New Program Designed For Student Tenants Bridges University and Community

A new collaborative program designed for student tenants is an example of the kinds of hands-on legal learning that UW Law provides.

For college students, housing is just one priority among many, which makes it easy to take the first apartment or dorm room that's offered with little planning. This decision, while convenient, can lead to trouble later on, including rental contract disputes and disagreements with landlords or roommates. Even if renting is a smooth ride for some time, such troubles can still crop up.

Fortunately, a new program is available to help student tenants out in such situations: the Student Tenant Education & Mediation, or STEM. STEM provides student tenant education and problem resolution assistance, including free mediation services for housing issues. In its efforts, STEM helps not just students, but property owners as well.

"We try and prevent trouble before it happens by helping student renters plan well and make good decisions," says Mitch, a UW Law School clinical instructor and STEM's faculty organizer. "And if problems do come up, we try to solve them by encouraging communication and providing facilitative, voluntary mediation. This approach helps all parties appreciate each other's concerns and explore creative options for resolving disputes early."

STEM has already seen some successes. Last fall, the organization had a table at the student housing fair and distributed hundreds of pieces of practical educational material, such as a list of questions students should consider--but often forget--when renting.

In February, the first housing mediation training program took place at the UW Law School. Attending were 29 UW law students and campus area property managers who will serve as volunteer mediators. And the program has already started receiving inquiries about their mediation services.

If you are shopping for a new apartment, then you should check out the STEM website at for important information to consider. If you are currently renting and have a housing problem with a roommate, a neighboring tenant, or your landlord, then you should call the STEM office at (608) 228-0090 for communication assistance and an opportunity to resolve the situation through free, voluntary mediation.

STEM is a collaborative project led by downtown Madison Alder Scott Resnick, the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin (AASCW), partnering with the UW Law School's Neighborhood Law Project, UW Legal Information Center and UW Visitor & Information Programs Campus Area Housing Services.

To learn more about UW Law School programs that offer students similar opportunities for legal learning, visit these sections of our website:

Submitted by UW Law News on June 7, 2011

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