Fine print of student-landlord relations

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    By Sherylin McMurtrey

    Contract for sale. First month?s rent is free, ?great ward? and ?best roommates ever.?

    Students have seen the fliers and note cards ? begging, pleading and offering incentives to sell their housing contracts. Before students get lured into signing a contract, there are a few things they should take into consideration before they sign to avoid having conflicts with their landlords later.

    John Pace, manager at the BYU Center for Conflict Resolution, said many of the conflicts they handle revolve around students and BYU landlords. He said conflicts vary from disputes over contracts and their meanings, deposits returned, disputes about the living conditions of the premises and repairs not being made. Occasionally there are disputes about standards violations.

    Students aren?t the only ones who are sometimes unclear regarding contract terms and agreements, Pace said.

    ?It goes both ways,? he said. ?There are landlords that don?t understand their responsibilities and there are students who don?t understand their responsibilities.?

    Most students not living on campus are required to live in BYU-approved housing, but there are a few exceptions.

    According to the BYU Off-Campus Housing Web site, single students exempt from this rule include: single parents, students living with close relatives or families, students living in housing owned by their parents, graduate school students and students who are 25 years or older.

    The $64,000 question many students ask: how can they get out of a contract early? One way is if the resident dies. If dying doesn?t sound appealing, there are a few other exceptions to terminate the contract.

    The BYU housing handbook lists several acceptable reasons to terminate a contract early. Students can give five days written notice, without penalties, for a serious medical illness, a ?verified unforeseen catastrophic loss? or if they are called to active military duty.

    ?We had a kid this year that had cancer and had to go home early,? said Tiffany Sorensen, assistant property manager for Raintree Commons.

    With at least 120 days written notice, students can end their contract if they graduate or if they are required to complete an internship for graduation. However, the resident forfeits ?only the rental deposit and any other legal deductions.?

    There are also clauses for the ?unthinkable.?

    ?If the complex loses their BYU approved housing they [tenants] will be released upon written notice,? Sorensen said. ?They will get their deposit back.?

    For all other reasons, it is the tenant?s responsibility to sell their contract.

    Remember to read between the lines before signing a contract, because once signed, the contract is binding and enforceable.

    ?My only advice,? Pace said, ?is before they sign a contract is to read it and understand it well.?

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