What every student renter should know before signing a lease

By Kelsey Ball 

An apartment leasing manager in Athens, Georgia, a college town, said any student signing a lease should first understand if they have the financial means to pay on their own.

Hunter Chance, leasing and marketing manager for The Standard, an apartment complex near the University of Georgia, said “the first step” for student renters is to determine if they can “self-qualify” to pay for the lease, which typically means demonstrating an ability to cover their first six months of rent.

If a student can’t meet that financial requirement on their own, they will need someone to join the lease as a co-signer to guarantee the lease will be paid, Chance said.

Kally Meyer, a 21-year-old University of Georgia student who lives at the Standard, said she self-qualified and pays her own rent. But Meyer said meeting that financial threshold required working multiple jobs over the summer. She also said she has avoided taking out loans to meet her financial obligations.

Renting an apartment may also include expenses beyond the rent amount itself. For example, not all the apartment complexes in Athens include utility costs in the rent, which means they must be paid separately.

“Before you sign a lease you should research what is included with the rent such as water, utilities, and Wi-Fi,” Chance said.

Chance also advised student to check for additional fees that may be required by the landlord, such as renters insurance, monthly parking passes and pet fees. Additionally, he said student renters should understand how long the lease term is since some are 10 months to reflect an academic year, while other leases are for an entire 12-month year.

Being able to afford the rent is one thing, but Meyer said it is also important for student renters to know when the rent is due and the process for paying the rent. For many apartment complexes, the rent is due within the first three days of the month.

Meyer said her most important piece of advice is to ask what forms of payment the apartment management company will accept. Some apartments only take checks or money orders where others have an online payment portal or processes to withdraw the rental amount directly from a bank account.

Students have a wide range of choices from rental houses to apartment complexes, but Chance said not all living arrangements are comparable, and suggested reading the online reviews as his way to make sure an apartment is a good fit for the renter.

Meyer also said students should tour a property in person before signing a lease. Before moving to Athens, Meyer said she had signed a lease in another town without seeing the property first and then realized it looked nothing like its pictures. She also suggested students take their own pictures as they tour to help them make their final decisions about where to rent.

“Taking pictures of the property during the tour is a good idea so you can remember what the apartment looked like,” she said.


Kelsey Ball is a journalism student at the University of Georgia

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