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Final Considerations: Signing a Lease, Inventory, Roommate Contract, Resident Checklist

The following is to assist you in understanding some important information about signing an apartment lease. This information comes from the University of Houston Student Legal Services. If you would like to contact them, their telephone number is (713) 743-5462. They are located in Room 272, University Center.

BEFORE you sign a lease, be sure to check the following items:

  1. Security
    • Check with the police department regarding crime in the area and in the complex; Houston, and many other cities, have websites with crime statistics given by area;
    • As present tenants about the safety of the complex and the area;
    • Ask the manager how many burglaries, thefts, assaults, vandalism, etc. have occurred in the past year;
    • Ask the manager to describe the security provided by the complex; be sure to advise management that security is of utmost importance to you;
    • Is there a security gate? If so, who has access to the code? How frequently does it malfunction?
    • Visit at night to check the lighting.
  2. Location
    • Convenience to bus line
    • Are future next-door neighbors loud, sensitive to sound, etc.?
    • Has there been flooding in the area? How often?
    • Noise – is there a train in the area?
    • Is there sufficient parking for guests and roommates? access to the code? How frequently does it malfunction?
    • Visit at night to check the lighting.
  3. The lease
    • What notices are required? In writing?
    • Are pets allowed?
    • What happens if you remain past lease terms?
    • What happens if you move out before the end of the lease?
    • How are repairs to be handled?
    • Can you sublease?
    • Must requests for repairs be in writing?
    • How long is the usual wait for repairs to air condition, heat, plumbing, etc?
    • How often is the filter in the air condition changed? Who replaces it?
    • If one roommate moves out, is the other liable for the entire rent? (usually, yes)
    • When can the landlord enter the apartment? Under what conditions?
    • Who is responsible for the maintenance of the yard, plants, trees, etc?
    • Are there other rules of the complex? If so, obtain a copy.
    • Be sure that you add all of the landlord’s promises and representations to the lease itself or to an addendum to the lease signed by the agent.
  4. Carefully check the rental property
    • Before signing the lease, visit on different hours and days to observe overall conditions of the property, especially on a Saturday night. Don’t sign until you have looked at your unit – they aren’t always like the model.
    • With the landlord, prior to moving in, go through the apartment with a fine-tooth comb, listing all items that are less than perfect, such as:
      • Carpet stains and age of carpet;
      • Marks on walls and date of last painting;
      • Condition of appliances, air conditioning, heat, plumbing, etc. Turn them on to be sure they work properly;
      • Stains on counters, floors, appliances;
      • Water stains on ceiling (Ask if there was a leak and when it was fixed)’
      • Be sure electricity works in all rooms;
      • Note the condition of yard and gardens;
      • Presence of insects and rodents.
    • Be sure you maintain an original copy of the inventory signed by the landlord.
  5. Roommate
    • Select your roommate carefully. Each roommate will be liable for all rent and repair damages to the apartment owed by other roommates.
    • If you plan to have a roommate be sure that you agree on the following:
      • How the rent and utilities will be paid;
      • What happens if one person cannot pay his portion of the rent;
      • What happens if one person wants to move and the other does not – at end of the lease term or before end of the lease;
      • Will the landlord allow each to be liable for only his portion of the rent? Usually, the tenants are jointly and severally liable (both obligated for the entire rent);
      • Agreements regarding overnight guests, food, bills, etc.
      • Remember that the person listed on the telephone bill will be responsible for all long-distance calls made on the phone, including those made by a roommate’s acquaintance.
      • If you allow a roommate to borrow a credit card, you will probably be liable for all charges made, even if it was more than you authorized.

AFTER you move in, be sure to do the following:

  • Send a certified letter to the landlord with a list of all problems with the apartment;
  • Be sure to follow all these requirements and apartment rules;
  • If you have problems with the apartment, call for immediate help but follow up with a letter; be sure to keep a copy of the letter, the dates you delivered or mailed the notice, and the dates you called;
  • Give proper notice before the move-out date. Most leases require 30 days' written notice even if you are moving out at the end of the lease term. Failure to give proper notice may allow the landlord to retain your security deposit plus a charge for additional rent.
  • After you move out, return your keys. Failure to do so may cause your lease to be extended even if you have already moved out.
  • Always pay your rent on time; failure to do so will limit your remedies against the landlord.

The landlord has the following obligations:

  • Repair anything that significantly affects the physical health and safety of a tenant;
  • Maintain security devices on doors and windows;
  • Install smoke detectors;
  • A landlord must provide notice before he/she locks a tenant out of his/her apartment. If the landlord changes the locks, he must provide written notice of the location of a key that can be obtained at any hour of the day or night; the tenant is not required to pay rent to obtain the new key.
  • If a landlord removes a tenant’s property for failure to pay rent, he may not take items essential to the occupant’s health or occupation, owned by someone other than the tenant, or that have no reasonable value to someone other than the tenant.
  • If a burglary or sexual assault occurs on your complex, the landlord must change your locks within seven days of your request.

Security Deposit

If a tenant complies with ALL lease provisions (including payment of last month’s rent), the landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days, unless:

  • No new address is given to the landlord;
  • The tenant fails to give notice of his intent to move (generally 30 days is required, even if move-out is at the end of the lease term); OR
  • The landlord sends, within 30 days, an itemized list detailing the cost of repairing damaged property and returns the remainder of the deposit. The landlord may not deduct expenses of normal “wear and tear.”

Important Numbers

Counseling and Psychological Services 713-743-5454
Dean of Students 832-842-6183
Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid (713) 743-1010, option 5
UH Police Department (713) 743-3333
Women and Gender Resource Center 832-842-9472

NOTE: This is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The laws affecting Texans are in constant transition. Students who are confronted with legal problems, or who desire specific advice, should contact Student Legal Services or seek the assistance of another licensed attorney.