Beyond the Diag - Off Campus Housing

Take time before you sign

Though only a few weeks into the fall semester, many off-campus students are already contemplating lease renewals and landlords have begun touring prospective students for 2020. Though non-University sponsored leases are becoming available, students should be aware that signing a lease is no small act. It is a legal contract that, as Student Legal Services reminds us, cannot be broken. 

Students should be aware of the seventy-day ordinance policy, which explains that landlords are legally able to start showing properties to prospective tenants as early as seventy days after the start of the current lease. This leads to differences in leases signed for May and September. Landlords with May-to-May leases can legally begin showing and signing new tenants for their properties as early as mid-July after a lease has started. Landlords with September-to-September leases can legally begin showing and signing new tenants for their properties as early as mid-November after a lease has started. Many off-campus group leases are May leases, which means that those homes are currently open for lease. September leases however, must wait until this November to begin signing. 

There is a lot of confusion in the housing market, largely due to the differences in the May and September lease processes, and the techniques that some landlords use to skirt around the law. Landlords are not obligated to offer lease renewals to current residents, though they may do so as a matter of good business practice. What’s more, some landlords avoid the ordinance by signing students to “waitlists,” or showing model units instead of the actual units they have available. Beware that some landlords ignore the ordinance altogether, initiating the signing process early and problematically accelerating the market for September leases. 

A large number of upperclassmen look to sign a May lease to secure a house for senior year. May leases allow graduating students to simply move out when the semester ends, without the burden of carrying their lease through August. With this in mind, students in search of a May lease are able to sign those leases now. Remember though, students should always take time before they sign. It is always wise to have a lease reviewed by an attorney at Student Legal Services to understand every aspect of what is being signed for. 

By raising your awareness of the differences between May and September leases, you will be better prepared to avoid making rash lease-signing decisions and find your best housing fit. If you have further questions about lease-signing or the legality behind the signing process, don’t hesitate to contact the University’s Student Legal Services for further guidance. 

Contributed by Annie Else and Emily Lustbader, –Neighborhood Ambassadors