A first-time renter’s guide to learning their lease


Students looking for housing can choose from 19 dorms, three campus apartments and several off-campus apartments.

Haley Thams

After moving out of the dorms, know as much as you can about signing your new lease. There are many different apartments and housing options in Ames, so know what will work best for you.

First, make sure you read the lease. Some leases can be 30 to 40 pages long, but you should know what to expect from your landlord.

Paul Johnson, an attorney and co-director of Student Legal Services at Iowa State had sound advice about signing leases.

“They should look for any rules that might be in the lease, should look for their rights or what the landlord promises them, all when they sign the lease,” Johnson said.

He also said to make sure there is an agreement regarding renting with a roommate. Make sure you know how and when you are going to pay rent, if you and your roommate are going to be on the same lease and know your rights if there are any complications with your landlord.

When you are touring an apartment or house, or when looking over the lease, make sure you ask about utilities. Know if you will be responsible for water, gas or electricity.

When renting anywhere, decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your landlord. You can rent from a bigger corporation, or from an individual landlord.

“Larger property management groups can be the ones that put together the 30 to 40 page [lease], these are really or more protective of their own rights and they probably know the law a little bit more,” Johnson said.

One thing that you should definitely look out for, Johnson says, is landlords who make promises that are not in the lease. “A lot of time the lease will say any agreement not in writing is not going to be binding upon either party,” said Johnson.

Johnson also recommends that residents should get renter’s insurance, as many landlords will require it and it will be helpful if any unforeseeable accidents happen.

The next big consideration is security deposits. A security deposit is a sum of money that the new resident will pay to the landlord when initially paying rent. If the property is undamaged by the time the tenant moves out, they will get their security deposit back.

Maxwell Sutcliffe, a senior studying software engineering, had issues when getting his security deposit back after living in Chamberlain Lofts.

“When we moved in the apartment was clearly not in good shape and then when we were moving out we followed all of the instructions and my roommate and I cleaned up the apartment,” Sutcliffe said. “We just expected to get our security deposits back.”

Leo Forney, a sophomore in software engineering, lives in Legacy Tower along with Louie Ervin, a senior studying mechanical engineering.

“When we first moved in, it was pretty dirty and messy. There was some broken stuff, not that much but a little bit,” Forney said.

One way to ensure that you receive your deposit back is to take photos or videos of the property when you first move in, so that you have proof of what it looked like before you left.

The landlord does not see the property when you move in, so make sure to capture what it looks like so they do.

Ervin pointed out that their utilities bill will also be very large, because of the power it takes to supply their AC unit.

“The AC unit is really pulling electric power and that’s why our electric bill is really big,” Ervin said.

Both Ervin and Forney agreed that the location of their apartment is why they wanted to live there; they have a nice view with a balcony, which was ultimately why they chose Legacy.

Katherine Moore, a senior studying elementary education, previously lived in The Edge Ames.

“The rooms were really clean, and they had good size spaces, something that was really difficult was maintenance requests weren’t always filed in the most proper way,” Moore said. “We had less issues with individual apartments as we did with the building itself.”

Moore explained that there would be holes in the walls of the hallways or amenities such as the public fireplace were often broken.

Moore chose to live in the Edge because of the location to campus, but did not resign her lease.

Katie Colvin, a junior studying event management, Samantha Taylor, a junior studying pre-business and Mckenna Peterson, a sophomore studying marketing, are roommates that live at 23 Twenty Lincoln.

They describe that their lease was not specific to their apartment complex, just an overview of a lease that had promises of amenities that they do not have, such as a pool.

“I feel like we’ve never been helped with anything,” Taylor said, speaking about their direct management.

They say that a lot of the younger college students who work there are more for the promotional side of the complex and do not know how to help if something is needed.

They agreed that the proximity to campus and the short walking distance to their classes, along with pricing, was ultimately why they resigned.

The Iowa State Daily invited all rental companies and properties mentioned to provide comment; none of which participated. 

When searching for an apartment in Ames, it is always about what you specifically want. Look at location, amenities, pricing and size.

For any questions about a lease, Student Legal Services is a resource for Student’s at Iowa State, otherwise people can take a look at their Renter’s Rules.