January 18, 2007


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Manchester Publisher's Note: Renters have a role
By Jody Reese

Manchester has a high proportion of rental properties, many of them old. As such, the city is susceptible to "slumlord syndrome," where landlords don't put the effort or cash into keeping up properties that often need lots of TLC to stay at their best.

And so we are prone to rot, from the inside out. Our inner city blocks require constant attention, and all it takes is one scary property to start a neighborhood going in the wrong direction.

What to do? Efforts are being made by the city to crack down on lazy or neglectful landlords, but it can't be up to government alone. Tenants can and should take action, too.

Recently, our sister paper, the Manchester Daily Express, published an editorial on this subject titled "Love thy apartment," that makes the case for tenant responsibility. It's worth excerpting, so here it is:

So you live in a dump, one of Manchester's scores of run-down old apartment buildings. What to do?

Try communicating with your landlord. Why? Because when you have a problem and you don't communicate with your landlord, it's rarely a way for things to get better.

A recent tenant/landlord dispute in the news is a good illustration of what happens when a tenant and a landlord don't work together.

As reported in the Express, downtown resident Barbara Herbert recently stopped paying the rent on her tiny apartment on Concord Street, complaining that her building, among other things, was infested with bed bugs, smelled of leaking gas and was generally unsanitary.

Well, the city's Neighborhood Enforcement Team inspected the place back in October and confirmed some (not all) of Herbert's complaints. Follow-up investigations are pending, but meanwhile Herbert decided that she had had enough and just stopped paying rent.

Desperate measures like the one Herbert has been forced to take are unfortunate, and it's a shame it's had to come to this.

We don't condone such drastic action, and hope that this dispute is settled before it goes to court, or worse. Still, a point has been made here: tenants are not helpless and you don't have to own your house to have pride in your dwelling.

Landlords don't want trouble any more than their tenants do. If there's a problem, talk to your building manager. If there's work to be done, offer to do it for a rental discount. Pitch in with other tenants to form a loose association, and take care of your building.

At the very least, you'll make some new friends. At best, the quality of life at your apartment will improve.

Manchester has a lot of rental apartments, some of which are very old and in need of a lot of work. If you love where you are, make a stand. The city will be a better place to live if you do.