So your student found an off-campus apartment for next year. And now it’s time to execute the lease, which is strictly binding, and pay the deposit, which can be non-refundable. Guide her to do certain things before signing her name and turning over her money.
Tell her to read the lease thoroughly. This is a boring task, but she needs to understand everything in it. If she doesn’t, have her contact you, the local tenants association, or even an attorney for help.
She should zero in on key leasing terms and conditions. For example, when could her rent be increased, how does she get her deposit back, under what circumstances could she be required to vacate?
Advise your student to try to negotiate provisions out of the lease that’d give the landlord or property manager the right to:
- Keep part or all of her security deposit for moving out early or normal cleaning and upgrades once she’s gone;
- Charge her to repair or replace what she doesn’t break; or arbitrarily extend required periods for fixing or replacing things;
- Enter her apartment without prior notice; and
- Confiscate her property, unless she leaves it behind after moving out.
Coach her to check out the actual unit she plans to rent, if possible. It may be damaged or neglected in ways that’ll never show up in the model unit, and she’ll have to accept those deficiencies or fight with her landlord to get them fixed.
Tell her to conduct all business about her residence in writing. She needs dated receipts or cancelled checks on all payments she makes, written commitments about how long repairs will take, and responses to all landlord notices in writing. Have her keep copies in her records in case her property’s management tries to rip her off.
Anything the landlord or his agent promises verbally that runs counter to the lease is a warning sign. She’s may be dealing with an unscrupulous character, so she should probably look for another place.
It’s important for your student to consult current residents or the local tenants organization about landlord/management’s record in living up to their responsibilities. Lease problems today’s tenants are experiencing are lease problems she’ll likely experience, too.
Finally, suggest she review local codes and ordinances on landlord/tenant responsibilities — who does inside and outside maintenance, how are landlord-tenant disputes settled, and so on? She can probably find these rules at public libraries or city offices and websites.
Yes. College is expensive. But if you’re trying to identify ways to make it less costly, do a no-cost consultation with College Affordability Solutions by calling (512) 366-5354 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.