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Panel gives tips on landlord-tenant relationships

The Social Alliance for a Vibrant Economy, SAVE, hosted the forum about the current condition of rental properties in Bellingham area on Wednesday, May 6. SAVE is a relatively new non-profit organization founded about a year ago. SAVE focuses on helping the average citizens to have an economical financial literacy, SAVE president Kris Halterman said. She said they found out the tightness of the rental market has been an issue, so they decided to open this forum for the community, landlords and people who rent in Bellingham. The panel consisted of people with three different perspectives on the issues: Hans Erchinger-Davis, local private residence landlord in Bellingham area; David Henken, staff attorney for law advocates; and Doug Wight, property management specialist. All of their presentations focused on tips to keep smooth relationship between landlords and tenants, from both sides. Erchinger-Davis talked about what makes good tenants for landlords based on his experience as a private landlord. He said it is necessary to be a good tenants, including getting along with neighbors and causing no troubles, in order to keep smooth relationship between landlords and tenants. Henken also provided some tips for tenants, from his perspective as an attorney who helps tenants struggling with their landlords. He mentioned about some sources, Revised Code of Washington and the law library in Whatcom County, to get deep understanding of the responsibilities as both tenants and landlords. He said tenants should perceive the rental contract as a sort of business contract, and that might help people to understand their obligations and rights. By contrast, Wight talked about, in particular for landlords, how the rental market works as an investor and property manager and how to maintain good communication between landlords and tenants. In the quick question-and-answer session at the end of the forum, many participants enthusiastically threw questions to panelists, including their concerns about the future of the rental market. Cristi Coy, a private landlord, said, “For tenants, [the forum] was probably helpful.” Even though she learned a lot about the issue through 27 years of her own experience as a landlord, the forum still gave her a sense of the issue from the consumer standpoint, she said. Halterman said they are hoping to offer the same kind of forum at Western this coming fall because a large number of students rent apartments. “They are usually new renters, and they don’t have any ideas what is going on and what to expect,” she said. “We can’t just complain it each other.” “We need to actually talk to one another to get a solution,” Halterman said.

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