Bowling Green and WKU students advocate for renters’ rights

Andrew Henderson

Bowling Green residents and WKU students are advocating for more rights while renting property. 

Legal protections for renters are often overlooked by local and state governments. Often, there are instances where renters believe they have certain rights—when, in fact, they don’t. Glasgow sophomore Jay Todd Richey is one student among many fighting for rights that renters often lack. 

Richey began the WKU Student Coalition for Renters’ Rights during his freshman year, after being introduced to a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and learning about this issue that the Bowling Green community faces. 

“I was so anxious to learn more about it and change our community in Bowling Green for the better,” Richey said in an email.

Renters’ Rights is a social justice advocacy group that aims to educate and advocate for renters’ legal protections in the Bowling Green and the South Central Kentucky area. Richey said the coalition tried to contact Bowling Green City Commissioners and Warren County Magistrates to discuss policy surrounding renters’ rights, last semester, but to no avail.

Since then, the coalition has teamed up with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Homeless & Housing Coalition of Kentucky and have garnered influence in Frankfort. Rep. Mary Lou Marzian and House Majority Whip Johnny Bell are sponsoring and co-sponsoring what Richey called “the paramount goal” of the coalition: an amendment to the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, URLTA.

The group is holding a lobbying day in Frankfort to lobby for the proposed amendment, Wednesday, Feb. 18.

Richey said the URLTA, as it stands, guarantees four major things: rights for landlords, responsibilities for landlords, rights for renters and responsibilities for renters. 

“This is the perfect law to ensure that neither party is taking advantage of one another throughout the leasing period,” he said.

However, Richey went on to say that when URLTA was passed there was a stipulation saying that communities must opt-in to URLTA, if they wish to adopt it. Only 19 communities, including Lexington and Louisville, have adopted the provisions. The proposed amendment would place all of Kentucky under URLTA’s provisions.

“With this said, the sad truth is that no community in the south central Kentucky area has adopted URLTA … ,” he said.

The proposed provision would aid individuals such as Jasmine Routon, graduate student from Elizabethtown and vice-Chair of the coalition. Routon said she is passionate about fighting social injustice at the institutional level and even more passionate about renters’ rights, because she has been victimized by the lack of protections renters have. 

“I experienced living in very substandard rental apartments in which I had to deal with a lack of privacy, health issues and an unsafe environment,” Routon said in an email.

In addition to the commonplace roach infestations and black mold, Routon noted several instances when she would walk into her apartment and find strange men inside. Once, her apartment had been broken into through a window. The landlord would not replace the broken window for two years. 

“It is easy to ask me why I didn’t just leave without fully understanding how difficult leaving is for many citizens that rely on shelter through renting,” she said.

For Routon, and many others, many of these issues would be resolved by the proposed amendment to the URLTA—which is why the upcoming Frankfort Lobbying Day is an important step for renters’ and landlords.

Ryan Puckett, a freshmen from Burlington, is one of the students who plans to attend the lobbying day. Puckett is a member of the coalition and sees the lobbying day as an opportunity to persuade people on both sides to make sure everyone knows this amendment would be for the good of Kentucky. 

“Ultimate goal is to have the amendment passed in both the House and the Senate,” Puckett said.

 Routon agreed with this, adding that power in numbers would speak to the amount of Kentuckians who support and need this. Richey echoed Routon’s thought saying that they are taking any student interested in lobbying for this cause. 

“The passing of this bill will impact hundreds of thousands of Kentucky students now and in the future, and we want to be the catalyst for change in our Commonwealth,” Richey said.

The coalition will be leaving Bowling Green to travel to Frankfort, Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 5 a.m. Brief informational sessions, concerning URLTA and lobbying, will be held for those interested in going.