Lease signing can be confusing, especially when visiting an unfamiliar country.
Student Legal Services is your number one resource for understanding this process!
Located in Room 284 on the main level of the Lory Student Center, SLS are paid for through your student fees, which means you can visit them for free (if you are not a fee-paying student, you can still use their services for less than $10). They are a great resource when getting ready to sign a lease because they have lawyers who can review the lease with you and answer any questions or concerns you might have. They also have a “lease signing tips” page which we strongly recommend reading through before you sign anything.
Important Lease Terms to Know
Lease: A legal document stating the dates, cost of rent, rules and other requirements for the rental agreement between an individual and a management company or landlord. In the state of Colorado, a lease becomes final immediately after being signed, and is very hard to break unless you have a serious problem as outlined in the document.
Security Deposit: A security deposit is generally required of the tenant when signing a lease. It is the amount of money a landlord sets aside to pay for any damages a tenant might cause during their stay. If no damage has been done to the property, a landlord has 30 days (up to 60 days if stated in the lease) to return the full amount of the deposit at the end of the rental term. If upon final inspection the landlord determines that there have been damages made to the property, they must provide an itemized statement accounting for all money not returned to the tenant. In order to protect your security deposit, it is advised that you complete a rental checklist when moving into a new place, recording all damages that were already there upon move-in. Be sure to attach a copy of this form to your lease and keep an additional copy for your own records. It can also be helpful to take dated pictures of the damages.
Eviction: Eviction is the removal of a tenant from a rental property by the landlord. The landlord must have just cause to evict a tenant before the end of the rental terms agreed upon in the lease.
Background Check: A background check or background investigation is the process of looking up and compiling criminal records, commercial records and financial records of an individual. In most instances, if you decide you want to rent a property, the landlord will perform a background check to determine if there are any legal or financial reasons they should not rent you their property. Note: If a landlord asks to perform a background/credit check before they have met you or shown you the property, this is one warning sign of a rental scam. In these instances, it is best to find a different property.
Sub-Lease: If a tenant wishes to get out of a lease agreement early, one option is to sublet. In the case of a sub-lease, a new tenant takes over the remainder of the lease and becomes responsible for the rent. If you decide to sublet your property, be aware that a sub-lease does not release you from the responsibilities of your lease if the subtenant fails to fulfill their obligations. Also, not all landlords will allow you to sublet their property so be sure to discuss this option with your landlord or property management company before signing any documents. If you are looking for a short-term lease, finding a tenant interested in sub-leasing is a good option. In Fort Collins, there is often a number of sub-lease opportunities over the summer when students leave in May.
Joint and Several Liability: Under Joint and Several Liability, if one roommate moves out, the remaining roommates are responsible for that person’s share of the rent and any damages. This law does not apply to the apartment complexes in town (including Ram’s Village, Ram’s Park, Campus Crossing at Ram’s Pointe, etc.) who rent their apartments out by the room.
Civil: Non-criminal legal matters generally relating to the rights of private individuals. Most housing disputes are handled in civil courts rather than criminal courts.
Constructive Eviction: Takes place when a landlord makes a property uninhabitable or unusable for the original purposes in which the lease was signed. For example a tenant can leave a property if housing standards are not being met.
Default: Failure to fulfill a legal obligation such as not making a required appearance at a court case or not paying the agreed upon rent amount.
Mitigate: Making compromises to avoid legal action.
Common Issues that Should be Specified in the Lease
- The amount of rent
- The length of the rental period
- The amount of security deposit and return date
- Who is responsible for repairs
- Whether subleasing is allowed, and under what terms
- When a landlord may enter your property
A Few Helpful Tips:
- You have the right to negotiate the lease terms before signing.
- Getting evicted is not a good way to get out of a lease! If you get evicted, that eviction goes on your credit record and may make it difficult for you to rent or get credit in the future. In addition, you may still be responsible for paying the rent to the landlord until the end of the lease, even if the landlord can re-rent the property.
- A voluntary early termination of the lease can occur at any time if the landlord and tenant mutually agree to it.