Renting to college students has changed tremendously in the past 5-10 years. The Texas Property Code does not give many protections to renters, so they need to be aware of what they are signing and what the consequences are in leasing. If you are asked to sign as a guarantor, you also face significant risks, so the information below is designed to help you educate yourself and your student about leasing so that you both can have the best experience possible. This information has been provided by the Family Association.
For more information or assistance with a renting issue, please have your student contact the Office of the Attorney for Students at 512-245-2370.
An individual or individuals who guarantees the payment of all bills, fees or other charges incurred by a tenant or even his or her roommates if they do not make timely payments.
An organization of apartment corporations who lobby for laws to better protect apartment owners and managers; provide education to managers and owners, creates standardized leases, networking and other benefits for their members.
An individual lease would be written so that each tenant has their own, separate contract for a given bedroom in the same unit (but you share common space such as the living room, kitchen, etc.). Each tenant has their rent obligation and it's unaffected when another roommate breaks their contract. You often do not have control over who becomes your roommate(s) and you still have to split utility bills and damages to common areas, should they occur.
'Standard lease' refers to the common policy that all tenants are equal and separate. This means that each one holds an obligation to the entire lease and that the landlord can hold all or just one of their choosing accountable in the event of default. How this would affect you is say you split the rent with a roommate and they leave. You'd then be responsible to carry their share of the rent as well as any damage they caused.
When two or more tenants have joint and several liability for their lease, a landlord may sue any one of the roommates if the monthly rent or other fees go unpaid. If you have two roommates who decide to move out and not pay any more rent, then landlord can come after you (and your guarantor) and then it is up to you to go after the folks who moved out. Another great reason to sign a roommate agreement before you move in!
A damage deposit or security deposit is a sum of money paid in relation to a rented home or apartment to ensure it is returned in good condition. They may also be referred to as a tenancy deposit or in some places a bond.
If you need to leave your lease before the end of your term you may be able to get someone to move into your apartment – but only with the owner’s permission. That individual will need to go through all of the background checks that you did and the landlord does not have to accept him or her. In a sublease, you will have to collect the rent from the person you are subleasing to and then you pay the rent as usual. In a relet or assignment (most common), that person can pay the management directly, but in both cases, you are still responsible for all bills and potential damage to the unit. Apartment corporations often charge a very large amount for you to relet or assign (85% of one month’s rent) plus other fees, so be careful about pursuing this.
Typically a guarantor agrees to be personally responsible for rent, late charges, reletting fees, utilities, pet charges, damages, etc. that were or will be incurred by your student OR his or her roommates or guests. Yes, this really does mean you might have to cover everyone who comes through your student’s apartment.
When you agree to be a guarantor for your student’s lease, you typically agree to allow the apartment corporation to do much more than just a credit check – you may need to submit your Social Security number, driver’s license number (or other identifier), information about your work (i.e. how much you make, how long have you been there, in what position(s), your supervisor’s name, etc.), a list of all major credit cards, your credit history, monthly income and criminal and rental history. If you are married, the apartment corporation may also ask you to disclose the same information about your spouse.
The application fee is paid to the apartment complex to run a background check on you (criminal history, credit history, renting history, etc.). Typically this runs anywhere from $30 - $100 and is nonrefundable. If the apartment complex does not notify you within 5-7 days that you have been accepted, you can assume that your application was not accepted and look elsewhere.
Some apartment complexes charge a “redecorating fee” of $100-$200 for when you move out. You should be cautious about this fee. If the tenant cleans the apartment thoroughly when he/she moves out, then this fee is wasted. If he or she has caused damage to the unit, then the apartment complex can charge whatever amount necessary to make those repairs – regardless of any “redecorating” fee. Remember – no tenant should be charged for “ordinary wear and tear” (such as wearing a path in the carpet between the front door and the kitchen or small nail holes for hanging photos).
We strongly urge all tenants to get renter’s insurance. These rental units will often be visited by inexperienced, young adults, who unfortunately often can cause damage to the place and even more-so, to your students’ belongings, such as electronics. Here are a couple of things that can go wrong, and cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars: stopped up toilets caused by guests who visit; setting off the sprinklers which can ruin all of one’s electronics; floods which ruin clothes and expensive textbooks. Inexpensive renter’s insurance can save everyone a lot of grief.
Office of The Attorney for Students at Texas State University has lawyers that would be happy to review your student’s lease and make recommendations. Have your student call for a free appointment at 512-245-2370.
Absolutely. Whether your student’s roommate is someone who is a best friend or someone he or she just met, a roommate agreement can save everyone a lot of anguish – and often protects the friendship. It helps facilitate communication and expectations even before signing the lease and moving in and it protects your student in the event a roommate is violating the lease agreement. You can find a roommate agreement on the website of the free app LeaseLobster or contact our office at (512) 245-2370.
Well, not much can get you out of a lease in Texas – not even death. In short, most times your student will need to be prepared to sublease (or relet) to another person until the end of the lease. There are typically costs associated with reletting the rental unit, as per the lease they signed. This can be tricky because your student may still be liable for the condition of the apartment, as well as the rent, should the new tenant damage the unit or fail to pay rent at any time. Be sure to have your student consult with our office to help guide him or her through this process.
Many, if not most, apartment corporations will charge you for any damages to an apartment between the time of move in and the time of move out. Many students don’t know what to look for on move-in and if damage isn’t properly recorded at that time, he or she can be charged for that when they move out.
