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Heading to College? Tips for First-Time Renters - ThinkstockPhotos-474046452-c.jpg

Heading to college? Tips for first-time renters

Summer jobs are ending, family vacations are winding down, and the school year is about to begin. It’s time to think about where your college student is going to live this year. Tired of the dorms? If you or your child is renting an apartment off campus for the first time, here are some important tips for first-time college renters:

(1) Put everything in writing.

Landlords and tenants usually sign a contract called a lease. This agreement will have terms such as (1) duration of the tenancy, (2) the day rent is due and the penalty for failing to pay rent or being late with the rent, (3) responsibilities of the landlord, (4) warranties, and (5) information about the apartment’s policies around smoking, pets, and installation of furniture.

Paying rent for the first time can be intimidating, so walk through your lease with a trusted friend or family member.

If you’re using loans as evidence of income, landlords will generally require a co-signor or a guarantor on the lease. A c-osignor is often a family member or friend who has a strong credit history and a steady current income. In many apartments, the landlords prefer co-signors who earn a significant amount of money relative to the cost of the monthly rent. This is because if the tenant fails to make a payment, the landlord will come after the co-signor for payment.

As a tip for parents who may help their college student pay the rent, make sure that both you and your child have a physical copy of the lease agreement and a scanned copy on your email or in cloud storage. And if you are going to be responsible for any payments for your child or have co-signed on the lease, consider creating a separate agreement with your child about repayment plans in the event that you become responsible for the lease.

This is also a good opportunity to determine what the term of the lease is and what happens at the end of the lease term with your deposit and the process for getting your deposit back.

(2)    Roommates

If you plan on having roommates, it’s a good idea to think about your preferences before you agree to live with a stranger. Do you like staying up late or getting up early? How important is a clean bathroom? Do you mind listening to country music?

Once you pick your roommates, it’s a good idea to have a sit down at the beginning of the year to lay out ground rules about such things as paying rent, cleaning, parking, expenses, guests, and laundry. This is a good time to talk about how long each person expects to live in the apartment and what the policy is for subleasing or taking over a room.

Living with others can be challenging and establishing a process to resolve disputes, like group meetings or talking to each other face to face, can prevent future complications.

Cohabitation is often similar to a romantic relationship and can require compromise from both sides. Just remember that almost everyone has had a roommate and has survived to tell the tale, and that almost any problem can be resolved!

Head on over to our Tenants Legal Center to learn more about your rights and create roommate agreements to prevent future disputes.

(3)     Renters Insurance

Look to see whether your apartment requires renters insurance. Renters insurance is often very cheap and can be added to existing car insurance policies. Renters insurance can be a great safeguard in the event of a property crime or a fire. Be sure to read the policy to understand the deductible and what property items are covered.

(4)     Make a list of important numbers

Keep a list of important numbers on the fridge like (1) your landlord, (2) locksmith, and (3) your roommate’s emergency contacts.

Living in an apartment without a parent around to fix a broken faucet or finicky radiator can be overwhelming, but your landlord is there to help. Whenever there is an issue with an appliance, notify your landlord and ask to have it repaired.

(5)     Neighbors

Having great neighbors can make all the difference and having difficult neighbors can result in a lot of aggravation. Before you move into an apartment, look on Yelp and Google to see if there are any reviews about the apartment.

It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with your neighbors so that in the event of a dispute over a noisy party they call you before they call the police. You may also find that neighbors already know good spots to eat and shop in the area.

Introduce yourself to your neighbors and get to know them. A little kindness before the start of school goes a long way towards amicably resolving future disputes.

Amanda Gordon, Esq.

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