sewage, and garbage can be set up at City Hall.
- Garbage is charged by usage. Prices are set for one or two bags.
- If you are going to use a landline, be sure to set up an installation time prior to your summer leave.
Paying the Bills
- Pay bills on time!
- Split up the responsibility. Every person put one or two bills in his or her name.
- Another suggestion is to start a checking account that has all tenants or one appointed tenant in charge. At the beginning of the quarter, deposit enough cash to cover all utilities. Split what’s left over.
Tips For Tenants
1. When shopping for a place to live check with the utility company to determine previous winters’ heating.
2. Read your lease. Any provision of your lease that conflicts with the landlord-tenant law is not enforceable.
3. Don’t agree to an oral modification of a written lease. Write all modifications down and sign with the landlord.
4. Avoid “shared utilities systems”. (Several apartments and one electric/water, etc. bill)
5. Do not pay rent in cash. Get receipts.
6. To increase chances of getting your security deposit back, photograph/videotape/document your apartment when you move in and when you move out.
7. Contact your landlord at the first sign of condition problems in your apartment. Make no more than one oral request for any repair. After that, write the landlord.
8. Make a copy of everything you send the landlord. Keep everything you receive from the landlord.
9. Don’t argue with your landlord, or write in haste or anger.
10. Be a good neighbor. Respect yourself and others.
11. Don’t accept legal advice from your landlord.
12. Meet all your legal obligations: Keep your apartment safe and sanitary, get rid of garbage in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner, use appliances properly, prevent others from damaging your place, don’t disturb your neighbors, don’t unreasonably withhold consent for your landlord to enter your place.
13. Recycle, Reduce and Reuse.
14. When you move out, leave a written forwarding address for your ex-landlord.
15. If your landlord fails to repair a problem that materially affects your health and safety, you may be able to escrow your next rent with the court and not pay your landlord. You must be current in your rent and you must give written notice about the problem to your landlord.
16. Seek help at the first sign of a problem.
17. Register and vote in local elections.
18. Try not to rent from your employer or work for your landlord.
19. Landlords must give reasonable notice, presumed to be 24 hours, to the tenant before entering the apartment. This notice doesn’t apply in emergencies.
20. If problems arise between housemates or your landlord, consider mediation as a way to resolve the conflict.
Know where the fire extinguishers are and make sure they are in working condition. Check smoke detectors monthly
We’ve all seen the intoxicated students heading home after a late night endurance contest at the uptown bars. The traditional warning passed down to students has been to walk home with a friend so that the police will not stop you and charge you with “disorderly conduct.” But what if you are female and your friend is male?
Throughout the semester we have encountered reports of police engaging in protective stops to determine if a woman knows her male companion and comprehends the situation. For the underage drinker, this situation is complicated by the fact that being stopped for anything will likely result in a charge for being “underage under the influence of alcohol,” a charge which is considerably more serious than “disorderly conduct.”
The drinker’s dilemma is further exacerbated by the fact that the female student is often given the choice of contacting a female friend to escort her home instead of the guy she is with or go to jail—even when the male is her boyfriend.
The motive behind the officer’s demand may be a sincere attempt to protect women from victimization and it is not our recommendation that women feel apprehensive of officers who are trying to assist them. However, it seems ironic that a female student can suffer the embarrassment of jail and the risks associated with having her criminal record posted on the Internet because a police officer responds to the mere presence of her male companions with a one-size-fits-all solution.
What’s a girl to do when the company of even the most thoughtfully chosen male companion can be misinterpreted as a “cry for help,” resulting in unanticipated legal consequences for the conscientious female? In light of this police approach to the chosen escorts of female students, it would be wise to recommend that women consider calling a female friend to escort them home from the bars. While this double-standard is admittedly unfair, keeping your female roommate or friend on speed-dial during your night out may be safer than dealing with the potential legal consequences of mistaken perception.
Imagine being arrested in the Kroger parking lot, in front of your friends, for furnishing alcohol. Yes, it would be an embarrassing, and potentially expensive experience; And yes, it can happen to you.
In their efforts to eradicate the problem of underage drinking, Ohio undercover police officers will often “stake out” carry-outs or grocery stores that sell liquor. Frequently, they will see a car full of students pull into the parking lot and one student will go inside the store and purchase a large amount of alcohol. The agents, who may be waiting in their own unmarked cars, will watch to see whether any money is exchanged, either before the student enters the store or after he or she returns to the car. They may approach the car as it is parked to hear whether amounts or types of alcohol are being discussed by the passengers. If several students enter the store, they may follow them in to see what transpires.
Eventually, the agents hope to gain enough evidence to conduct a “Terry Stop,” which allows them to begin questioning the suspects. Since “youthful appearance by itself” is not enough to justify the intrusion of police, which might violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to be left alone, the officers are looking for either “furtive behavior” or signs that alcohol is being purchased for underage persons. They might even follow the vehicle around town waiting for the purchaser to be dropped off without the alcohol or for the passengers to hide the contents in their back packs. But, rest assured, that when the police finally do swoop down upon the unsuspecting students, the game is hardly over.
