Things to look for in your lease

From staff reports

Students agree to legal contracts every day online to download the most recent version of iTunes or Spotify, but a lease involves more than clicking the “I Agree” box.

Wynn Mosman, WSU student legal services attorney, said leases can involve thousands of dollars and are probably the most expensive business relationship that students will have until they buy a house. Often, maybe because they’re excited about living out of the residence halls, students won’t do the necessary research before signing a lease, he said.

“I would always do some detective work before I moved into a place,” Mosman said.

He said students often come in to talk about requested repairs that never happened or security deposits that weren’t refunded. A lot of these problems could be avoided by asking a landlord beforehand, Mosman said. Consider more than the location when choosing an apartment, and make sure to visit the site, see the apartment, ask the neighbors what it’s like living there and do some research online, he said.

“When I was in college it never would have bothered me if somebody would have knocked on the door and said ‘Hey I’m looking at moving into this place next semester, what’s this landlord like and what’s your apartment like?’” Mosman said.

Benjamin Watson, a junior studying political science, said his experiences with his landlord were a pain. Misplaced rent receipts and complicated damage deposit procedures were just some of the struggles with landlords people could ask about, he said.

“I would never move into or move out of a property without taking that phone and taking a hundred pictures,” Mosman said.

Many disagreements between landlords and tenants are in regard to the state of the property upon moving in versus moving out, he said. Documenting the apartment before moving in and after moving out will provide proof of any preexisting damages or other problems, he said. With smartphones it’s easy to just snap a few pictures and save it to a cloud, he said. However, some communications with a landlord are best done the old-fashioned way.

“In that relationship with a landlord, you kind of want to go back to old fashioned writing out of “I asked you this and you told me this” so there is some documentation of what has been discussed,” Mosman said.

Sometimes the law is behind the times with channels of communication, he said. Students will often stop by their landlord’s office, or call them, or text them requests for repairs, but writing out the request on paper is the best way to document conversations, he said. Write out the issue, date it and sign it, keep a copy, and send it to the landlord in order to avoid later complications, he said.

“I’m still surprised at how often students are entering into this important legal relationship without really checking on some things first,” Mosman said.

Reporting by Addy Forte