Before your student signs a lease, it’s crucial that they read and understand the document fully. It may be tempting to skim through it, but they could miss important information in a legally binding contract. With many students preparing to sign a lease for next year’s housing, here are some things to know before signing a lease.
Ask to review the lease with your student
It’s common for family members to help pay their student’s rent or co-sign leases, and some property managers require a parental guarantee. A family member responsible for a student’s obligations under the lease is responsible for all of the student’s financial obligations. This potentially includes the rent of and/or costs for damages caused by any roommates and even sub-lessees of roommates.
If the lease requires a parental guarantee, or if you or another family member will be paying rent or co-signing the lease with your student, ask to see the lease and review it before anyone signs it.
Check occupancy limits
As your student consider who their roommates will be next year, encourage them to check the occupancy limits for the residence they plan to rent. Most properties in Boulder only allow 3-4 occupants per unit.
Boulder code requires every lease to clearly state the occupancy limits of the property. If it does not, or your student's landlord tells them something that differs from the printed lease, your student should clarify. There can be consequences for over-occupying a residence including eviction, paying more rent than planned and a potential fine of $2,000 per day from the city of Boulder.
For more information on over-occupancy and occupancy limits, depending on the location and zoning of a specific property, visit the city of Boulder website.
Encourage your student to review their responsibilities as a tenant
Studnets should know their specific responsibilities under the lease agreement, such as:
- Rent payment process, due dates and late fees
- Utilities including electric, gas, water, sewer, trash, internet, cable, etc.
- Lawn maintenance
- Snow removal
- Repairs including how and when to request repairs and who pays for the repairs
- The lease end date and time and whether you have to notify your landlord that you will be moving out at the end of your lease
- Move-out requirements, move-out time and the landlord’s cleaning expectations
Additionally, make sure your student knows if there is a clause requiring them to leave the heat on at all times during the winter. Water pipes can freeze during Colorado winters, causing major damage for which your student and roommates would be financially responsible.
Other things to review in the lease
- Check if a written notice to terminate the lease is required. This could be required even if the lease ends on a particular date. If your student doesn’t comply with a notice requirement, they could end up paying rent after the lease is supposed to have ended.
- Take note if there is an attorney fee clause and under what circumstances your student would be required to pay attorney fees.
- Does the landlord charge administrative fees, fines and costs in addition to rent and, if so, are they reasonable? Look for these five words that should raise a red flag: “fine”, “penalty”, “waive”, “forfeit” and “liquidate damages”. These may be unenforceable provisions where the landlord is trying to charge the tenant money they’re not entitled to charge.
- Check if a damages check-in sheet is required and when it is due to the landlord. Some leases state that if the check-in sheet is not turned in on time, the renter accepts the residence as is. Your student could be charged for damages caused by a previous tenant.
- Most leases contain a clause stating that any promises not written into the lease are not valid and cannot be enforced. If anything is discussed about the residence with the property manager, make sure it’s added to the lease before signing.
- Know if there is a way “out” of the lease and, if so, under what conditions.
Have your lease reviewed by a lawyer
All currently enrolled fee-paying students have access to legal advice on campus. A lawyer can help you understand your lease and provide tips on other rental concerns.
Set up an appointment with the Off-Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations (OCHNR) staff attorney for a free lease review on Tuesdays and Fridays. Roommates, parents or other family members are always welcome to participate in these sessions as long as a CU Boulder student is present.
OCHNR is located in UMC 313 and is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students and families can also access services and resources via LiveChat on the OCHNR website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-492-7053.
Student Legal Services (SLS) also provides free lease reviews. SLS can be reached by visiting UMC 311 or calling 303-492-6813; the office is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Additional information about leases and other legal matters can be found on SLS’s website.