Student Legal Services, Off-Campus life offer advice for student renters

Ty Betts

Lease season in Fort Collins starts about mid-spring semester at Colorado State University, and while the renting process can be complex, there are several on-campus resources to assist students.

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On Feb. 27, sophomores Jessica Neal and Haley Hanna renewed their apartment lease for another year. (Jenna Van Lone I Collegian)

Student Legal Services, located in the Lory Student Center, offers free legal assistance to CSU students that are funded through student fees. When it comes time to sign a lease, students can make a free appointment with one of the lawyers in the office who will read over a lease and answer any questions present.

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An initial step to take before signing is to become confident in your future roommates and landlord. Kathleen Harward, the director of Student Legal Services, directs students to an in-depth process in the online resource “Renting: Easy as 1-2-3.” The process recommends using www.cocourts.com to search if future roommates have any legal history that could be of concern. This costs around $7 per search.

To find out information on the landlord or real estate service, students can use the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org, as well as talk to current tenants of the property, according to “Renting: Easy as 1-2-3.”

Before the lease is signed, renters should add in a clause at the end that reads, “This lease is contingent upon the property being in similar shape to when the lease was signed.” This assures that you can back out of the contract if the summer tenants wreck the property so long as you have photos of the property in its original condition.

For first time renters, CSU apartments are an easy option, according to some students. James Henander, a sophomore at CSU, said he was on a waitlist to get into Rams Village last year but was able to get a spot.

“They make it really easy,” Henander said. “Especially because the leases there are individualized.”

Individualized leases allow renters to only have to worry about their share of the rent.

On the other hand, Ally Darrow, a senior at CSU recommended that students look beyond CSU apartments.

“Look into options other than than student apartments,” Darrow said. “They are a small step up from the dorms.”

Regardless of whether you choose to live in a house or an apartment, students said to resist procrastination.

“If you are looking to move into a place in the fall, start searching early, even as soon as January,” Henander said.

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One place to visit to get the search started is the Off-Campus Life office in the LSC. Lindsay Mason, the program coordinator, said that the office functions to help students make the transition from the residence halls to living off campus. The office can provide assistance in searching for the right house or apartment as well as match students with a roommate they will get along with.

Mason believes that an important part of the transition is getting to know your neighbors.

“A relationship with a neighbor may mean the difference of a text telling you that your gathering is too loud or a knock on the door from police,” Mason wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Renters insurance should be considered as the landlord’s insurance will not cover the tenant’s personal belongings. According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, renter’s insurance will provide coverage in the case of theft, fire or water damage. The agency also suggests buying renter’s insurance and auto insurance through the same company because it may make you eligible for discounts.

And of course, there is the “U+2” law that could bring hefty fines to those who overlook it. According to the City of Fort Collins Land Use Code, a home can only be occupied by “two adults and their dependents, if any, and not more than one additional person.” This means that only a total of three college students could legally live together on a property unless the property is specially approved by the city to house more. This applies even if two of the individuals are siblings.

Those who are caught in violation this ordinance could face a hefty fine. The City of Fort Collins offers a “reasonable” amount of time to correct the situation before a penalty of up to $1,000 per person, per day can be issued.

The renting process can be time consuming, but there are several resources on campus. To sophomore Alex Guerreio the best help of all came from peers.

“Talk to people,” Guerreio said. “It could be friends, hallmates, even the guy sitting next to you at the library.”

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tybetts9.