Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro Talks Local Housing, Tenant Rights With Students

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro discussed student housing, debt, and several recent lawsuits with Penn State students and State College residents Wednesday at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe downtown.

Shapiro recently filed lawsuits against two local reality companies — Associated Realty Property Management (ARPM) and Legacy Realty — alleging that they unlawfully withheld security deposits and committed other fee violations. Shapiro settled a separate suit, which alleged that Continental Real Estate Management of State College unlawfully collected a 15% “administrative fee” when tenants terminated their leases in May.

He said that his team was working through the legal process of the two current suits, but could not provide a specific timetable as to when they would conclude.

Shapiro, Agent Supervisor Tom Creehan, and Deputy Attorney General Kyla Djannie sat in front of a small Webster’s crowd and discussed landlord-tenant law.

Shapiro said that his office receives more student housing landlord complaints from the State college area than anywhere else in the state.

“One of the things that I consistently hear when I’m in State College, and to some extent smaller college towns across Pennsylvania, is I hear from students and their parents how frustrated they are when dealing with realtors, dealing with landlords, when they move off campus,” Shapiro said. “I don’t accept the fact that just because you’re a college student, you don’t enjoy the same rights and legal protection that others do.”

After Djannie and Creehan offered extensive tips for student tenants and explained the process of filing a complaint, the trio opened the floor to the audience.

Shapiro’s team explained the tips outlined in this pamphlet, which was available during Wednesday’s event.

They answered questions regarding how to handle a belligerent upstairs neighbor (go to your landlord first, if the problem continues, file a complaint), how to contact the office, and whether there were laws against landlords collecting their tenants data through virtual key systems (there aren’t), among other topics.

Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins, also in attendance, noted that establishing rent control in the Borough was not likely. He also said that local developers are required to designate 10% of the units of each property as affordable housing in response to several student affordability-related questions.

“I think we have a student debt crisis and a college affordability crisis in this country,” Shapiro added, noting that his office was working to address the issue and win some students loan forgiveness.

After the event, Shapiro discussed the pending lawsuits against ARPM and Legacy Realty.

“We allege that they took advantage of students, and my job is to protect all Pennsylvanians, including college students right here in State College,” he said after he was asked about the companies’ disputes of his office’s claims. “At the end of the day, they’re going to pay these students what they’re owed.”

Shapiro said that his team would work on campus to help Penn State students remain informed when transitioning to off-campus housing.

“I think students should arm themselves with information and empower themselves in this process,” he said.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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