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Leasing, Landlords, Renting & Roommates
Getting Started : Signing a Lease : Security Deposits : Roommates
Utilities : Moving In / Out : Subleasing : Landlords
Want to live off-campus? Wonder where to start? There are some obvious preferences you may have already thought of, such as rent price and location, or house vs. apartment.
However, before you begin looking at rentals, you may want to have a list of "necessities". Here are just a few questions you may want to consider before signing a lease. When you call about a place, ask about your preferences before arranging to see it. Taking the time to make a list of preferences before you start your search will save you time in your search process.
- What is your price range for rent?
- Does this price include utilities?
- Do you want a roommate and how many?
- Is off-street parking available and does it cost extra?
- Are you looking for a place with central air?
- What do you want in a kitchen?
- Do you want a garbage disposal or a dishwasher?
- Do you want laundry facilities on-site, or will you be making trips to a laundromat?
- How will you be getting to campus? (car, walking, public transportation, etc.)
- Are you eligible for a commuter parking permit?
DO NOT SIGN A LEASE SIMPLY TO SECURE A PLACE TO LIVE.
READ THE LEASE BEFORE SIGNING IT!
Signing a lease does not just reserve you a place to live, it is a legal document. Once you sign the lease, you are responsible for the provisions of that lease. If there are agreements between you and the property manager regarding changes to the lease or property, do not sign the lease unless the changes are in writing.
Questions to Consider Before Signing a Lease
- Is the contact information correct on the lease?
- What are the move-in and move-out dates?
- Is there a lease renewal clause?
- How much is the rent and when is it due?
- Can the rent amount be increased?
- What is the penalty for late payments?
- Is a deposit required? If so, how much is the deposit?
- Are pets allowed? If so, is there a fee or an additional deposit required?
- Can the tenants sublease the apartment or house?
- Are there restrictions against decorating the apartment or house?
- Are there guest restrictions?
- Are there conduct rules for the property (i.e. no parties, no outside furniture, etc.)?
- Who is responsible for the lawn care and snow removal?
What Type of Lease Are You Signing?
There are several types of lease agreements in general use. Each has various benefits for tenants and property managers. The most prevalent lease type in Athens is the "Joint and Severally Liable Lease". This type of lease states that the tenants are jointly liable for the property. This means that if one tenant were to not pay their rent then all the tenants could be held legally liable for that payment. The other lease agreement that is in use in this area is an "Individual Lease". In such an agreement each individual signs a specific lease and they are held individually liable for such an agreement. Depending on your specific situation you may want to ask your perspective landlord what types of leases they have available that might fit your preferences.
According to Ohio law, a "security deposit" is officially defined as "any deposit of money or property to secure performance by the tenant under a rental agreement." The property manager most likely will require you to pay a deposit to cover any unpaid rent or damages you might cause during your tenancy. A security deposit, however, does not give the tenant permission to damage the property during the leasing period.
Give your landlord, IN WRITING, your forwarding address when you move out. Once you have left, the landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit. If you don't get all of it back, the landlord must send an itemized statement regarding the deductions.
For information on what you can do during move in and out that may help you get a fair amount of your security deposit returned or if you believe your security deposit is being unfairly withheld, the Center for Student Legal Services may be able to help.
Several issues should be considered when deciding who would make a good roommate.
- Guest policies
- Sharing belongings
- Paying bills
A roommate agreement is a great tool to use when and / or after deciding who you would like to live with in your apartment or house. The roommate contract will assist you and your new roommates with determining house rules, who will pay for what and several other items that will be helpful in creating a successful living environment.
Paying rent is not your only expense when living off-campus. Setting a personal budget will help you track your money and help you make spending decisions. Click on the link below to find an annual and a monthly budget worksheet.
How Do I Set Up My Utilities?
There are several ways that you may need to respond to paying and setting up utilities. The terms of your lease may specify that either you or your landlord are responsible for the maintenance of utilities or some combination of the two. If you are responsible for some or all of your utilities here are some links that may help in setting those up.
Something else to consider if you are paying your own utilities in a house with multiple tenants is how you will do so.
