Long Reads Monica Kast Spring 2018 Senior Show

Rights for Rent

Bowling Green renters face risk of eviction, homelessness and unsafe housing conditions without legal protections

By Monica Kast

Bowling Green, Kentucky, is the third largest city in the state, home to a university, the only Corvette plant in the world and a high rate of people who rent housing instead of buying.

It is also one of the largest cities in the country without legal protections for renters.

Joel Cohn, Legislative Director of the District of Columbia Office of the Tenant Advocate, an organization in Washington, D.C., that offers legal advice for rental tenants, said there is a “need for tenant protection laws.”

“In the absence of these laws, you’re dealing with a contract that is, in theory, a mutually beneficial agreement between two parties, that presumably have equal bargaining power and economic power,” Cohn said. “But in reality, in the landlord-tenant context…the tenant is really at the mercy of what the landlord insists upon in the lease.”

Kentucky and Arkansas are the only two states, along with the District of Columbia, that have not passed statewide legal protections for renters, although individual cities and counties have passed protections. The two largest cities in Kentucky — Louisville and Lexington — have both passed these protections. Towns like Barbourville and Taylor Mill each have populations of less than 6,000, but have also passed protections for renters.

Bowling Green, population 65,000, has not.

Bowling Green city commissioners have made it clear they have no intention of passing these protections, rejecting adoption of them multiple times since 2008. In a city where nearly two-thirds of the population is renters, according to the most recent U.S. Census data, this leaves renters vulnerable to potentially inadequate living conditions or eviction with little to no notice if they fall behind on rent.

Cohn said in areas without laws like the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, or URLTA, that lay out what is expected of landlords and tenants, there is a risk that the tenant will be taken advantage of in the rental agreement.

“The terms of the lease are kind of whatever the landlord wants to put in there,” Cohn said, noting that there are areas near D.C. without protections where he has seen exploitation of tenants. “The lack of URLTA really is a very big disadvantage to the tenant.”

Read the rest of this story here.