Published: Oct. 23, 2019

Before signing a lease, it’s crucial to read and understand the document fully. It may be tempting to skim through it, but you 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.

Person holds pen above contractOccupancy limits

As you consider who your roommates will be next year, check the occupancy zoning for the residence you plan to rent.  There could be consequences for over-occupying a residence, including eviction, paying more rent than planned or large fines.

Types of leases

If you choose to live with roommates, make sure you know if you have an individual lease or a joint and several liability lease.

The most common type of lease is a joint and several liability lease. This is where you and your roommates are jointly responsible for paying rent in full and any damages caused. In other words, you are responsible for your roommate’s share of the rent if they miss any payments. While we often don’t see this, it’s worthwhile to consider what could happen if you end up in this scenario and how you might handle it.

Your responsibilities as a tenant

Know your specific responsibilities under the lease agreement, such as:

  • Rent payment process, due dates and late fees
  • Utilities
  • Lawn maintenance
  • Snow removal
  • Trash disposal
  • Repairs
  • The lease end date and time
  • Move-out requirements

Additionally, make sure you know if there is a clause requiring you to leave the heat on at all times during the winter. Water pipes can freeze during Colorado winters, causing major damage for which you would be financially responsible.

Other things to review in your 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 you don’t comply with a notice requirement, you 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 you would be required to pay attorney fees.
  • Review under what conditions you would owe administrative fees, fines and costs in addition to rent.
  • Check if a damages check-in sheet is required and when it is due to the landlord. Some leases state that if you fail to turn in your check-in sheet on time, you accept the residence as-is and 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.

Share the lease with others who will be responsible for it

If the lease requires a parental guarantee, a guardian or other family member is going to be co-signing the lease with you, or someone else will be paying your rent, share the lease with them. Give them time to review and ask questions before signing.

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 staff attorney for a free lease review, or visit Student Legal Services for confidential lease review and advisements.