If you do not want to be without phone, gas or electric service for a couple of days, contact the utility company before you move in. Remember to disconnect your utilities when you move out.
Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) The OCC is a residential utility advocate representing the interests of 4.5 million households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts. The state agency provides information and responds to consumers' questions about their electric, natural gas, telephone and water services.
The following Utility Companies serve the Athens Area:
Water, Sewer, Garbage & Recycling
City of Athens Utilities
American Electric Power 1.800.277.2177
Start or Stop Your Service
Columbia Gas of Ohio 1.800.344.4077
Dish Network 1.888.310.2495
Time Warner 1-800-617-4311
Before you move into your apartment, inspect your rental and record anything that is in need of repair, damaged or hazardous. You can use the sample inspection form by clicking the link below. If you find something wrong with the rental and it is not on the inspection form, make a note of it in the additional comments section.
Ideally, your property manager should be present when you inspect the property. After inspection is completed, ask your proprty manager to sign the inspection form to ensure that you both agree to the outcome of the inspection. If they are not able to be present or refuse to sign the inspection form, send them a copy of your findings. Furthermore, be sure you and your property manager are in agreement as to how the problems will be fixed. How these problems should be fixed should be listed in your lease.
The same form should be completed upon moving out.
Inspection Form (.pdf)
(Adopted from the Ohio State Univeristy,
Student Housing Legal Clinic)
Taking Pictures and Video
It is best to videotape or photograph your inspection of you apartment or house. The key is to take pictures of everything. It is also important that you can prove that the pictures or video that you took are dated accurately. Holding up the daily newspaper in your picture is one way to do this. It is not absolute proof, but it is better than nothing. Also, do not pause the tape if you are videotaping because it may look like it has been edited. Be sure to take the same precautions when you move out of your apartment or house to help prove your case regarding the condition you left your place if it is challenged by your property manager. Off-Campus Living has video cameras available for loan for this purpose.
Subleasing is when a person, who has signed a lease with a landlord, rents their room or apartment to another person. In most cases, if you sublease you remain on the original lease. As a result, you continue to be responsible for all lease provisions and for the actions of the sub letter until the end of the agreement. Remember, the sublease agreement is separate from the lease.
One very important thing to consider before you choose to sublease, check your lease. It may not permit you to sublease the apartment or room. It is always best to get permission from your landlord first before trying to sublease your place.
Keep in mind that since most landlords in Athens offer a 12 month lease, many students are looking to sublease their apartments or rooms in the summer. There are more students looking to sublet their place than there are students wanting to enter a sublease agreement. There is also no central way to advertise for sublease opportunities. Some options for advertising include, local newspaper ads (Athens News, Athens Messenger & The Post), and posting fliers across campus.
The Center for Student Legal Services also provides valuable information on subleasing.
While living off-campus you may find yourself in a situation you may not know how to handle. Here are some typical situations and resources to help address them. For additional information regarding these issues or assistance with any other issue, contact the Office of Off-Campus Living at 740.593.4098, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Property Manager Has Not Responded To Requests For Repairs
If your property manager is not making repairs in a timely manner or not responding to your requests at all, click on the following link to the Center for Student Legal Services for steps you can take to remedy the situation.
Steps for Rent Escrow
Center for Student Legal Services
Your Property Manager or Staff Enters Your Home Without Notice
The law generally requires that the property manager give you at least 24 hours notice before entering your home. If your property manager has made an illegal entry into you home, click on the following link to the Center for Student Legal Services for a form to file a formal complaint to your property manager:
Privacy Violation Form
Center for Student Legal Services Privacy Form
Your Property Manager Has Withheld Part Or All Of Your Security Deposit
Give your landlord, IN WRITING, your forwarding address when you move out. Once you have left, the landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit. If you don't get all of it back, the landlord must send an itemized statement regarding the deductions. For information on what you can do during move in and out that may help you get a fair amount of your security deposit returned or if you believe your security deposit is being unfairly withheld, click on the following link to the Center for Student Legal Services:
Steps for Getting Back Your Security Deposit
Center for Student Legal Services