Like almost everything today, there’s an app for that. There are inexpensive (less than $4) apps such as RentRhino that can help guide your student though the apartment and allow him or her to record notes and take photos of any possible problems. RentRhino will also remind your student of deadlines such as the requirement of a written move-out notice, giving the management a forwarding address and other guidance that can help save them (and you) hundreds of dollars.
If you are worried about having to collect payments every month, you might want to look into the service offered by SimpleBills that helps students get utility bills paid. For only $4 per month/per person, SimpleBills will assist in setting up the utilities for your residence and then divide the utility bills between each student in the residence. Each student pays SimpleBills their portion of the total utility bill and SimpleBills pays the utility providers. This service alleviates roommate conflict and creates transparency for all parties, including parents. For more information, visit www.simplebills.com.
While most leases forbid drugs or other illegal activity, the apartment managers generally won’t do anything without a police report. If the roommate leaves drugs or paraphernalia in the common area, your student can be held criminally liable. Have your student visit our office for guidance.
Before you even sign a lease or give a landlord any money for fees or deposits do a thorough inspection of the premises you plan to lease, and find out about your credit rating. (Despite the myths, there is no law that allows you out of a lease if you change your mind in three days.) There are also things you should do after you have signed the lease, but before you move in. Use the free app LeaseLobster to compare places side-by-side and see what your budget can handle.
NEVER sign a lease or even put a deposit down on an apartment or house until you have seen the exact place you will be renting. Some apartment complexes will show you a model apartment. Often, the apartment you actually get will not be as nice as the model. When you inspect the place you may rent, look it over carefully. Make sure the place does not smell bad. This could signal mildew caused by roof or plumbing leaks. Make sure the stove works. Check the refrigerator. Turn on the dishwasher. Check the garbage disposal. Turn on the water faucets and make sure the hot water works. Flush the toilet. Test the heating and air conditioning units. Open all of the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bathroom. Look for signs of insects or rodents. Look carefully at the carpet. Check around the windows. Are there any signs of leaks or water damage? Does the house or apartment have working smoke detectors? Test all of the lights.
Carry a pen and paper with you. Make a list of anything that is damaged or that needs repair. Take a copy of your list to the landlord, and ask to have all the items repaired. Be sure to keep a copy of this list yourself. If the landlord promises to fix the items, get the promise in writing (or better yet, refuse to sign the lease or give a deposit until the items are repaired to your satisfaction). Finally, it is wise to check out the landlord before you agree to rent or put down a deposit. If the city has a tenant association, better business bureau, or consumer protection agency, call and find out if other people have complained about the landlord, complex or management company. Ask if the landlord owns any other rental properties. If so, check into those too.
Look over the outside of the building. Are the stairs, outside walls, roof, sidewalks, and grounds around it in good shape? Do the buildings need to be painted? Do the apartments have enough parking spaces? If there is a laundry room for all of the residents, look it over. Inspect the swimming pool. Find out what the neighbors are like and what they say about the landlord. Ask whether they have ever had something that needed to be repaired by the landlord. Was it fixed quickly? Have they ever had any disputes with the landlord? Do they have roaches? Has anyone in the area had any problem with vandalism, burglaries, rape, muggings, or other crimes? What is the area like at night? Are the grounds well lit? You should consider asking the landlord to provide crime statistics, or ask the local police department.
When you visit a place you're considering, check to see that it has the security devices required by law. In most states, apartments, rent houses, condos and townhomes offered for rent must have these devices, provided at the owner's expense:
* a keyless deadbolt or keyless bolting device on all exterior doors
* a peephole or clear glass pane in all exterior doors
* a keyed deadbolt or door handle lock on a main entry door
* a pin lock on each sliding glass door
* either a door handle latch or a security bar on each sliding glass door
* a window latch on each window
Check with your state statues to confirm.
If you are concerned about crime at the property or in the area, ask management and check with the local police department for any information it can provide about reported crimes or incidents. The law requires rental agents and managers to answer all questions truthfully.
Remember, no one can guarantee that any neighborhood, apartment or home will be safe from crime. Crime occurs everywhere. You should always take sensible precautions to protect yourself, your family and your property.
Before you even go looking for a place it is good to know where you stand. There are three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion). It is always best to try and clear up any problems or mistakes on your record before you fill out a rental application. The official website that enables you to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of these agencies (one per year) is here. Many landlords check credit ratings with one or more of these companies in addition to using tenant screening services (e.g., Tenant Tracker) that look at criminal and eviction records.
Once you are sure you are renting the unit you should document any damage already present so you will not be liable for it when you leave. If you have a Smart phone, use RentRhino to keep track of all problems that are present in your unit when you move in and move out. It will ask you questions needed to keep track of these issues and preserve your notes and photos in the event of a dispute with the landlord. If you don’t have a smart phone, write down all of the things you think are wrong with the unit. KEEP A COPY FOR YOURSELF. For example, look for holes in the wall, stains or dirt in the carpet, dirty appliance, scratches on floors, and mildew/stains in bathroom. If you are concerned that the landlord will hold you liable for damage that was already in the unit, take pictures or videotape, and do a walk through of the rental unit with the landlord or another witness. Of course, it might be better to rent a unit that does not have significant damage in the beginning.
When you move into your new home make sure that all the repairs your landlord promised have been completed. If some of the repairs have not been made, you should contact your landlord immediately. If the landlord fails to make the repairs he promised before you signed the lease, he may be liable for violating the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and breaking the contract.
Your landlord has a duty to test all smoke detectors to verify that they are in working order when you move in, but you should test these yourself. The landlord also has the duty to re-key the locks between tenants. You should also confirm that the locks were changed with the landlord.