College is an exciting time, often offering a chance to move to a new place and experience independence for the first time. For many, it also means the first time renting an apartment, which comes with a new host of responsibilities.

Before choosing an apartment, it’s important to know both your rights and obligations as a renter. If you have concerns about your housing situation, an experienced landlord/tenant lawyer can help you navigate these new and exciting waters.

Landlord Obligations

Unfortunately, some landlords will try to take advantage of students’ inexperience in the rental market. It’s important to know that you have rights as a renter, and that your landlord has certain obligations to make sure that your apartment is safe and livable. This includes complying with laws requiring the provision of heat, running water, and locks, among other things. Landlords are also required to fix any unreasonably dangerous conditions that may exist on the property.

Before you sign a lease, make sure you’re clear on what utilities or other expenses are and are not included. If a landlord agrees to cover the cost for any service in a rental agreement, you have the right to hold him or her to that, and you may have legal recourse if the terms of the lease aren’t followed.

Another important aspect of any lease it the parties’ abilities to terminate it. You should be familiar with how much notice your lease requires before you can be asked to move out, and under what circumstances your landlord can request that you do so.

Roommate Considerations

If you’re opting to live with roommates, you need to choose wisely. Picking the wrong roommate can lead to consequences beyond trivial matters like too many dirty dishes. Rental agreements are serious legal documents, so you should only enter into one with someone you truly trust.

It’s critical to understand that, when you sign a lease with another person, you become legally responsible for that person’s obligations to the landlord under the lease. In most circumstances, if your roommate violates the rental agreement, you’re equally liable. This includes responsibility for any damages to the property and any missed rent payments. If your roommate fails to pay his or her share of the rent and you’re not able to cover the shortfall, you could face eviction, even if you paid your fair share.

The same is true of other lease violations, including noise violations, illegal pets, or property damage. One roommate’s violation of the lease provisions can have negative consequences for everyone in the apartment. Also, be clear on what you need to do to recover your security deposit when you move out—if anyone in the apartment causes damage, you could be out whatever portion of the deposit you put down.

Finally, it’s important to be familiar with what your lease says about your ability to sublease the apartment or a room to someone who is not on the original lease. Subletting is common in college, but not all leases technically permit it. Be sure you’re complying with the conditions of your lease before agreeing to take on any new roommates.

How An Experienced Landlord/Tenant Lawyer Can Help

Living on your own should be an exciting experience, but things don’t always go as planned. It’s important to remember that tenants have rights under California law. If you’re concerned about your housing situation, or are experiencing problems with your landlord or roommate, you should consider consulting a landlord/tenant lawyer to protect your rights.

The experienced attorneys at Access Lawyers Group are here to assist you with all your landlord/tenant needs. Contact us today with any questions you may have regarding your rental agreement or your rights as a tenant.