How to sign a lease: Tips, tricks for students signing leases for off-campus housing

Apartment complex

Finding a home in Aggieland is an important part of getting set up as a new student, though with this comes a great deal of responsibility to find the best fit for each individual’s needs.

Before signing a lease and being locked into a place for an extended period of time, Texas A&M Student Legal Services senior attorney Rick Powell said it is important to be sure that a student is not getting into a contract that may haunt them.

 Step 1: Housing search

Signing a lease starts way before the pen touches the paper. A student’s search for housing begins with the research and investigation that goes into finding possibilities that interest them. When looking for a place to live, it is important for students to make a list of all the things they must have in their new home, including number of bedrooms, bathrooms and different amenities.

Additionally, it is important to keep an open mind throughout the entire process as opinions may change throughout the search. Meeting with the staff is a great way to see how helpful the office is going to be throughout the year, so be sure to direct questions to the appropriate person and see how well they are at responding.

Step 2: Research the landlord

Whether it be a company who is leasing the property or an individual, it is important to know exactly how well they have managed other tenants.

Though the leasing office may have told you great things about the company or the management of the property, Powell said it is important to take things into your own hands with something that is right at your fingertips — Google.

“You have to check like you would when you’re going to do business with someone. You’re going to check out their online reputation to see if they have a lot of complaints and what those complaints are,” Powell said. “Do a Google search or [utilize other] websites [to] look at all of the complaints against them, because the way they treat their current tenants or former tenants, [they] are probably going to treat you the same way.”

Powell said Student Legal Services sees many cases in which students have issues with landlords who have not repaired properties which may affect the physical health or safety of the individuals living in the property.

Step 3: Read the lease — all of it

Leases can be long, daunting and some individuals may even call it scary, but reading the entire lease from front to back is vital to ensuring the landlord is offering a property and deal that best fits the individual tenant.

It also helps for students to know the terms of the lease. Most leases in the area are individual leases, which means that the student is only responsible for paying their end of the lease, such as for their individual bedroom, though some landlords may try to have you sign a lease where you are responsible for ensuring the entire rent is paid by the apartment, rather than individually, Powell said.

Step 4: Ask questions

Are utilities included? Are pets allowed? Are there any additional fees?

These are all important questions when it comes to finding out if this apartment will be the right fit.

Before you sign the contract, ask any question that comes to mind. Don’t begin a contract without knowing everything the agreement entails and what the apartment requires of the person leasing.

Step 5: Secure a guarantor

Many apartments require a guarantor, or someone who is willing to agree to pay the funds if the person on the lease does not, to protect themselves from people who may try to take advantage of them. Typically, this person is a parent or other close relative, but there are stipulations to who can be considered — this person must have proof of income greater than the apartment rent amount and should have a good credit history, according to

Before entering into the lease, Powell said it is important to know that your guarantor is going to be approved. Without approval, the landlord may not allow an individual to move in, but may require them to pay rent if they have already signed the contract.

Sometimes, there are instances when students may not know someone who can act as a guarantor or who will qualify, so there are other options for securing an apartment including lease guarantee insurance or paying up front if the apartment allows.

Lease guarantee insurance allows an individual to pay a fee to a company for them to serve as the guarantor, though this often involves strict credit checks and approval of salary which is at least 27.5 times more than the cost of the lease. Some apartments will allow students to pay up front if they have the means to do so, though this is on a case-by-case basis and often is not an option for many students.

Step 6: Look at your property

Looking at the specific unit an individual will be living in is vital to discovering any problems with the unit ahead of signing the paperwork, Powell said. Looking at models may be helpful when it comes to finding out a floor plan or if it’s worth further investigating, but before signing a lease, Powell said students should be adamant about looking at the unit which they will be living in upon the beginning of the lease.

“Landlords don’t want you to look at your apartment. They don’t want you to see it, they want you to trust them,” Powell said.

In many situations, Powell said some landlords don’t let students know what building they will be living in until it is time to move in, which can cause many problems including possible roommate compatibility issues.

Step 7: Sign the lease

When an individual is absolutely sure the property is the right one for them and they have completed all the research and steps to get ready to sign the lease, it is important to be ready with all the right information to put the pen to paper.

Originally published in The Battalion Maroon Life
By Aubrey Vogel
Photo by Josh Sozio

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