Housing for dummies, part 3

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Leasing can seem like a daunting task. Mountains of paperwork for you (maybe some for your parents too), credit checks, reference sheets, intimidating landlords and their man-eating robots that enforce rent … all that stuff! We’re exaggerating, of course. However, don’t be fooled: Leasing can be seriously scary, unless you have some simple tricks up your sleeves. We’re going to provide you with just that.

We hate to break it to you, but every adult you’ve ever asked about leasing is absolutely right – you MUST read through your lease, in its entirety, before signing. Don’t think about this like a homework assignment. No one is going to quiz you on the specifics of your contract with your landlord. But you should still have at least a general idea of what the contract says, because yes, this is a contract. When signing a lease, you’re entering into an agreement which oftentimes cannot be dissolved. Before it expires, landlords typically do not let you out of your lease unless you’re drafted or you die — both of which are, we hope, highly unlikely to occur. Therefore, here are some things you should know:

1. The cost of certain repairs in your apartment and who is responsible for those payments

2. The terms for eviction (These are the rules you must follow in order to continue living where you’re living! Eviction sucks for your finances and your future housing prospects, so don’t risk it.)

3. Rules about pets

4. The information about you that landlords are legally allowed to release to others

If the lease is confusing to you in any way, ask questions! “Can I really not get out of my lease unless I suddenly die?” is often followed by, “You can sublet.” “Why is the first month’s rent more expensive than the others?” might be followed with pertinent information about extra fees you’ll be paying for this and that: Wi-Fi, community gatherings, etc.

During the leasing process, many of us will not be able to provide proof of income; therefore, we’re going to need our legal guardians to sign guarantor forms. This is basically the same as having a co-signer, which means that if you don’t get your rent in on time your landlord has the right to contact your guarantor and ask for cash.

Besides all of this more technical stuff, it might behoove you to create some sort of relationship with your landlord and others associated with the property. Believe us, when your roommate throws a massive party and ruins the bathroom sink, the maintenance professionals on staff won’t hold a grudge with you too as long as you say hello and maybe send a holiday card every once in awhile. The leasing process is where these relationships begin, so try to forget the stress and confusion. Instead, make way for smiles and niceties.

Image Source: Jess and Colin, under Creative Commons

Contact Jordan Henigman at [email protected]