A common complaint that I have heard throughout the years is that there is a lack of “real world” education in our school systems. Financial planning, taxes, credit and debt make the top of the list. The topic of rental housing is not as common even though I have seen firsthand how misunderstood rental agreements can cause stress and frustration.

Renting or leasing can be confusing, especially for first time renters. I have rented from four places in the Eastern Panhandle, and it did not get easier or any less confusing each time I signed a lease. I have heard the horror stories of friends and relatives who have had the misfortune of renting from “slumlords,” and I have witnessed some of the deplorable living conditions that they have described. Some were eventually kicked out of their apartments in ways that just did not feel right. Looking back at those situations, I think that knowledge of renters rights could have prevented confusion and unnecessary hardship.

To help with these concerns, classes are being offered locally through the Eastern Panhandle Successful Renters Program. These free classes will cover a variety of topics to inform and educate people on their rights and responsibilities as a renter. The classes are targeted to new and veteran renters alike. Topics include:

  • Understanding a lease agreement
  • How to file complaints
  • Budgeting assistance
  • Credit education
  • Security deposits
  • Preventing eviction.

The successful renters program is provided free of charge by the Housing Work Group, a part of the Health and Human Services Collaborative of the Family Resource Network of the Eastern Panhandle. There are a total of three classes, and each one is about two hours long. The classes are scheduled each month throughout the Eastern Panhandle. The complete 2016 schedule including dates, times and locations can be found here.

Understanding your rights as a renter can help you avoid “slumlords” and undesirable living situations. At the same time, some landlords may even favor tenants who have participated in these classes because it conveys personal responsibility. Knowledge is a powerful way to advocate for yourself and for those around you. Share this information with the friends and family members who rent their homes and help them find security in their living situation.

(Conal Gallagher – Creative Commons)

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