Published November 08, 2013
For many college students, renting a house or apartment off campus brings a higher level of freedom, but it can also come with more responsibility and unexpected challenges and costs.
When it comes to finding a place to stay, Adam Leitman Bailey, a real estate attorney who draws up leases for apartment complexes across the country, says college students tend to only consider the basics during their search.
“They are thinking about if the space is clean and what the monthly rent is. They are not thinking about the eventual problems they may have.”
He says students leasing in apartment complexes should attempt to learn about their landlords and supers before moving in by reading online reviews and talking to current and former tenants. If a space is great, but management may not be tenant-friendly, he says college students better “be ready to do their own repairs.”
For college students considering moving out of campus housing, here are a few potential bumps in the road and how to handle them:
No.1: Roommate issues. If your name is on the lease, it’s unlikely you will be able to get out of your commitment without facing a significant financial penalty--even if you have issues with your roommates or the space.
“Sometimes people move in, find out they hate their roommates or have to move to another city for a job or opportunity,” Leitman Bailey says. “You usually are not off the hook unless you find a replacement. If you do, be sure you get it in writing.”
No. 2: Repairs. In nearly every state, laws tend to lean in tenants’ favor, says Leitman Bailey, so students should make sure they know their rights when it comes apartment requirements, repairs and billing issues.
“Landlords are required to make all repairs and provide you with a habitable home,” he says. “If you are not getting things done: if you have rodents or a doorbell is not working, small claims court is very inexpensive and it may be worth it for you to take them there.”
No. 3: Security deposits. Many landlords don’t give back security deposits, Leitman Bailey cautions. To get your money back, make sure to read the lease terms and meet all the conditions like filling in holes in the wall, re-painting or cleaning.
“Take pictures and video too, hold up a newspaper to show the dates, so you have proof this happened,” he says. “So if you have to sue in small claims court, you can.”
No. 4: Consider a roommate contract. This can help resolve potential issues that could crop up including guarantor issues, boyfriends or girlfriends that move in unexpectedly, and more.
No. 5: Negotiate your lease. Before signing the dotted line, Leitman Bailey recommends trying to negotiate certain clauses to your advantage.
For example, some landlords will let you have a “right to terminate your lease with 90 days notice” stipulation.