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renters

Student Life

Your Rights as a Renter: A Guide for College Students

February 4, 2021

Going to college is a huge opportunity and one that offers an incredible number of unique and first-time experiences. At the same time, it will likely be the first time you’ve lived away from home, figured out your schedule, and made your own rules.

Amongst all of these first-time experiences, there are a couple of instances where you may be taken advantage of because of your inexperience with the process. Some of these instances may orient around your first rental experience. Because of this, it is essential to do your research and know your rights as a renter. 

Getting into a Rental

As you first start applying to and looking at rentals, there are several things to take into consideration. For instance, how much are you able to pay for rent each month with or without utilities included? Are you willing to live with roommates? Do you have specific conditions that you can’t live in?

Determining these things will help you set a budget and narrow your search a bit. Once you start looking at places, you should also think about your rights and requirements for living, such as:

  • Deposit Limits: Most states have rules about how much a landlord can charge you to secure your spot in a rental.
  • Documentation of Rental Facility Conditions: If you have to pay a security deposit that will be used to fix and clean things when you leave, it is important to document the condition when you move in with pictures and notes that are signed by both you and the landlord.
  • A Lease Copy: You will be provided a copy of your lease agreement. Read it and ask questions before signing.
  • Livable Conditions: Landlords are required to meet certain standards of living conditions that include working utilities, safety features, and free from certain types of damage including asbestos contamination, mold, or vermin.
  • Rental Raises: Your lease stipulates what your rent is for the duration of your lease and it cannot be raised until your lease is up.
  • Insurance: Your landlord may or may not require you have renters insurance, but it is always a good idea. Check out GradGuard for renters insurance that’s made for college students.

Making it Your Own

Once you’ve researched your rental rights, asked questions about them, and feel good about signing your lease, it’s time to start moving in. There are plenty of exciting things you can do now that you have your own place, so take the time to make it your own! As you make yourself at home, you should keep certain things in mind like:

  • Privacy: Your landlord is not allowed to come into your home without giving you notice and a reason.
  • Decoration Abilities: Your landlord cannot tell you how you can or can’t decorate your rental as long as you are not damaging anything.
  • Prohibitions: Your lease will stipulate prohibitions like painting walls, putting large nails or screws in to hang things, or tearing out carpet.
  • Landlord Installations: If you’re interested in installing anything that could make the rental facility more valuable or more energy-efficient, talk to your landlord about it. You may not be able to install it yourself, but your landlord may be open to the changes. Then they can cover some of the costs and install it themselves.

Being a first-time renter can be an awesome experience if you take the time to find a good place to live with an honest landlord. Do your homework and know your rights as a renter — things will work out for the best!

BIO: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.

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