Renters’ rights coalition awarded ‘Ally of the Year’

Emily DeLetter

The WKU Student Coalition for Renters’ Rights was awarded the “Ally of the Year” award by social justice organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, KFTC.

The Student Coalition for Renters’ Rights started on WKU’s campus in 2014, when then-students Jay Todd Richey, former Student Government Association president, and James Line, former Student Government Association Chief of Staff, became interested in getting involved with social justice issues off-campus. The pair came in contact with Dana Beasley Brown, a Bowling Green resident and staff member at KFTC.

“The most important issue facing Bowling Green is unsafe housing,” Richey said. “The lease [here] is the law. If you sign a bad lease, there’s no person of law who can help you.”

Forty-eight states across the United States have enacted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). URLTA is a law that “concerns landlord-tenant relationships under rental agreements for residential purposes,” according to the official act.

Kentucky and Arkansas are the two states that have not enacted URLTA on a statewide level. Individual communities in Kentucky have to opt in to allow URLTA to take effect, and Bowling Green is the largest city in the state where it is not required.

“I co-founded SCRR in an effort to lead Bowling Green in adopting URLTA,” Richey said. “My hope is that it mobilizes students to care about safe housing, for themselves and tenants in the future.”

Patricia Minter, history professor and the founding adviser for the SCRR, helps members reach the local community and surrounding communities, and have them understand that safe and fair housing is a human right.

Minter said it has been a joy to watch the coalition grow over the past few years.

“I’ve been working on creating this organization since May 2014,” Minter said. “I’ve been honored to work with [the coalition] and watch them grow to what they are today.”

One of the biggest achievements made by the coalition comes in the form of a guide for residents about safe housing. Created during the spring semester of 2017, the four-page guide compares leases from landlords known to rent to students by URLTA standards.

“We sat down with the leases and URLTA and compared what they provided,” Richey said. “It helps renters understand what they can do to make a lease URLTA-compliant.”

Richey said the guide is continuing to be distributed under current coalition chair Luke Knight.

Knight, a former Gatton Academy student, said the coalition has a few different ways to distribute the handbook to the student body.

“We’re distributing them via the SGA website,” Knight said. “There are also plans to hand out physical copies at any event on campus where we have a physical presence. Our goal is to find ways to hit all types of students, whether commuter, online, or on-campus.”

Although the coalition had been attending annual KFTC meetings for the past few years, both Richey and Minter said they had no idea they would be receiving an award.

“None of us knew [the coalition] had been nominated,” Minter said. “It’s a great way for activist communities around the state to learn about the work students are doing in Bowling Green to guarantee housing as a right.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]