Anxious renters are already signing leases for next fall, and student legal services expects that many quick-to-sign students will soon be scrambling to free themselves from the contract terms they have locked themselves into.
Despite enthralling incentives like a $500 gift card or waived fee applications within a short time period, Kathleen Harward, a lawyer for Student Legal Services, said lease agreements are not something to rush into, especially if it’s the incentives pressuring you to be bound in ink.
“You sign a year lease and you’re liable, no matter how sympathetic your story might be later,” Harward said. “The hard truth is that there is no way to break a lease without paying consequences. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never moved into the place.”
Harward points out how quickly lives can change for students. If something doesn’t work out between roommates or a student’s circumstances change, the lease will stand and expenses will be inescapable.
“You have to protect yourself,” she said. “The risk of signing this early is that your circumstances change between now and August.”
Harward sees no reason to rush when vacancy rates are at 9.2 percent in northwest Fort Collins and 20 percent for apartment complexes near campus, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.
Compulsively signing a lease could be a significant fault when considering all the details that should be reviewed when reading the lease.
Liabilities such as maintenance, the security deposit, utility exclusions or inclusions and possible move-out costs are just a few details students need to be keen of.
Kelsi Mees, a freshman open-option major seeking health and exercise science, signed her lease for next fall at the end of January.
Incentives are what grabbed her attention and left her running to Student Legal Services to review the lease, so she could sign up by the deadline.
Mees was lucky in squeezing in an appointment when she walked into SLS.
She admits she could have seen herself signing the lease anyway, had she not read through it and been advised by professionals.
“I would want to say I wouldn’t sign it but I don’t know. I probably would’ve signed it even if I couldn’t get into SLS,” Mees said.
Since SLS was able to look at the lease in detail, Mees said she was able to evade potential nightmares by making an addendum with alterations to the lease.
“We signed a different lease because there were certain parts of the lease we didn’t like,” Mees said.
Mees changed the lease’s term giving Campus Crossing the right to switch around roommates or move them to a different apartment. Another amendment was made to ensure privacy.
Unannounced entry from campus administration would only be permissible with reasonable cause, otherwise 24-hour notice is necessary.
Mees says despite the nerves, she is now satisfied with the lease and relieved to have taken precautionary steps before signing anything.
“The message is simple. Take your time. Don’t be lured into a hasty deal because of a discount or prize,” Harward said.
“Understand every word of your lease before you sign it. Landlords write leases to protect themselves, not you.”
Senior reporter Kaeli West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org