Although Tallahassee is currently simmering through the dog days of summer, fall will soon be upon us bringing cooler weather and a return of the approximately 70,000 students who live and study in our community. While some reside on campus, a majority will be moving into the many apartments that cater to the campus community. For many, this will be their first experience as tenants. Here are some steps that students, and their parents, can take that may make their experience more rewarding and possibly protect them from headaches during and after their time as tenants.
- Read and keep a signed copy of your original lease agreement. If it’s online, print it and keep it somewhere safe. A lease is a legal contract between the tenant and the landlord. Often the lease will determine the outcome of disputes between a landlord and a tenant. Do not sign a lease that contains terms you don’t understand, don’t agree to, or don’t intend to abide by.
- Take pictures of your apartment on move-in day. Do not trust a landlord to accurately document defects and damage present at move-in. If there is a move-in checklist go through it with the landlord to make sure everything is documented. Make sure you receive and keep a copy of this document. Property managers sometimes leave, and apartments sometimes are sold, you want documentation that you can use in the event that you find yourself dealing with a new landlord.
- Review the community rules and follow them. Most community rules are reasonable and necessary. It’s never a bad idea to be a good neighbor. Being a bad neighbor can subject you to fines, and in some cases, even eviction.
- Communicate with your landlord in writing and keep copies. A good landlord will respond quickly to address a tenant’s verbal concerns, but when dealing with a reluctant or non-responsive landlord you need to put your communications in writing. Florida law requires written, not verbal, communication to a landlord prior to terminating a lease or withholding rent due to a landlord’s failure to repair or maintain the rental property or to cure some other breach of the landlord’s obligations under the lease or law.