Students encouraged to wait to sign leases

By Megan Graham

A word of advice for students beginning to panic about signing a lease: Don’t.

“Shopping just started,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the University’s Tenant Union. “Most things are still on the market. People should not freak out.”

Unless students want a prime spot, such as in Green Street Tower or Presidential Tower, Patt said there is no need to rush.

“In general, students worry far too much about not getting their dream place than about making a mistake,” Patt said. “That’s what happens when they rush out this early … a lot of them make mistakes.”

Patt explained that many freshmen run into trouble by signing leases with classmates whose grades are not high enough to stay at the University.

In fact, students didn’t use to sign leases until January, after students had already received their first-semester grades. Patt said it was a better situation when the signing dates were later.

“The time you should start shopping is when you are 100 percent certain of their roommates,” she said. “No freshman should get a lease in the fall because you never know if they’re coming back next year.”

Cassandra Lutz, sophomore in Engineering, said she started looking for her apartment in October and November of last year, but still said she should have waited a little longer to do so.

“Be careful when you’re picking your roommate when you’re picking so early in the year,” Lutz said. “After me and my current roommate signed the lease for this year, she made a bunch of new friends so we’re not as close anymore.”

Patt said students also need to be sure their roommates will pay the rent no matter what situation arises. If one roommate does not pay his or her rent, that leaves the other roommates responsible for the money.

“There is no way to break a lease,” Patt said. “If you sign, you’re paying.”

Chris Nemeth, sophomore in Business, lives in the residence halls but has already signed a lease for an apartment for next year with three roommates.

“You have to be trusting and willing to take that risk and if not, that would be the reason you wouldn’t want to get an apartment with three other people,” Nemeth said. “I’ve heard don’t be the primary signature on the lease just in case something does go wrong; you’re going to be the one held liable for it.”

Patt said students also experience problems when they rush into a lease when they think they won’t find anything else better. She said students often lease from deceptive landlords because they feel pressured to get the leasing process finished.

“They feel so pressured, they found something, they don’t want to shop anymore, and they want to buy that because they think nothing else is there,” Patt said. “And that’s so not true.”

Patt said she encourages students to look at location, price and landlord complaint records when looking for an apartment. As for the time for signing a lease, she said students have to decide that for themselves.

“There’s no one size fits all,” she said.