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UM Law Students Teach High School Seniors Renters’ Law

By Sandra Knispel | Published 06 Nov 2011 08:31pm | comments
Ole Miss law students teach Oxford High School seniors how to avoid legal pitfalls as new renters. Photo: Jesse Wright

Thousands of Mississippians face legal problems over their rental agreements every year. But as MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports, thanks to the Pro Bono Initiative at the University of Mississippi Law School some Oxford High School seniors won’t be among them.

Three University of Mississippi law students are acting out a skit in a 12th grade classroom at Oxford High School.

“I called the landlord over here. And I told him that the neighbor’s nephew had broken in. And now the backdoor is broken. And he was like ‘Yeah, ok whatever. I’ll have somebody come tomorrow and fix it. Look, I’ll have it fixed the next day.”

Sooner or later, their audience, made up of 17 and 18-year-old students, will be renting their first apartment. A process that can be riddled with pitfalls, starting with the lease.

 “It should say the address of the property. Make sure it’s the correct address. And you want it to reflect your apartment number if you’re living in one.” 

Second-year law student Erica Peden has plenty of advice.

“Make sure you’re looking at the actual unit. If you’re going to get an apartment they could show you a model unit but nobody has probably live there ever. It’s just something that they show everyone. The model one looks great, but as soon as you go into the one that you’re actually living in they could have had a dog, they could have always thrown parties, the carpet could be ruined. Things like that.” 

And beware of damages, says fellow law student Christy White:

“Make sure you know what you can and you can’t do. Especially when it comes to hanging up pictures or trying to decorate your apartment they way you want it to be. You make sure you’re allowed to do that within your lease ‘cause some landlords won’t let you, and be prepared to pay the damages if you do.”

The Ole Miss Law School Pro Bono Initiative that usually deals with low-income Mississippians is directed by law professor Debbie Bell.

“What we’re trying to do is to start at the high school level and provide students with information that will keep them from getting into trouble. Rather than assisting them when they get into a dispute with their landlord, we’re hoping to help them avoid a dispute with their landlord.” 

Considering that 28 percent of Mississippians are renters, this kind of legal intelligence will come in handy for first-time tenants.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

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Ole Miss law students teach Oxford High School seniors how to avoid legal pitfalls as new renters. Photo: Jesse Wright


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