Living on your own in off-campus housing is a rite of passage. It can be fun, but there are responsibilities connected with being a tenant and leasing an apartment that need to be taken seriously. It is very difficult to break a lease once it is signed.
Getting the apartment you want is not necessarily first-come, first-served. Usually a landlord will ask prospective renters to fill out an application form, and then if there are multiple applicants, he/she will select from the applications. Be aware that some rental application forms are legally binding, and if the landlord accepts your application you may be required to sign a lease. So be sure to know exactly what the application commits you to before signing it. Also, be sure to mention any special conditions, such as medical considerations (e.g., allergies, ADA requirements, etc.) at the time of the application.
- Read your lease before you sign. Respect the lease for the legal contract that it is and to which you are obligated once you sign.
- Never make oral agreements with the landlord. Always require that any additional conditions be written and signed on the lease, no matter how minor an item. If it is part of your agreement, the landlord should be willing to write it down.
- Always give your landlord written timely notice of any problems (repairs, safety issues, etc.) or changes in your rental status.
Regardless of how close your friendship with a potential roommate may be, it’s always a good idea to put agreements in writing. Together write up a description of your mutual understanding of your arrangement — who gets the best parking space, who is responsible for cleaning what, who gets which bedroom, what happens if one of you is late with the rent — whatever makes sense in your situation. Then both (or all) of you should sign it. This will ensure that there are no misunderstandings down the road.