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Bill will make renting more difficult

03/19/2014

Jacksonville’s State Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has sponsored a bill that would tighten restrictions on renters. The bill gives landlords more time to return deposits and renters less time to pay late rent before being evicted, among other things.

Marsh’s bill changes the notice of eviction for late rent from seven days’ to four days and shortens the notice time for any other violation from 14 days to seven. It also extends the time for landlords to return deposits from 35 days to 60.

What does this mean for the average JSU student? If you live on campus, virtually nothing. If you live off-campus and pay rent, it could mean everything.

Any college student living on a budget knows how vital the security deposit is to the moving process. The security deposit is meticulously planned into the “move out” budget for any student who moves during or after college years.

Currently, students wait a month to receive those funds to help cover moving costs. With this bill, students will likely have to borrow that $300-600 from family, friends or elsewhere just to get out of current living arrangements and through the next two months (60 days).

I don’t know any college student who hasn’t faced unexpected financial hardships: whether it’s a parking ticket, a dead car battery, a blown tire, etc. We have all been there. And sometimes we have to temporarily shift priorities to get by (i.e. rent money).

Under this bill, one little financial folly could literally put you “out of house and home.” Once rent is over-due, a landlord will be required to give only 96 hours’ notice before you have to find somewhere else to live.

A recent Anniston Star article indirectly quoted the senator saying he was approached by the Alabama Association of Realtors on behalf of apartment owners in Tuscaloosa. Now, I’ve studied every district in this state and can tell you: Tuscaloosa is not in this district.

Nonetheless, I do know Senator Marsh to be a regular advocate for businesses, so it wasn’t too surprising to see his sponsorship of the bill at the Association’s request.

However, Marsh’s re-election campaign did receive a $10,000 donation from the Alabama Association of Realtors. Now, I also know Senator Marsh to be one of the most successful men in the legislature. So it is extremely difficult to believe that any typical lobbying money would influence his legislative actions. So what’s the fuss?

The senator was also indirectly quoted stating that he “hadn’t heard any requests for the changes from Jacksonville — a college town in his district.” That’s the fuss.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned by simple legislative acts like this... First, pay attention to what your elected officials are doing on your behalf. And second, don’t be afraid to contact them and inform them of how you feel about issues that affect you. It does make a difference.

Who knows where this bill will go from here; whether it will pass or not. One thing’s for sure is that right now, there is a $10,000 check with an Association’s name on it that is speaking louder than the renting residents of Calhoun County, Alabama.

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