Workshop educates students on facts about leasing

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Andrea Fernandez and Natalia Fonseca, look at a mock apartment at the Quarters in hopes of finding a three bedroom place for the upcoming fall semester. In order to facilitate the transition to off-campus living, Bevonomics hosted a workshop to familiarize students with apartment contracts and the obligations involved in the process.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

With preleasing pressures becoming more prominent in the spring semester, students transitioning from dorm life to off-campus living must consider new responsibilities before signing a lease.

Legal and financial advisers worked to familiarize students with the contracts and obligations involved when moving to off-campus housing Thursday night as part of a Bevonomics workshop sponsored by the Office of Student Financial Services. A lease is a financial obligation and students should consider the fine print of their contract before signing anything because it is difficult to get out of the agreement, said Sylvia Holmes, an attorney for the University’s Legal Services for Students.

Students need to choose their roommates carefully because they will become financially tethered to them, Holmes said. Individual leases limit financial liability and are usually offered by bigger complexes, whereas traditional leases require more trust and include all roommates on the same contract.

“Students should check move-out terms and conditions because landlords will sometimes try to nickel and dime tenants with carpet cleanups and other requirements,” Holmes said. “To me, that seems like a scam and I would advise students to walk away.”

Jarrod Byer, property manager of the Villas on Guadalupe, said living off-campus comes with new responsibilities for students who haven’t lived on their own before, including paying rent and utility bills on time.

“It’s important for students to know the associated fees included in a contract before signing a lease,” he said. “Students should do their research and not just sign a lease because they like an apartment.”

Byer said students should also be sure their roommate is someone they trust living with because cohabitation problems are very frequent between tenants.

Some apartment complexes advertise amenities such as gyms, study rooms and tanning beds to attract prospective tenants, but are not contractually obliged to provide them if they were promoted in marketing materials, Holmes said.

Apartment complex amenities are considered a “luxury” in the legal sense and are not usually included in the lease, she said.

Financial aid counselor Reanna Addison said students should consider safety and additional costs of living when moving to an off-campus apartment.

“Utilities and Internet are factored into your dorm bill at a flat rate now, but rent is a monthly expense and extra costs are not included in a rent amount,” Addison said. “The financial aid office determines student aid based on the average cost of living in Austin, and that’s about $500 a month.”

Undeclared sophomore Brianna Moehnke said she attended the Thursday night workshop because she wanted to learn more about living off-campus after her mother suggested she should leave dorm life behind.

“I’m trying to get more information and figure out what’s cheaper but still close to campus,” she said. “Looking for an apartment for the first time is overwhelming.”

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Workshop educates students on leasing