Note: This blog was submitted to Student Caffé by Anthony Gilbert. We would like to thank him for his submission and credit him as the author of this blog post.
It can be exciting to live on your own in your very first apartment. However, it is important to know what to look for and discuss before signing a lease agreement.
Understand how to review a lease agreement to avoid potential headaches.
Landlords appreciate when tenants pay their rent on time. As you read over the terms of the lease, make sure it is clear how much the rent will be and when rent is due. Mark this on your calendar or in your phone to make it easier to remember.
If you are leasing with roommates, the person signing the lease is ultimately responsible for making the rent payment. If a roommate leaves unexpectedly, the other tenants are responsible for paying the rent as agreed upon. However, the person who has signed the lease and any cosigner(s) will ultimately be held responsible should payments not be made. The price of rent may or may not include electricity, cable, or other utilities. It is important to take that into consideration when you sign the lease agreement. Budget accordingly.
As student tenants may be more likely to damage property, landlords often expect a higher security deposit to cover the cost of any potential damage. However, property damage is still the responsibility of a college student signer. Excessive property damage may also result in eviction.
In college towns, students may only want to live near campus during the school year. As such, some property owners offer two options to college students: a full-year lease and an August-May lease. You may get a deal if you sign a full-year lease. Some landlords may also allow tenants to sublease their apartment in the summer or over holidays to make extra money, but the majority of landlords will not. If this is something you would like to do, read the terms of your lease carefully and have an agreement with the landlord or property manager put into writing. Choose a lease agreement that best suits your residential needs.
Rules About Repairs
Repairs such as a leaky faucet or a plumbing issue are generally handled by the property owner. Issues involving normal wear and tear of the property (e.g., a door handle falling off of an old door) can generally be expected to be repaired by a property owner or property manager as well. However, when property damage by a tenant or guest requires immediate repairs, this is the responsibility of the tenant. Read over the terms and conditions of the lease agreement and ask how repairs are generally made and what tools are necessary to make those repairs.
The safest route for new tenants is to:
- Have everything in writing.
- Take pictures before moving into the apartment.
- Take pictures after leaving the apartment.
Pictures can help demonstrate your care of the property over time if you can prove the condition of the property both when it was given to you and when you left. This will help ensure the return of your security deposit. In many cases, when you make a security deposit, it will also include the final month's rent. This portion will not be returned if you plan on living out your last month in the apartment, and is unlikely to be returned should you leave early. Any late fees may also reduce the amount of the security deposit returned to you by your landlord.
Carefully read over the terms and conditions of a lease before signing. Can you expect to pay extra if rent is paid late? Is there a strict party policy? There may be a restriction on the number of guests you can have at one time, or penalties for noise and disruptive conduct. Read over the lease for any clauses that may allow for eviction after a set number of infractions.
It can be difficult to find an apartment that allows pets. It is often more expensive to rent with an animal, due to a combination of pet deposits, pet rent, and/or cleaning fees. Often, there are weight and breed restrictions on the animals permitted in rental units. If you are thinking of renting with a pet, talk to the property manager and find out their policy before signing a lease. If signing a short-term lease, it may be easier (and cheaper) to let your pet stay at home with your parents.
Property managers and landlords have the right to expect that the person signing the lease will be held responsible for any damages to the property. Furthermore, they may take additional precautions before renting to college students to avoid common issues. For students with minimal income stability, a potential landlord or property manager may expect a parent with a steady income stream to cosign the lease agreement. This makes both you and your parents responsible for any issues that may trigger a penalty or break the terms of the lease. If your parent is cosigning, it's important that you also talk to them about their expectations from you. Will you pay them rent and they pay the landlord? Are you responsible for everything unless there's an emergency?
To make a long story short, it is important to maintain an open dialogue with your potential landlord or property manager and to read the terms of the lease very carefully before making any legal decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request that everything is put into writing. Happy apartment hunting!