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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Top 5 Things To Know Before Co-signing a Lease with your College-Aged Child

School may seem miles away, but many college students are finalizing where they are going to live at school this year.

If your college student is tired of dorm life and wants to rent an apartment alone or with friends, he or she may ask you to co-sign on a lease.  Co-signing on a lease with your college student means that you’ll be expected to pay up if your offspring, or the roommates, don’t pay the rent on time.

Simply co-signing on the lease will not affect your credit score, however, missed payments that result in a collection or judgment can damage your credit and may even result in a lawsuit if not resolved quickly.

Here’s what Georgia parents needs to know about co-signing a lease with their college-aged child:

  1. Share the responsibility: Make sure all tenants are equally liable for the lease and the utilities.  If you’re not clear on who is accountable for what due to confusing contract language, it’s smart to have your own real estate attorney review the contract and give you advice on how to protect yourself.

  2. Limit your liability:  Although the landlord is not required to agree, you can make additional requests designed to limit your liability, such a limiting your responsibility to the principal of the lease (so you are not liable for additional late charges and collection fees), and/or notifications directly from the landlord if a payment is late, so you can try to fix a problem before it escalates.

  3. Get it in writing: If you make any changes to the original written agreement, be sure that the updated version is in writing.  Do not rely on verbal agreements and do not sign the original copy if you’ve made changes.  When push comes to shove, you need it in writing. 

  4. If someone wants to break the lease: Everyone may be eager to commit to a lease in the fall, but your student (or the roommates) may want to break the lease in the spring before the full term of the year-long lease expires.  Under Georgia law, there are only a few circumstances under which a landlord is required to allow a tenant to break a lease without penalties: (1) if the tenant is required to report for military duty, (2) the rental unit is unsafe, or (3) the landlord has violated privacy rights or harassed the tenants.  Otherwise, the tenant is on the hook for penalties.  If you do break the lease, give the landlord as much notice as possible and work something out.  Students should not just move out without advance notice. 

  5. Use a local attorney: Some laws regarding debt collection vary by state.  If your child is attending school here in Georgia and you would like to consult with an attorney about a lease, be sure that your attorney is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and specializes in real estate law. 

As a parent, you know that not all lessons are learned in the classroom.  You may be under pressure to quickly co-sign the lease and secure housing for the Fall semester, but it’s important to protect yourself and your family from financial harm in the long term.  

For more information on this topic, email Scott Mayfield at smayfield@smithwelchlaw.com or call him at 770-358-3630. Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and our community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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