Lease agreements could hold hidden consequences for college students

Leah Marxen

Lara Jelley, a junior fashion design major, had to pay a fee of $200 to move out of her off-campus apartment when faced with an unfortunate roommate situation and when she moved her rent went up by $40 a month.

Jelley has suffered the consequences of not being fully knowledgeable on her lease agreement when signing. She was unaware of the fees she would have to pay to move out.

“I had looked into my lease and did not see a lot of the information about moving out and the fee. Maybe I didn’t read it enough,” Jelley said.

Lease agreements can be one of the most neglected part of renting an off-campus apartment or housing unit. Students have a limited knowledge of what they may be getting into.  

Michelle Sanders, a junior fashion merchandising major who had subletting issues at her residence, said that she was among the many who do not read their entire lease.

“I do not believe most people read their entire lease before signing,” Sanders said. “I had briefly skimmed most of it just to try to avoid missing anything huge before signing.” 

Students may not realize they are missing out on important chunks of information that are easy to be overlooked before signing. That is where Student Legal Services comes in handy. Student Legal Services is a law firm that provides legal assistance to students of Kent. The firm offers a service to students where an attorney can look over lease agreements and give advice on whether the lease agreement is right for the student or not.

Jamison Offineer, managing attorney at Student Legal Services, said that many students don’t read their lease agreement in full, and that can be a problem.

“How many times do you think people actually read the terms and conditions when asked? Lease agreements are different. Students need to understand it [Student Legal Services’ assistance] and should utilize it. People only care about aspects of a lease,” Offineer said.

Offineer also said there are many other issues that students could face if they do not fully understand the lease they are signing. These issues include: joint and several liability, when one signs a lease jointly with roommates, they can be held responsible for whatever their roommates do; if one’s roommate moves out, they may have to pay what the roommate owed; and a lease can automatically renew if one does not tell the landlord in writing that they plan to vacate the rental at the end of the original lease term.

Introducing students to the assistance that Student Legal Services gives can prevent potential problems like these.

“I would see this function [Student Legal Services assistance] as useful for students who are signing leases for the first time or that are unsure about which place to live in,” Sanders said.

Sanders and Jelley said that Student Legal Services assistance is something they will use in the future, and it is something other students should consider too.

“Definitely look over your lease before you sign it and use that service to understand it better,” Jelley said.

Leah Marxen covers housing. Contact her at [email protected]