Many of you are fully immersed in the 2010 Housing Hunting Season. The UCSB Community Housing Office has gathered the following list of items after discussions with Isla Vista property managers and students as some of the most important things to consider before putting your pen to the paper.

Top Five Things to Consider Before Signing a Lease

5. Can you afford your portion of the security deposit, rent and utilities for 12 months?
4. Are you signing a lease with roommates that share a similar lifestyle with you? Are you all on the same page about cleaning, parties, guests and security? Most roommate conflicts are the result of different lifestyles.
3. Are you ready for the responsibilities of living in the community, paying your own bills, cleaning your own bathroom and making your own meals (among other responsibilities)?
2. Where do you want to live? Is I.V. the best environment for you, or should you consider Goleta or Santa Barbara instead?
1. Are you and your potential roommates responsible with money? You will be signing a legally binding document with people you may not know very well. Have the tough conversation about money now before problems arise. 

Top 10 Things to Consider While Signing a Lease

10. Have you read all of the fine print? If you don’t feel comfortable signing or the property provider is unable to answer your questions, bring your lease to CHO, and we will review it with you. Your lease is a binding agreement between you, your roommates and the property provider, and your signature means you agree with what is written.

9. Make sure the lease accurately represents what you and your property provider agreed upon regarding monthly rental amount and security deposit amount, lease length (most are for 12 months), move-in/move-out dates, laundry use, maximum number of tenants, terms, rules and other policies. Make sure you and your roommates are also on the same page about what the lease says since you are all responsible for its terms and conditions.

8. Are you sure about your lease’s particular policies about guests, parking, pets, noise, kegs, Halloween and parties? Be sure so that you and your roommates are well informed about what is and isn’t allowed on the rental premises.

7. Does rent need to be paid with one check, or can you and your roommate(s) pay separately? What, if any, is the grace period for rent due? Where does the rent check need to be sent? What are the late fees?

6. What does your lease say about reassignment (i.e. finding a replacement when you can no longer fulfill the terms of the lease)? Is there a fee or paperwork involved if you need to leave the contract and find a replacement? When summer rolls around or you decide to study abroad, is subleasing allowed? Make sure you understand what the lease states about subleasing and reassignment so that you avoid any trouble.

5. How much is the security deposit, and how will you and your roommates split it up? When is it due? Remember that the best ways to secure your security deposit are to sign up for a move-in/move-out video with CHO and to take good care of your rental!

4. There is often a statement in leases about “alterations, repairs and decorating.” It can be tempting to make your rental a unique place that represents you and your style, but painting or attaching anything to the walls is not allowed without your property provider’s permission. Changing locks without the landlord’s permission is also a no-go.

3. When signing a lease, consider which utilities are included in the rent (if any). Paying for water, trash, cable TV, Internet, gas and electric can add up, so consider these extra amounts when considering the rental amount. Make sure to discuss with roommates about how these are going to get set up, by whom and how they will be paid. Additionally, some utility companies require a deposit for the service, often because the person setting it up doesn’t have established financial credit.

2. Some landlords ask for a “contact person” on the lease, which can make information dissemination and communication between landlord and tenants more effective. Who is the most responsible person in your group?

1. Does the term “joint and several” appear in your lease? The following information is borrowed from George Washington University’s Off-Campus Student Affairs Web site. A “joint and several liability” clause makes every signer of the rental agreement equally responsible for the entire amount due and owing. Each tenant is individually responsible for all the rent and any damages that occur, regardless of the means the tenants use to divide the rent among themselves and regardless of which tenant actually causes the damage. If one person does not pay the rent, the other roommates are liable to the landlord for payment of that person’s share or they are all subject to eviction for non-payment of rent. It is up to the other tenants, not the landlord, to collect from the non-paying tenant. It is important to protect yourself by choosing roommates you can trust, keeping your landlord informed when you vacate your rental property and following the requirements in your lease when moving out.

If you’re looking for a place for the 2010-11 school year, come to the Rental Faire today at the Arbor from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.!

Got questions? CHO has answers! Come to the office (UCen Third Floor), call us at 893-4371 or e-mail us at Become a fan on Facebook of UCSB Community Housing Office to receive updates and tips about rental housing in the Santa Barbara Area.