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Thursday November 30, 2000

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City's maintenance hotline a helpful tool

By The Wildcat Opinions Board

We have all caught a glimpse of the monster before. It might have appeared in different forms - traffic cops, long lines at city court, intrusive police, inconsistent trash pickup - but the case remains we have undoubtedly all had a run-in at some point with the scary, seemingly invincible monster. We are, of course, talking about the establishment, the man, the biggest slice of Government Cheese . . . the City of Tucson!

But, in the spirit of the Holidays - or maybe because they've seen the way of their ways in "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - city officials have given University of Arizona students and other Tucson residents an early present. A new hotline (791-5843) was recently established to give property renters an ally in the continuing battle between landlord and tenant. Now, student renters can call upon the "monster" to help them in the event that their property managers are not responding to requests for maintenance work.

Are all students inherently good and all landlords nothing more than penny-pinching, inconsiderate SOB's? Certainly not. But, the nature of the conflict is this: students want to pay $300 for a glass palace, and landlords act in the best financial interest of the property's owner. That is, after all, who they ultimately work for. Because of this tricky balancing act, landlords often put requests for necessary repairs in the same category as wish-list petitions. The result is a relationship often worse than that between the dog and the mailman.

But, what is lost here is the fact that students - or any renters, for that matter - have an undeniable right to live on property that meets the minimum standards set by the city's uniform housing code. And, while many landlords probably do their best to balance the needs of renters with those of their bosses (property owners), we think this new hotline is an excellent way to hold them accountable for their job as the middleman.

Is this new hotline going to solve all of the problems that renters face? While that would be ideal, it is not going to happen, for the same reasons that a staff of people counting votes in Florida could not arrive at an agreeable vote count for three weeks: mistakes happen. Similarly, every clogged toilet or loose doorknob is not going to be fixed overnight.

But, at least students have an ally. At least there is a place to turn to - in this case, three inspectors hired by the City of Tucson to examine properties and assist tenants with maintenance difficulties.

Tyler DeJarnette, a marketing senior living at Scotia Club Apartments, might still have to battle his leaky roof for a little while, but he is no longer alone. In the ongoing struggle between tenant and landlord, the monster has reared its head on the side of the students.

This editorial represents the collaborative stance of the Arizona Daily Wildcat Opinions Board.