Bedford County needs to improve rental housing
To the editor,
This letter is in response to the article “Upset Renters Told to Work with Landlords” from Thursday June 18, 2020. I am JoAnne Vasil, and I am a member of the Bedford County Listening Project. We initially presented a proposal for the County to adopt URLTA (Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act) at the May 2020 Rules and Legislative Committee meeting. When we went back to the June meeting of the Rules and Legislative meeting it became clear that there may have been some confusion on what URLTA is, what it does, and why the Bedford County Listening Project wants this for Bedford County.
URLTA is a set of laws that is designed to bring clarity to the landlord/tenant relationship. URTLA has clear guidelines for the responsibilities of both the Landlord and the Tenant. It provides guidelines for security deposits, joint Landlord/Tenant inspection and repair requests upon moving in and moving out, it clearly outlines that housing must be kept in a habitable condition by the landlord and that tenants must maintain the cleanliness and quality of the housing while they occupy it. It also states that “Self-help” evictions are illegal, and provides guidelines for how and when a landlord can access an occupied unit. These are all good measures that will aid our court system when addressing landlord - tenant disputes and it provides clarity for tenants when entering into a rental contract with a landlord. We at the Bedford County Listening Project feel that URLTA is a good first step in addressing the substandard housing issue that we have in Bedford County, and also clearly states that “Self-help” evictions are wrong. This is something that is certainly needed in our area. As it was clearly brought to light during the eviction moratorium that some landlords in Shelbyville, and Bedford County feel that this is a good way to push people out of their homes.
I also want to address the County Commissioners stating that if a tenant needs help that they can contact Legal Aid, Good Samaritan, and SCHRA (South Central Human Resource Agency). These agencies can assist a tenant if they need help with their electric, rent payments or need help working through an eviction. We direct renters who contact us to those resources on a daily basis. But none of those agencies can address the longstanding issue of substandard rental housing, they cannot provide long term solutions to the issues facing renters in Bedford County. This is why we need URLTA. We need URLTA to pave the way for long term change that will not only improve the lives of the tenants who need to rent here, it will also improve Bedford County as a whole. When properties begin to improve, it brings up the property values for everyone around them. This means increased revenue for the county. If we want to “beautify” Shelbyville, we need to start with the lives of the residents who live and work here.