1st-time renters may face problems

By Stephanie Short

Many students who sit down with a pen in hand ready to sign the lease on an ideal off-campus pad may not know they’re holding a contract that could make or break their living conditions over the next year.

Lack of communication, misunderstanding the lease, improper termination of the lease and leasing an apartment before seeing it are the most common problems renters have when they come to Shirlyne Mosley, an administrator of the Division of Adult and Tenant Services.

“Know that lease, read the lease, know your rights and responsibilities, and do not be intimidated,” Mosley said. “Some of the landlords tend to think that (tenants) are their children. But this is business.”

Many first-time tenants make the mistake of signing the lease after only viewing a model or a layout on paper instead of the actual property, Mosley said. They later discover the living conditions are very different. Some tenants deal with a hard-to-reach landlord and have trouble reporting maintenance problems.

“I do advise everyone to do a move-in and a move-out inspection,” Mosley said. “Even if the landlord is not there, do one yourself. Get one of those throwaway cameras and take pictures. It is one of those things that is well worth the $15.”

Landlord David Burton is an officer of the University Area Housing Association and has been dealing with renters for 15 years. Paying rent on time, keeping the property clean and not disturbing the neighbors are all key to avoiding problems as a renter, Burton said.

Budgeting for other expenses besides rent sometimes catches first-time tenants off guard, Burton said.

“I think working with utility companies takes (first-time renters) by surprise,” he said.

Tenants should also make sure they’re comfortable living with their roommates to ensure a smooth year, Burton said.

“People need to sit down and talk about everything before they move in, especially if a pet is involved,” Burton said. “Also, the level of conflict increases with the number of people, and that can be a real pain.”

Mosley advises all tenants to look for a place to live three to six months in advance. Calling the police department and asking about the crime rate in the area can also be beneficial.

“It gives them time to look and figure out what their resources are, what part of town they want to live in,” she said. “Then, you want to check that place out and know what your obligations are before signing a lease.”

By following these steps, tenants, as well as landlords, can avoid major confrontations, Mosley said. She deals with more renting problems during May and June, when most leases end, and cautions renters that landlords can sue for the balance of the lease if tenants break leases early.

Tenant and landlord packets are available at the Central Kentucky Job Center on Industry Road. For $3 tenants or landlords can get a copy of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which includes renting suggestions, a housing guide and a list of landlord and tenant rights.

For further questions or to report a leasing problem call Mosley at the Division of Adult and Tenant Services at (859) 258-3965. The service is free.