Aug 242003
Authors: James Baetke

With the onslaught of students scrambling to find off-campus housing, some are finding themselves in unfamiliar situations of signing leases, forking over security deposits and finding that perfect place to live in what many are calling a “renters market.”

“It’s important for students to read and understand the lease,” said Valerie McIntyre, administrative office manager for CSU’s Student Legal Services. “We strongly suggest that students bring in their lease ahead of time.”

Bringing the lease to Student Legal Services prior to signing it allows professional faculty to review the document.

In addition to understanding lease agreements, new tenants may also want to be aware of any city ordinances that may exist. Does the neighborhood have specific parking regulations? Does the yard need maintaining? Do the walks need shoveling in the winter?

With two full-time attorneys on staff, McIntyre said Student Legal Services is a resource for students to prevent problems in their residence while it also serves as a place for students to seek legal help if a conflict occurs. For example, if a student lands in small claims court or needs to know their rights as a tenant, they may turn to the service for free assistance.

Although Student Legal Services offers other legal help to any full-fee paying student with six or more credits, McIntyre said her office saw around 750 students last year related to housing issues of the total 1,328 seeking legal help.

For those looking for roommates, apartments, sublets or any other type of off-campus housing, Jeannie Ortega of Off-Campus Student Services may be able to help.

Ortega said there are still plenty of rental opportunities in Fort Collins.

“Vacancy is really high. There’s more supply than demand,” Ortega said, pointing out that over 700 residences are on her list of vacancies with a free month’s rent, amazing amenities and free utilities as incentives to moving in.

According to a report from the Colorado Division of Housing, the apartment vacancy rate in the Fort Collins/Loveland area has spiked at least a five-year high at 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2003.

The amount of rent in the area has slightly declined with the vacancy rate by about 4 percent, according to a rental analysis by Off Campus Student Services. A standard two-bedroom apartment runs about $720.

The Colorado Division of Housing report and Ortega mirror the same beliefs in why the vacancy rates are so high: multi-family units have become more readily available, parents are buying homes and letting their children landlord them to other students and there are some real-estate incentives that give home owners subsidy on the interest rates to be put toward their children’s college tuition.

So as these students take on their first renting experience off campus, Ortega said there are always going to be problems that arise with landlord-tenant relationships.

If preventive measures such as pre-viewing the lease with attorneys or understanding ordinances within the city don’t avoid problems, a troubled tenant can turn to the Fort Collins Community Mediation Service, which offers free non-legal mediations.

Jenny Kidd is the Community Mediation Program Manager and said Fort Collins is witnessing a renter’s market even more so than in recent years. According to Kidd, over 50 percent of the homes in Fort Collins are rentable.

Mediating a dispute is a “much more appealing option,” Kidd said. Seeing issues ranging from rent-skipping roommates to so-called slum lords mistreating tenants, Kidd said mediating is a quick, penniless, and highly successful type of service.

I also have two pieces of info. for a stats box. I’m not too sure we can use a photo for this article but if you want one I can brainstorm on the possibilities. The 2 info. things I have are: (1) Apt. Vacancy Rates for FTC/Loveland 95-2003 or (2) Apt. Rental Rates in dollars over time 99-2003.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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