First-time renters have a multitude of resources available to assist them before and after signing a lease.
“Because of students’ lack of experience in renting, they find themselves in positions they feel are unfair,” said Kevin Daley, director of Student Legal Services in the Lory Student Center.
Daley said there are few documented cases of students actually breaking their leases legally. However, he urges any student who feels their lease may be faulty to speak with an attorney.
“Students have to realize that when they enter into a contract, most often they will be held to the terms of the lease,” Daley said.
There are multiple resources available to student tenants who seek better treatment from their neighbors or landlords. The Neighborhood Resource Office deals with neighborhood conflicts and offers mediation to avoid police action.
Ginny Sawyer, a neighborhood administer, said if all parties involved willingly enter into mediation, the parties agree on a contract. Once the contract is signed, it is legally binding. With mediation, students get to decide what will be workable in the situation instead of a judge dictating what recourse is necessary.
Sawyer said typically, complaints are about parking, barking dogs and noise issues. The Neighborhood Resource Office handles any sort of neighborhood dispute, including problems with landlords.
However, in tenant and landlord mediation, she said she couldn’t discuss the lease. Students with lease problems should consult Student Legal Services, Sawyer said.
Students should introduce themselves to their neighbors and exchange phone numbers if possible. Exchanging numbers is not only friendly but can help to ensure safety, Sawyer said.
The Building and Zoning Department of Fort Collins is another resource available to tenants. If a renter feels their home violates safety standards, Mike Gebo, codes and inspections administer, can inspect the premise.
One red flag students should look for in their house or apartment is the presence of small windows in bedrooms, Gebo said.
“You have to feel comfortable being able to climb out the window in the event of fire,” he said.
In addition, if students do not have control over the thermostat, they should not rent the property, Gebo said.
Rarely do landlords ignore violation notices from the Building and Zoning Department.
“Any corrections I order, get done,” Gebo said.
Gebo emphasized his services should be a last resort and he is no way able to help tenants break leases.
Also, smoke alarms should be in each bedroom and in main areas of each floor. If Gebo visits a house lacking smoke alarms, he will provide them. The Poudre Valley Fire Authority can also provide fire alarms. Money should not be the reason a house lacks fire alarms, he said.
When shopping for a property management company to assist tenants in finding a house, Beverly Perina, owner of the Armadillo Property Management, offered a few tips.
Perina said word of mouth is the best way to find out a company’s reputation and if they are reliable.
She also advised tenants should not rely on pictures alone to tell the damage or wear and tear their house has taken. Perina said everything, including maintenance orders, should be in writing.
Surfing the Internet and attending the CSU housing fair is the best way to find an appropriate landlord or property management company.
Daley of Student Legal Services said prior to moving into a new place, students should get in writing what needs to be repaired and by what date. His offices provide ample literature on items students should try to renegotiate if possible.
When paying rent, tenants should always pay in person when possible and obtain a receipt that indicates their balance as being paid in full, Daley said.
He said the best thing students can do is “always read the lease before signing and know your roommates and try to reach an understanding of how the house should be.”
Student Legal Services recently moved to Room 182 Lory Student Center, just north of the bookstore on the first floor.
Jenny Meadows, Neighborhood Resource Office
Building and Zoning Department
Off-campus Student Services