Living off campus is a luxury for some students. No rules, no
quiet hours and no sharing a bathroom with 30 other people.
But for others, it can mean frustration – misunderstanding of
property management companies and the contracts they are signing
that bind them to certain responsibilities.
Kevin Daley, director of Student Legal Services, said students
often enter a lease without reviewing the terms or fully
understanding what they are signing.
“They don’t understand what they are agreeing to because this is
the first contract they are entering into,” he said. “They’re not
looking down the line a year from now to what could happen.”
When renters sign a contract with a landlord, they are
committing themselves to being responsible for the property. To
ensure the renter will not completely ruin the property, most
landlords require a security deposit to be paid before the students
move into the house. The security deposit guarantees the landlord
reimbursement money if the property is damaged and needs to be
repaired when the renter moves out.
Cindy Thompson, the property manager at Housing Solutions
Property Management in Fort Collins, said that when renters do not
receive their full amount in security deposits, there is usually a
good reason for the charges.
“Any damages resulting from tenant neglect can be charged,” she
said. “If we need to re-carpet for some reason, or the walls are
completely trashed, it can all add up quickly. If someone really
ruins the property then it can exceed the amount on the security
Thompson added that most renters receive most of their security
deposit at their lease’s conclusion.
“The majority of tenants get their security deposits back; it’s
the unusual one percent who don’t get some or all of the deposit
back,” she said.
Still, Student Legal Services sees many students who have
problems with renting from property management companies. Last
year, 486 students enlisted the help of the attorneys in the Lory
Student Center for housing problems alone.
“An overwhelming majority is for housing issues. Many of those
deal with security deposits,” Daley said.
Renters can sign a lease agreeing to do almost anything, Daley
“Some of the leases out there will have the tenant leave the
premises in better condition than when they received them” he
Amy Perrino, a senior psychology major, rented a house through
one of the property management companies in Fort Collins last year.
She paid $1,200 toward a security deposit and only received about
half the money at the end of her lease. She felt she was unfairly
charged for repairs to the property, including a lock change.
Perrino and her roommates filed a complaint about the
“We didn’t leave the house any worse than when we got there,”
Six months later, after filing a complaint and writing a letter
to the property management company, Perrino and her roommates
received a check for about 10 percent more of their security
deposit money. She and her roommates have since decided to rent
straight through a landlord.
Renters have been charged for problems that range from a broken
window screen or stained carpets to the removal of furniture and
personal items the renter neglected to take with them when moving
Tim Moody, a senior civil engineer major, had money deducted
from his security deposit when he neglected to take care of the
lawn around his property.
“We didn’t water our lawn, which I thought was stupid – we were
in a drought,” he said.
Moody and his roommates decided not to argue their security
deposit charges because their move-in checklist was not filled in
very carefully, providing no substantial evidence to show they were
not responsible for the damages.
According to Student Legal Services, the move-in checklist is an
essential part of getting money back from a security deposit.
“The best thing for students to do is take pictures or a video
camera when they move in, make a detailed check-in report and have
their own copy, don’t give the only copy to the landlord, you might
not ever see it again,” Daley said.
There are ways renters can get back all of their money from the
According to the Security Deposit Statute, the landlord has up
to 60 days from the termination of the lease to the return of the
security deposit, an itemized list of deductions or a demand for
money. If the landlord does not send a letter within 60 days, the
landlord forfeits any right they may have had to keep any portion
of the security deposit.
“It’s more common than you think,” Daley said. “They manage a
lot of properties and mistakes happen.”
If renters feel their money has been unfairly withheld, they can
demand their security deposit money in a seven-day letter.
“The statue calls for the seven-day demand letter to give the
landlord one last chance to send some of the money or all of the
money back to the (renter) before going to court,” Daley said.
Not every housing contract will result in problems needing to be
solved in court, but students should be aware of what could
possibly happen when signing their lease.
“We make a huge effort in trying to educate students about their
rights, their responsibilities and about what they can do to
protect themselves,” Daley said.
Want to get your security deposit
- -Be as detailed as possible in your check-in sheets
- -Before moving in, photograph the entire unit, paying close
attention to damaged areas. Use a video camera if possible.
- -Have someone other than a roommate inspect the unit before you
move in. Have the same person inspect it when you move out.
- -Try to get your landlord to go through and sign a check out
- -Take detailed pictures when you move out of the unit.
From: Student Legal Services