Course will teach people how to be good tenants
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | March 20,2014
BENNINGTON — A group addressing housing issues and poverty in Bennington will be starting a five-part course March 27 to help people understand how they can be successful at renting a place to live, even if they’ve had problems in the past that affect their credit.
After the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Community Visit in 2012, there were several challenges identified as priorities by community participants. The members of the poverty group have been working on several actions that fall under their purview, including housing for low-income residents.
One of those actions is Renting 101, a course designed to help people find homes of their own, organized by members of the housing subcommittee, Denise Main, Joy Kitchell, Dianna Leazer and Maryann St. John. Kitchell said the expected audience would be people who are new to renting who may be attempting to move on from transitional housing or have struggled to maintain an apartment.
At the first session on March 27, Leazer will lead a discussion on sound financial management, budgeting, prioritizing, credit and related issues. Leazer said it will be “a little bit packed with information,” but the topic was chosen to lead the course because it’s the foundation needed on which future renters can build their plans.
Future class topics will include searching for housing and what to look for in an apartment; the responsibilities the tenant must meet; establishing and maintaining good communication with the landlord; and successfully and responsibly `ending the relationship when the tenancy is at an end.
Professionals who will be joining the class include a realtor, a Vermont Legal Aid lawyer and a mediator. Local landlords will also be attending the final two classes.
Main said her committee recognized the need for a course such as Renting 101 after meeting with a small group of local landlords who were asked what they would need to be able to rent to “challenging” tenants. For instance, one landlord said he wouldn’t rent to someone who didn’t have a checking account.
The members of Main’s committee also work in various agencies that provide human services. One of the challenges those agencies face is finding housing for their clients, and the course can make younger people or people with a troubled past more appealing to a landlord because it will teach them how to be better tenants.
The organizers of the course have connections with agencies such as BROC and the Sunrise Family Resource Center. Therefore, word has gone out to refer community members who might benefit from Renting 101, but Main and others said there is still room for other area residents who believe they would benefit from participating.
“We really hope this will be an ongoing program and a tool and a resource that folks who have the most difficulty can use to rebuild maybe a not-so-great past. Even going forward, maybe someone who just needs these skills, needs a refresher, needs to learn them at all, we hope that it really is a good tool that people use,” Leazer said.
Kitchell said she hopes participants will come out of the course “empowered” to take ownership over maintaining their own home.
The class size is being restricted to maintain interaction between the committee members and the participants.
The initial class meeting is from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. March 27 at the Second Congregational Church. There is no charge, but registration, through contact with Main by phone at 442-6934 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org, is required.