Not even two months after moving into an apartment, most students who are living off-campus the following year have already been asked to renew their lease.

Paul Wong
Jennifer Levin, a real estate agent with Varsity Management located on Church Street, prepares for the housing rush.

“Everything fills up so fast. Every year people try to get a house in a decent location for a decent price,” LSA senior Jason Balon said.

In a rush to get housing, students are signing early leases without thinking about the consequences if they were to back out.

“A lease is a binding contract, probably the first one a student will sign that they are held accountable for,” Off-Campus Housing Advisor Melissa Goldstein said.

University Housing is recognizing that students are signing their leases earlier. This year’s housing fair was held on Oct. 21 as opposed to the Nov. 5 date a year earlier.

“Education is one of the biggest parts of the fair. We try to get more students to make more informed decisions and give them questions they need to ask and tell them where they need to go,” Goldstein said.

The pressure from landlords to sign and students’ willingness to commit has created a situation in which leases are getting signed earlier and earlier.

“There are different parts to the equation. Landlords are worried and students are worried. Signing a lease early also protects landlords,” Goldstein said.

Not all landlords pressure students to sign early leases. Perry Koulouras owns two houses in Ann Arbor and he said he does not pressure students to sign their leases. His wife said he “likes to give everyone time to evolve,” and he “likes to give young people the benefit of the doubt.” Koulouras has not had any litigation problems in the many years he has leased his houses.

Students are encouraged to go to the University Housing Office in the Student Activities Building for any questions they may have about off-campus housing. The Housing website is also a good resource to start the apartment hunt because it offers useful tips for apartment searching, officials said.

According to the University Housing’s website recommendations, students should not begin looking for an apartment until the housing fair has passed. One pitfall of early lease signing is making a commitment to roommates that you may hardly know, especially their living habits, ability to pay rent on time and expectations about shared housing. This can lead to disagreements, disrupted study time and attempts to get out of the rental lease.

Also, students should check the lease to see if snow and leaf removal are provided by the landlord. Another tip the website gives is to think again before squeezing in another roommate. Many students have been stuck with finding a new place to live when the City of Ann Arbor performs routine inspections and finds more people living in an apartment than capacity allows.

“There’s enough housing for everybody, so don’t rush into something as important as where you live and who you live with. Take your time and consider your options,” Goldstein said.

“Ask questions – ask the landlord, ask your friends, and if you don’t get a question answered, ask in a different way.”

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