By Lynn Edmondson
Renting an apartment is an adjustment for many college students who are transitioning from living at home to being out on their own. These first-time renters often have many questions and concerns on everything from the lease to apartment condition issues to renter's insurance.
As students leave their families, these five tips can help them navigate renting for the first time:
Read the Lease
The apartment manager may generally go over the terms of the lease prior to the renter signing, but it's still a good idea for college student renters to review the lease in detail. Student renters should make sure they understand the terms of the lease agreement, including any restrictions and procedures.
These leases are very detailed and may be confusing for first-time renters. Parents, who may have experience with leases and/or other legal documents, can help their college student renter understand the lease. It's especially important for parents to understand leasing terms if they're guarantors of the lease.
Always Do a Walk-Through
It's also important for college student renters to do a formal walk-through with the property manager before signing a lease. During the walk-through of the unit, renters should test out light fixtures, doors and locks and make sure that the amenities in the unit align with what's advertised in the property listing. Taking pictures to document the condition of the apartment prior to move-in is also a good idea.
Communication between the apartment manager and tenant is key to a successful rental relationship. After move-in, college student renters may find they have questions about apartment living, such as how to operate the appliances in a rental unit. Tenants should not hesitate to ask their apartment manager to go over this information. Many apartment managers anticipate that these questions will come up and provide checklists with information on the basics of operating each appliance (e.g., the type of soap to use in the dishwasher) and how to contact apartment staff should other questions or problems arise.
Document Issues in Writing
After move-in, college students may encounter pest control issues, problems with appliances, air conditioning or the toilet, issues with roommates, etc. Renters should make sure to document any problem in writing via email or through a resident portal to alert the property manager.
Student renters should understand that they do have recourse if pest and/or maintenance issues are not addressed in a timely manner. If the documented issue is not fixed, college student renters should escalate the problem to the property's corporate office. This will usually get the problem resolved quickly. If the issue is still not addressed, a clause in the lease may allow renters to withhold the rent until a problem is fixed. Generally, to withhold the rent, tenants must outline the issue in a petition to the court and place rental payments in the court registry to be held until the problem is resolved.
Another issue college students may encounter is roommate trouble. As with other issues, renters should document the problem in writing. Sometimes difficulty with a roommate comes down to a personality or lifestyle difference that just can't be worked out. In this case, most properties will try to be accommodating by transferring the roommate to a different apartment. More serious issues may involve the roommate being asked to vacate the property.
Purchase Renter's Insurance
Renter's insurance is recommended for college student renters. Although many student apartments come furnished and these furnishings are covered by the landlord's policy, the student renter's possessions are not covered by this insurance policy. College students typically don't have money to replace property like laptops, clothing, televisions and other belongings in the event of theft or damage. Renter's insurance can protect college student renters financially, allowing individuals to file a claim to replace their personal property.
Renter's insurance is not a big budget item for college students. The average cost of a renter's insurance policy that includes $20,000 of personal property coverage and a $500 deductible is $14 per month.
These tips can educate college students on some of the important steps to take prior to leasing and after move-in whether they are a first-time renter or an experienced renter. Class dismissed!
Lynn Edmondson is director of Operations of Wendover Management. With over 40 years of real estate and property management experience, she oversees portfolios in Texas and Florida, as well as the redevelopment of numerous assets.