Mar 252007
Authors: Kathleen Harward Director of Student Legal Services

When I was twelve and my sister thirteen, we invited all similar-aged babysitters in our small town to a meeting at the library. Our goal was to convince our fellow babysitters to insist on a getting 75 cents per hour instead of the going rate of 50 cents. (You’re right, it wasn’t in this century!)

Now, I’m at it again! With this column, Student Legal Services officially, hereby launches a movement to change the balance of power between tenants and landlords!

If you are a tenant, you are who we want. Don’t worry – you don’t have to come to any meetings and you certainly don’t have to carry signs or chant slogans.

All you have to do is insist on a fair lease when you next sign one. We show you exactly how to do this. In fact, you can learn all you need to know in about 30 minutes, on your own. You simply go to our website and walk through our “Step-by-Step Lease Kit.” Go to:

The problem is that landlords have gotten used to tenants signing landlord leases without question. Most of these are extremely one-sided. Most contain all sorts of provisions that are directly against your interest (such as, the landlord is never liable for any damage to you or your belongings even if the damage is caused by the landlord). Many contain clauses that are in violation of Colorado law (such as, if you fail to give 30 days notice before the end of the term, you forfeit your entire security deposit).

You don’t have to accept a landlord lease as-is. You should negotiate! Don’t be deterred by landlords who tell you their leases are non-negotiable. If a significant number of you ask for the same fair changes, only the most stubborn landlords will refuse you. If a landlord truly won’t negotiate, your choice is to find another one or go ahead and sign. At the least, you won’t be signing naively. You’ll know where the potential problems lie. Right now the vacancy rate is over eight percent. That means landlords are competing for you, and you have power.

Our online lease kit contains an inventive tool – a “Lease Addendum” that fixes the dozen worst problems we commonly see in landlord leases. The Addendum, which is simply an “addition” to the lease that you and the landlord sign, clearly states in bold print that the Addendum controls in the event it conflicts with language in the landlord lease. This saves you from the overwhelming task of trying to edit, line-by-line, all the bad language in a landlord lease.

A lease is a multi-thousand dollar contract. Don’t sign one blindly. We’ve done the “due diligence” work for you and placed the answers and solutions on our website in a format you can breeze through (check out our clipart!).

Spread the word! The more of you presenting the Lease Addendum, the more landlords there will be who are willing to adopt it. You can change the balance of power with landlords!

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