Many college students are living on their own for the very first time, leaving the protection of their guardians and making their own path in the world. One major learning experience is navigating rentals and landlords. While most landlords should abide by local and federal rental rules, there may be some bad eggs out there. Do ample research before committing to a new apartment and don’t sign a binding lease agreement unless a living situation seems like a good fit.

1. Check student reviews

Review websites like Yelp and Rate My Student Rental have taken off, allowing residents to provide candid feedback regarding student apartments. Be sure to check a new property and see how well it is managed. Take some reviews with a grain of salt. Some complaints can be very irrational, where a reviewer blames something out of the landlord’s control (like the weather). Keep an eye out for warning signs, like recurring complaints about poor upkeep, sudden changes in rent prices, or inconsistent management. This can be a renter’s first line of defense, allowing one to filter out potential nightmare landlords and properties.

2. Read the Rental Agreement

Don’t sign anything until one reads through the complete rental agreement. This can include very useful information regarding pet rules, subletting, emergency plans, and property issues like mold. If one doesn’t feel comfortable with a particular clause, do not sign the agreement. Make sure to connect with a landlord with any concerns before signing a lease. This can lock a renter into a few months or a year of living in an apartment.

3. Talk to current residents

Learn more about what an apartment is really like by checking in with current residents. Talk to classmates and study partners to learn more about their current landlords and property facilities. Good landlords are often promoted via word-of-mouth, so keep an ear open for glowing remarks. The same is true for scary landlords. Try to avoid renting from a property manager with a bad reputation. Else expect to hear friends telling you, “I told you so!”

4. Keep options open

Don’t get stuck on one apartment listing, just because it looks like a great place to live. Explore a variety of properties and check out multiple listings. Students can easily check out apartments near Full Sail online and learn about the amenities, nearby resources, furnishings, and more.

5. Know renters’ rights

Different states have different approaches to renters’ rights, but they all exist to protect tenants from landlords who may try to abuse their power. Find out minimum requirements, like how much notice a landlord needs to give before raising rent, entering an apartment, or evicting residents. If a landlord does something that seems inappropriate, be sure to check online or with an attorney to make sure their actions are legal.

Overview

Bad landlords can often be avoided. Avoid a negative situation and do research before renting. Speak with fellow students to get the down low on great places to live, read a lease agreement carefully, and know what renters’ rights are out there. Abide by the rules at a new apartment. Just as students want to avoid bad landlords, don’t be a nightmare resident!