Lease signing

Mar 232004
Authors: Daniel Hallford

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.

Student Advantages:

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

roommate life.

“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,”

Daley said.

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

a lawyer.

Daley strongly recommends getting a lease reviewed before

signing it. Student Legal Services’ Web site,

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


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