Dec 092007
 
Authors: Amy Walker

If you’ll be out of town over the holiday break and you’re a renter, make sure you have your lease obligations covered or it could be a less-than-happy New Year.

Every lease assigns certain responsibilities solely to tenant. Do you know what yours are?

If you don’t, finding out should be on the top of your to-do list. Some of them may even surprise you.

/ Keep the heat on in your residence. Some leases specifically detail what temperature to keep the residence, usually 60 degrees. Some go further and require you to open closet, cabinet and bedroom doors so circulating heat will keep water pipes from freezing. If you return to your rental and the Avs are practicing in your living room, that’s going to cost you.

/ If you agreed in your lease to keep driveways and sidewalks clear, then you must arrange for someone to shovel in your absence. This is true even if there is no shovel on the property. Landlord does not have to provide you with the tools to meet your obligations unless landlord has agreed to do so in your lease. If you’re obligated to shovel and you don’t, landlord can hire someone and pass the full bill onto you. In addition, the City of Fort Collins can do the same and fine you for their trouble.

/ Have you disconnected garden hoses from the exterior of your rental? Nine times out of 10 this is tenant’s responsibility. It should already have been done earlier this season. But better late than broken when it comes to pipes. Keeping hoses connected during freezing temps can cause serious and expensive damage to water spigots and pipes. Such damage is a legitimate deduction from your security deposit and the repair could run several hundred dollars.

/ Arrange for your morning paper delivery to be stopped while you are gone. A sea of papers is a blinking, neon “Welcome!” sign to potential burglars you’re not home. Further, some homeowner’s associations as well as the City of Fort Collins, may fine for the eyesore or nuisance the pile up creates. I’ll give you one guess who pays those fines.

/ Arrange to have your mail forwarded or stopped for the time you are gone. The personal financial statements, bank checks, pre-approved credit offers, and credit card convenience checks sitting in your mail box are a one-stop-shop for an identity thief. A five-minute trip to the post office could save you months, even years, of untangling fraudulent charges in your name.

/ Pay January’s rent in advance. It’s so easy to get caught up in visiting with relatives and friends and forget your first of the month rent payment. Don’t let a mess of late fees or worse, a three day notice to pay or be evicted be your reminders.

Now that you have battened down the hatches on your homestead, consider these additional and important tips from attorney Rob Lowrey.

As you head off for Winter break, remember to secure all of your valuables and personal items that you are leaving behind. Don’t leave anything out in plain view that you wouldn’t want your landlord or the furnace repairman to find. (Just to be safe, assume they will be paying a visit in your absence.)

Take care as you get ready to leave, too. Be very careful what you pack in your luggage or on your person. Nobody likes that “oh, I forgot that was there!” surprise at the airport or on the side of the road.

Remember my three simple rules: Be Smart, Be Nice and Be Quiet.

I developed these rules mainly for police contacts, but more and more I find that they work very well the rest of the time, too. Think before you say or do anything. Be ultra-polite. Say as little as possible.

In other words: Have fun, but keep a low profile and make sure your fun does not come at someone else’s expense.

This includes other people’s property, safety and, last but certainly not least, their sleep. Waking up a fellow citizen, or their kids, in the middle of the night is a sure-fire way to bring the police down on your celebration.

While you are out and about, don’t let your guard down just because it’s the holidays. It may be tempting to run a little wild with friends you haven’t seen since summer, or head off on an epic road trip to the mountains, just make sure no one gets into any more trouble than absolutely necessary.

Congratulations on a successful semester, and have a great break!

Amy Walker is a staff attorney for Student Legal Services. SLS’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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