By Jessica Green

For the last two years, Marley Palmer shared an apartment with her brother. Next year, she will be on her own.

“My roommate is graduating in December and I have to find someone to live with next spring,” Palmer said.

The third-year microbiology major at the University of Georgia has handled everything from a leaky roof to negotiating rent increases at her townhome in the Woodlands of Athens. Now, she is tasked with learning about subleasing options.

“I haven’t decided if I am going to sublease my apartment and just go live with someone else or if my roommate will sublease his side and I stay there,” said Palmer. “I know that through the leasing office I can find other people to sublease with, but I am also reaching out to my friends.”

Chase Lawrence, founder and principal broker of CollegeTown Properties, suggested that residents looking to sublease should start searching early and make their landlords aware as soon as possible.

According to Lawrence, some residents know right away that they plan to study abroad, graduate early or accept a job offer out of town.

“They come in and meet with us, and they give us the exact timeline of that. That enables us to come alongside them and kind of partner with them in that effort to help them find someone,” Lawrence said.

Before signing her lease, Palmer researched and toured several student living properties with her brother to find the right fit. Palmer found lease terms that suit her needs which paid off as she transitioned from freshman dorms to her first off-campus apartment.

“I was definitely looking for cheaper rent, good location to get to campus, a pretty safe neighborhood, a 12-month lease, and somewhere that was gated,” said Palmer. “I had to meet with the leasing people a few times to go over everything; how much rent would be, pet policies, stuff like that.”

Some common errors renters make are misunderstanding payment grace periods and maintenance responsibilities, according to Lawrence. Details like these are often non-negotiable and can cost the renter money later on. Also, residents often misinterpret the true cost of renting.

Many residents make the mistake of only factoring the cost of rent into their budgets, leaving out other essentials like utilities, parking, garbage disposal services or Wi-Fi.

“It’s just good to fully understand what your costs each month are and make sure it fits your budget,” said Lawrence.

Taking the time to thoroughly read the leasing contract and align expectations upfront can save a lot of frustration later, Lawrence said.

“I think that college students, like all of us, are very distracted. And so, there’s a tendency not to fully read through and feel the need to understand every aspect of it before they sign, because they think, well, I might have been in the lease before. All leases are the same. But that’s just not true,” said Lawrence.

Jessica Green is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. The reporting for this article was completed before the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.