While living on-campus has a lot of great perks, there’s still a point in your college life when renting an apartment off-campus could be a better fit. There’s more space, more privacy, but of course, more responsibility! As a student who just got a handle on college terminology, how do you start this new lease process?

Before you dive into all of the options available, we want to arm you with some real estate terminology. While you think you might know all of these terms, some might have specific “legalese” you should know. Start with an understanding of what is required of you, roommates, the owner of the apartment, and even your parents.


The People Involved

Lease or lease agreement: Easy one right? A lease agreement is a formal, legal document between you and the property owner. It outlines both the time you’re allowed to legally live in their property, the amount you’re going to pay, and the other rules that apply to your relationship.

Lessee and Lessor: The lessee (you) is the tenant or person signing the lease, who will live in the property. The lessor is your landlord, complex or property manager who owns and maintains the property.

Guarantor/Co-Signer: This term is an important one in a college town. For students who may not have full-time employment or income, or are still under 21 years of age, the addition of a guarantor or co-signer on your lease agreement secures your ability to pay the agreed-upon rent amount. Discussing with your parents (if they are helping fund your apartment) and their timing to sign for you is a must-do! Also important: The guarantor is not the lessee!

The Money

Rent: The fee or compensation paid (usually monthly) in exchange for the right to live in and use the rental property. This is different from utilities like electric, cable or internet, water, and even trash pickup.

Application Fee: It takes some time and effort on the part of the complex office or property management company to put your lease agreement together, and the application fee covers that work. It is non-refundable and not part of your lease agreement.

Security Deposit: An amount of money to be put down to both secure your lease agreement, and also sits as a sum to be used for anything above “wear and tear” in your apartment after you move out.

Pet Fee: If your apartment or property allows a pet, you’ll pay a fee that’ll be used for any damage or repair needed due to that pet. This can be very helpful if that adorable puppy of yours decides to dig at the carpet. This fee is non-refundable. This fee can is also different from pet rent, which is an additional payment that may be added onto your rent payment, depending on your property terms.

Utilities Included: Many college apartments wrap the utility bills we mentioned above into your rent payment. This means that some or all of your utilities could be a lump sum included your monthly rent. Be sure and note exactly what is included so you can set up accounts if you need them before move in. Also know who you should contact if something goes wrong!

The Space

Common Areas: In college towns, where many units are rented by the room. The “common areas” listed in the lease agreement outline the spaces that are shared between lessees.  These spaces are both inside and outside your unit.

The Timeframe

Renewal: Before the end of your rental period, you’ll be asked if you want to renew. You’ll be given the option to stay in your apartment for another year, or agreed-upon amount of time. Be aware, your rent could go up or terms can change with a renewal. Read carefully!

We’re Here to Help You

Importantly, you should know that many college apartment complexes and property management agencies require leases to be signed just after January 1 for summer occupancy. This means you need to start looking in the fall if you want to live off-campus next year. Have you missed that boat? No worries. Pointe West is here to help you. Check out our current residential rental listings, and give us a call today or come in and meet with us!


Property Manager/Associate Broker Christine Whittaker joined the Pointe West team in July 2018. She has extensive experience in Real Estate Management and Relocation Management, and enjoys managing our talented leasing team. As a Real Estate veteran, Christine is excited to share her knowledge with our tenants and property owners.