Know your lease
By Kathleen Harward
Director, Student Legal Services
Room 284, Lory Student Center
on your own is an exciting time of life. You’re stepping into a more
independent role without the RA setting the boundaries, without a defined
curfew, and with the freedom to pick your roommates and place to live.
With this much excitement, there is risk. Student Legal Services shares that landlord leases tend to be slanted against you. Be alert when signing a lease, and make informed choices with the aid of the following information regarding clauses and specific risks.
wary of signing a lease for a new property still being built.
The lease likely states that if the property is not ready by start date, the landlord has no obligation to cover tenant costs caused by the delay. It also may keep the tenant bound to the lease even if the delay is significant.
the “joint and several liability” clause.
This clause means each roommate is liable for all the obligations. This extends to the co-signor as well. Most landlords require a co-signor with a first time or financially dependent renter.
If the lease mentions “house rules” or “rules and regulations,” make sure you get a copy and read every word of these.
the notice requirements.
Does the lease require advance notice for the lease term to actually end when the term is set to end? Does the notice have to be in writing? Mark your calendar and beware that failure to provide the required advance notice might result in you being charged additional rent for time after the end of the lease term.
the repair clause.
This clause should put the duty to repair on the landlord.
Fort Collins landlords are required by the state-wide Warranty of Habitability and the city wide Rental Housing Minimum Provisions to provide minimum habitability conditions. However, these do not cover all repair issues, so the lease language is important.
Here’s a model repair clause: “The landlord shall be responsible for maintenance and repairs on the following: Exterior of the premises, sewers, heating, air conditioning (if any), all appliances, wiring and plumbing facilities, doors, locks, windows, stairs, all common areas, painting and any other repairs that are not trivial (defined as items such as changing light bulbs). Tenant shall be responsible for the cost of any of the above repairs if they are made necessary by the negligent or malicious acts of the tenant or tenant’s guests.”
the lease term begins long after you’ve signed the lease.
Sometimes the property looks fine when you sign the lease and months later when you’re supposed to move in, it is trashed and you don’t want it. Consider adding this sentence at the end of the lease and taking pictures at the time you sign the lease. “This lease is conditional upon the property being in substantially the same condition at move-in that it was at the time of lease signing.”
Student Legal Services’ experienced attorneys and staff will review leases and give warnings pertinent to particular situations. They are located in Room 284 of the Lory Student Center. Information on many legal topics can be found at sls.colostate.edu.