For many students moving off of campus is a dream come true, but
some don’t know about the multiple complications that can come with
the serious matter of signing a lease.
With a 13 percent vacancy rate in Fort Collins, landlords and
real estate companies are more than competitive to get students to
sign a lease with them. This means students have the upper hand,
are able to bargain down their rent and have other options in
leases before they sign them.
“You’re stuck with the agreement that you signed with the
landlord,” said Kevin Daley, director of CSU Student Legal
Daley recommends going over many issues before putting your John
Hancock down on a new lease. Among many important issues when
living with roommates are agreements concerning food, utilities,
pets, overnight guests, parties, cleaning and many other aspects of
“There are uncomfortable issues, but they’re a lot easier to get
out of the way at the beginning of the tenancy,” Daley said.
Daley said he recommended bringing a lease to a legal advisor to
be reviewed before signing it. Student Legal Services provides such
a service for free to full-time CSU students.
If you’re locked into a lease, don’t get loaded:
When signing a lease with friends, it’s best to know the people
very well prior to living with them, Daley said.
He also added that one important thing to note when signing a
lease is whether the contract mentions “joint and several
liability.” This means that all parties signing the contract will
be responsible for the actions of everyone living in the house or
apartment. In short terms, Dave, Steve and Mike are all paying for
the hole that John put in the wall.
“Joint and several liability can be the bane of your existence,”
If, and when a roommate fails to pay rent, repercussions will
fall on each party that signed the lease. If a student has a parent
sign on their “parental guarantor form” when signing a lease, and
that lease includes joint and several liability, not only will the
student be responsible for a missed rent payment/fines or damage by
a roommate, but also the parents of that student will be
This can lead to frustration and worse, ruined credit ratings
and legal action.
“It’s cold water in the face,” Daley said.
In some cases students can live together in the same house or
apartment and still sign separate leases, Daley said. These
self-leases are safer, in case something happens down the road.
This way, a tenant is only responsible for his or her own
Also, before living in an apartment or house, there are
necessary steps to take to ensure students get out of their lease
without any blemishes to pocketbooks or credit ratings.
Daley suggests going through the building and noting everything
wrong, no matter how small, including doors that don’t close,
missing window screens, carpet stains, wall scratches, broken light
fixtures and anything that could be charged to the tenant later.
This will alleviate headaches and disagreements at the end of the
Pets = Problems:
Landlords usually don’t look at pets in a good way and many
times a lease can be affected drastically by the presence of a
“Pets can destroy a security deposit at the snap of a finger,”
said Daley, who has seen tenants be fined and have their pet blamed
for damages that were or were not caused by the animal.
Know what you’re paying for:
In many leases, a clause is present that requires the tenant to
pay for all of the landlord’s legal fees in the case that a
contract is in dispute and put through legal litigation (going to
Not only is this a one-sided battle when a problem arises, but
the tenant always looses, even if they are in the right, because
they are paying the landlords lawyer to sue them, according to
Student Legal Services is a free service made available by
student fees and is open to all full-time CSU students. This
service can assist students in reviewing a lease, dealing with
problems after a lease is signed and many other important
Located in the Lory Student Center, office hours are 8 a.m. to 5
p.m., Monday through Friday. An appointment is required to talk to
Daley strongly recommends getting a lease reviewed before
signing it. Student Legal Services’ Web site, www.sls.colostate.edu
has examples of local leases that have been reviewed and critiqued
by attorneys at Student Legal Services.
“Students lack experience, it’s better to be prepared,” Daley
1. Make sure you read the entire contract and understand every
term. Watch for terms like “joint and several liability” and
mention of how legal fees will be paid.
2. Have your lease reviewed by a lawyer, like those at Student
Legal Services, who will review a lease for free.
3. Talk to current residents in the complex, or who have the
same landlord to get their take on the pros and cons of the living