Welcome to college life! Your first time away from home. New challenges. New opportunities. New lifelong friends. It’s a day to feel optimistic about everything.
Your first day on campus involves a serious business transaction. Namely, the filling out of your college apartment lease checklist. On this checklist, you will be reporting the condition of your college apartment on move-in day. This checklist is an important legal document.
A typical checklist has two columns. A column on the left lists dozens of items. These include carpets, walls, paint, doors, windows, shades or blinds, lights, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, and appliances. For each item on the left, the column on the right has three or so checkboxes for you to check off the condition of each item as “good,” “fair,” or “poor,” or something similar.
When you move out, whether, in one or two or four years from now, your landlord will inspect the condition of your apartment on move-out day. Your landlord will compare this inspection on move-out day with what you reported about the condition of your apartment on move-in day when you filled out your checklist. Based on this comparison, your landlord will decide whether and how much of your security deposit to return to you, and how much more additional money to collect from you if your landlord determines your security deposit is insufficient to cover the changes in condition.
The last thing you want two weeks after graduation, when you are settled into your new job on the other side of the world, is a demand letter for money from your former college apartment landlord, or worse, their lawyer, or worse, their collection agency.
Although the checklist is an important legal document, it doesn’t need to be intimidating. Here are some hints for filling out your college apartment lease checklist. They are not to be taken as legal counsel or advice, merely tips to help ensure you can be optimistic about your college apartment experience, too.
- Take time to read the entire apartment lease thoughtfully and carefully. Make sure you know what it says and understand what it means.
- Take time to inspect the apartment thoroughly as you fill out the checklist. Your landlord will be inspecting every corner. You should do so, too. It can take some time, but spending a couple of hours now can save you hundreds of dollars later.
- Be objective. “Good” does not mean “good enough,” or “livable,” or “it’ll be fine.” Nice-looking carpet with a hole in it is not “good.” A working oven with crust baked onto the racks is not “good.” Stay positive about your new roommates. Be objective about the condition of your apartment.
- Write in your own detailed descriptions as necessary. There is no legal requirement for you to limit your responses to the preprinted form. Use the blank areas next to the items, or use the blank reverse side of the checklist. Write at the bottom of the checklist, “See reverse side for detailed descriptions.” Make sure your printing is legible, and it is clear what items you are describing.
- Similarly, write in additional items as necessary. If there is a crack by the ceiling light in the bedroom, but no listing for it on the checklist, write it in. Again, make sure your printing is legible, and it is clear what items you are describing.
- Take photos! Both when you move in, and again when you move out. Use your cell phone. Get close-ups. Date them and store them where you can retrieve them. Write at the bottom of the checklist, “Photos available.” If a dispute arises, you’ll be glad you have your own set of before-and-after shots.
- Make and keep copies of the entire apartment lease, including the checklist with all of your own write-ins. It’s a good habit to get into. Sign it, copy it, and keep it.
We hope you find your college experience rewarding. Should you need help with reviewing your college apartment lease or any kind of lease, we’re here to help. And should a dispute arise over your lease, even after you’ve moved away, we’re here to help, too. Feel free to contact us for a consultation.