Merely seeing one student purchase alcohol and place it in a car with passengers is not enough to establish that it has been “furnished” or purchased for under-aged persons. The scenario requires a confession. First the badges are shown, then the participants are quickly separated and advised that they have the right to remain silent, but that unless they cooperate with the police—or if they are caught lying, they may be charged with “obstruction,” or taken to jail. Any initial denials are repeatedly disregarded by the interrogators, who seem to grow angry as the students begin “to sweat.” Eventually the agents will inform them that their friends have confessed and the only way to avoid serving time will be to quit lying. Most confessions are made at this point. The criminal charges are then issued. The “purchaser” faces a minimum $500 fine for “furnishing alcohol.” The others will be charged with “contributing money for the purchase of alcohol,” and may do the court’s diversion program which requires money, community service and completion of a class. Only then, will the charge then dismissed.
So to those college students who think that the drinking law is a joke, be assured that the police take it seriously. Through surveillance and intimidation they will try to convict you even though you and your friends could easily have beaten the charges by exercising your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Fishermen know that you can’t catch a fish unless it opens its mouth.
In some ways, Halloween in Athens is like being in Vegas. Both have a lot of costumes and glitter, and both have a lot of losers. This year make sure that your costume doesn’t change into jail bird orange at the stroke of midnight by remembering a few basic precautions.
Halloween in Athens has evolved from a rowdy, “unlawful” seizure of Court Street by thousands of celebrants to a sanctioned “street party” offering bandstands, food vendors, and tee-shirts. As long as you don’t make a fool of yourself, engage in violence, or violate the law blatantly by urinating or carrying an open beer in public, you will likely have a great night. However, there are some important things to keep in mind if you want to have a fun and stress-free experience.
The bars will charge covers and lines will be endless – seats will be treasured and bathrooms will be full. The police, of course will be everywhere—or almost. There will be roadblocks into Athens, with checkpoints for drugs, speeders or intoxicated drivers. In town, undercover officers will prowl Mill Street and watch the carry-outs, from their surveillance spots, stopping those groups where money or beer is passed. Quick to separate suspects and encourage confessions with threats of jail, the “under-covers” will easily score the most arrests for the night.
So what words of advice can a jaded defense attorney give the reader? Be Polite. If stopped by an officer, give only your name and address. Don’t answer other questions without your attorney (you can’t catch a fish unless it opens its mouth). Don’t argue with the police, particularly if you are told to move on or to leave. Travel with your friends. Don’t urinate in the alleys. Don’t try to run if you are told to stop. Always talk to a lawyer before pleading guilty. And, last but not least, no, you are not invincible—even if you have a Superman costume.
The flood of freshman busted for possession of marijuana in dorms, or on the bike path and golf course, slowed to a trickle last week as even the most hopeless of stoners became aware that Athens isn’t Amsterdam. The police are everywhere these days and nights, and the sweet smell of “stinky weed” in the dorm serves as a fragrant invitation to be busted even if you haven’t lit up.
Even if an attorney is able to get the prosecutor to amend the pot charge to a disorderly conduct, to avoid a driver’s license suspension, or impairment of federal financial aid or scholarships, you may find that you will not be eligible for the court’s diversion program in the future if you have new underage alcohol charges. And, of course, a possession of marijuana charge will result in charges being filed against you in the Ohio University Office of Community Standards (formerly “Judiciaries”), where you will most likely be assessed fines, community service hours, and put on probation for a minimum of six months. So watch what you’re holding and where you’re hanging, save yourself the $254 in fines and court costs, as well as the Community Standards sanctions, that a little ganja will get you.
Attention Parents: Would you like to be kept up-to-date with tips and information about how to protect the financial security and quality of life of your OU student?
The Center for Student Legal Services is starting a free e-newsletter for parents of OU students! Interested in signing up? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from your preferred email account with the word “Subscribe” in the subject.
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1.) The Center for Student Legal Services is staffed by licensed attorneys, not law students
We staff licensed attorneys who are here to help with diverse legal concerns, conflict mediation and notary services. Our Managing Attorney has over 30 years of experience in law and has served as the public defender in Athens. Your concern will never be handled by a law student, intern or law clerk.
2.) The Center for Student Legal Services exists to help students with a variety of issues and concerns
The Center for Student Legal Services protects Ohio University students in matters related to identity theft, consumer fraud, landlord / tenant issues, medical and credit card debt, alcohol consumption, contract reviews, traffic violations, misdemeanors, notary services, and more.
In 2012, CSLS obtained over $56,295 in savings / benefits for students and their families in civil matters and averaged over 500 student appointments each semester.
3.) The Center for Student Legal Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit and the $12.00 semester fee supports our legal resource programming and services to students.
The $12.00 per semester fee supports two full-time attorneys and pays for our residence hall, off-campus and classroom presentations, as well as our free educational materials.
4.) The $12.00 semester fee covers all CSLS services on an unlimited basis
The $12.00 semester fee allows access to an attorney, as well as all of our supplemental services. You do not have to pay anything more to retain one of our attorneys and there is no limit on the number of times you can use our services during the semester.
5.) If the $12.00 fee is waived, you can still re-enroll in our program.
Students who are re-enrolling, and are not in the midst of a legal problem, can re-enroll online on our website: http://www.studentlegalrights.org/re-enrollment-form/ or in-person at our office. Students who wish to re-enroll and are in the midst of a current legal dispute will be subject to a one-time $25.00 consultation fee and minimal case fee.