Spring is the time of year when many college students begin searching for a place to rent for the next school year. For many students, this can be the first substantial contractual relationship that she or he enters into. Lease or rental agreements are contracts between the lessee (tenant) to pay the lessor (landlord) for the use of a property (housing for the agreed time period). The agreements are likely to include provisions indicating how many people can live in the unit, monthly payment price, and the move in/move out dates. Some agreements even specify that tenants are subject to eviction if there is substantial damage to the unit or drugs/alcohol found in the unit.
Recently, the University of Colorado-Boulder Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations sent out information on renting basics, which can be applicable to any person searching for a rental! And universities are not the only organizations providing great information to future renters. After a quick online search, tons of great sources were available to discuss the basics of renting procedures. Below, this post has some of the important lease provisions, terms, and considerations that different housing organizations have provided!
Provisions (from the CU Boulder’s Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations)
- Joint and Several Liability – This is a very common provision that makes you responsible for paying your roommates’ rent if they don’t pay. Make sure your roommates are committed, and that everyone in the house signs a roommate agreement.
- Please note: Roommate agreements are legally binding.
- Four Magic Words – Some lease provisions may impose an unlawful penalty for specific conduct or require the tenant to give up certain rights. Look for words such as “fine”, “penalty”, “forfeit” or “forfeiture”, and “waive” or “waiver”. These should immediately raise a red flag and prompt you to call Off-Campus Housing for further advice.
- Rent/Utilities – Make sure the lease says what your rent will be and how much utilities are. Check for late fees and other “hidden” costs, like “administrative” fees.
- Repair/Maintenance – Your lease should contain a provision that says the landlord is responsible for paying for any repairs unless the repairs are for damage caused by you or your guests. The repair provision should also require that the landlord make any necessary repairs within a specific time period (7-10 days).
- Privacy – Most leases will allow a landlord to come into your place to make repairs or for periodic inspections. Make sure your lease requires your landlord to give you 24-notice before coming into your home or, at the very least, only enter your place “at reasonable times upon reasonable notice”.
Terms (from Texas Apartment Association)
- Security deposit – Money you pay when the lease is signed to help offset the cost of any lease violation charges or property damages to the property while you are living there.
- Subletting – An agreement made by a resident and another person, without permission of the property owner, for the other person to rent all or a portion of the property from the resident. Subletting is not lawful without express permission from the owners.
Other general considerations (from Texas Apartment Association)
- When is the rent due, who do you pay it to, and where?
- Are there late charges if you don’t pay the rent on time? How much are they, and when do they first apply?
- What restrictions, if any, will affect your security deposit refund?
- What are the property owner’s obligations to make needed repairs? A requirement for diligence is common.
- How should you request repairs? You may be asked or required to make all repair requests in writing. Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to put all requests in writing.
- What does the rent include? Any furniture? Utilities? Parking? Amenities?
Remember, once you sign a lease, it’s almost always too late to ask questions or change a provision.
For those students out there, many universities have attorneys that will look over your lease agreements for free. Take advantage of that service to educate yourself on renting, leasing, and contracting basics! Also, be sure to check laws and regulations for your particular state.