What you need to know before renting and becoming a tenant….
Looking for off-campus housing in Williamsburg, VA? King & Queen Apartments has renovated apartments for undergraduates and graduates.
Moving off campus is fun, exciting and, let’s face it, liberating. No more RAs; you have your own place and you can come and go as you please with no one to hassle you. Right? Well, moving off campus into an apartment can be all of these things. It can also be a wake-up call to those who do not fully understand what they are doing, or actually getting into and, ultimately, agreeing to, in their lease agreement.
We all have many different roles in life including son or daughter, sibling, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, student, volunteer, athlete, etc…. Adding ‘tenant’ to that list can be a bit confusing and stressful at times.
There is a lot of off-campus housing in Williamsburg, VA. However, none are as close to the William & Mary Campus as King & Queen Apartments.
The information provided here was compiled to help those who are want to move off of the College of William & Mary’s campus and are looking for off-campus housing in Williamsburg, VA. It will hopefully answer many of the questions those have when moving off-campus and, more specifically, those moving to King & Queen Apartments. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of moving off-campus and becoming a tenant.
1. Know Your Rights
The lease that King & Queen Apartments, uses follows the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), also known as “the Act”. The Act is Virginia state law that outlines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The portion of the Code of Virginia that pertains to the VRLTA can be found here or a copy of the Act is available from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development at http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/.
This law does not cover all living situations; it does not apply to dorms, Greek housing, or some single-family residences and condominiums. Not all rental properties automatically fall under the VRLTA; however, multifamily properties, like apartment complexes, do; however, there are some exemptions noted in Virginia law.
You should never sign a lease that waives your rights under the VRLTA. Additionally, there may be several provisions of the law and/or lease that may require clarification. If you have any questions about a certain provision in your lease, feel free to ask the landlord or their managing agent for assistance or clarification.
Here are some helpful resources to review before leasing a property:
- Your Rights as a Tenant from the Virginia Legal Aid Society.
- Renter’s Rights and Responsibilities: The Basics (Publication 354-066, 2012) from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
- Virginia Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
as of July 1, 2020 from Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
**PLEASE NOTE** In Virginia, property owners do not have to accept tenants whose primary role is “student.” Most students do not have the financial qualifications to rent an apartment and will need a financial guarantor. Financial guarantors are typically the parents of students looking to rent apartments. Parents should encourage other parents to also guarantee the lease when their son/daughter/student is living together. King & Queen Apartments works with and rents to students.
2. Rental Application, Fees, and Deposit
Before you can sign a lease, you need to complete a rental application. The information you provide on a rental application must be true, accurate and complete, with signature and all required funds and copies of documents before management will consider your application. Once approved, your application and the information you have provided is made part of the lease agreement.
Each applicant must complete a separate application and pay a separate, non-refundable application fee. An application deposit is required at time of application. The application deposit becomes the security deposit for the apartment once the lease is signed. All applications are subject to management’s approval and may be disapproved without designating cause. Only those persons listed on the rental application are applying for tenancy.
When a guarantor is needed to be added to the lease agreement, it means that in the event that the tenant is unable to meet their financial obligations under the lease agreement. Whether it is overdue rent, damage to the property or whatever the case may be, the guarantor is legally bound to accept the financial liabilities on behalf of the tenant.
Having a guarantor added to the lease is similar to an insurance policy for the landlord or managing agent. This is protection against defaulting on rent or other financial obligations during the lease period. A guarantor must complete an application to verify employment, income, and creditworthiness. Please note that when tenants are entering into a lease that is joint and several, they are individually and severally responsible. Therefore, the guarantor is guaranteeing not just the tenant they specifically have an association with, but the other tenant(s) as well.
- the signer READ the contract,
- it means the signer UNDERSTOOD the contract, and finally
- it means the signer AGREED to the contract, even if the signer did not read, understand, or agree with it.
You, or anyone for that matter, should never sign a lease without understanding it. It is a legal and binding contract under Virginia law. If you do not understand a part of the lease, please seek competent advice before signing. Only those who sign the lease as tenants are legally responsible for the actions and debts, respectively, incurred under the lease. This responsibility is joint and several – which means both tenants are equally responsible for adhering to the lease provision, as equally responsible for any lease violations and for the payment of whole rent if it is not paid in full.
Once your lease is signed, the application deposit paid when you submitted your application becomes the security deposit for the apartment. The VRLTA allows a security deposit of up to two month’s rent.
4. Moving In
Once a lease is signed and you move into your apartment, you should do a walk-through inspection of the apartment within five (5) days of occupancy. This can be done with or without the landlord or their agent. A move-in report/assessment will be made available itemizing damages to the dwelling unit existing at the time of occupancy. This record shall be deemed correct unless you object to it, in writing, within five (5) days after receiving it. Once you have completed your move-in report/assessment, and within five (5) days of occupancy, submit your completed report to the managing agent. Save a copy of your move-in report/assessment for your records. If you did not conduct your walk-through inspection with the managing agent/landlord and disagree with something written on the report pertaining to the condition of the apartment when you gained occupancy, ask them to do the walkthrough again, this time together, so you can both arrive at a mutual agreement on the original condition of the apartment.
5. Enjoying your apartment!
Each tenant who moves into an apartment is required to agree to the provisions of the lease and the rules and regulations, which are made part of the lease. Among these lease provisions, the tenant agrees to respect the quiet enjoyment of others. If you find that your neighbors are noisy, the first complaint should be to them, unless that is a threatening proposition. If you do not feel that it would be appropriate to confront them yourself and, for instance, it is 3:00 AM and the noise from their apartment is keeping you up, call the police. You can report the issue anonymously and they will handle the situation for you. Then contact management, in writing, and report the situation.
Tenants are given notices for lease violations, for example, noise ordinance violations, which are a violation of the lease agreement. The City of Williamsburg has imposed a noise ordinance that carries with it pretty steep fines if violated. If a notice of violation of the noise ordinance is given to the tenant by the City of Williamsburg, management will put the tenants on notice for violating the lease agreement.
- The City of Williamsburg’s Noise Ordinance (Article V)
- Further information about the ordinance can be found here on the City of Williamsburg’s website.
6. Protecting your belongings
The landlord’s insurance does NOT cover your personal property against destruction or loss. Renter’s Insurance gives both property and liability coverage to you if there are any losses due to fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage from plumbing leaks. What’s more, renters insurance will cover hotel or motel costs you could incur if you are displaced due to a loss. The insurance should cover your responsibility to other people who are injured in your apartment or elsewhere by your possessions and includes legal defense costs if you are taken to court. More information is available at the Insurance Information Institute, at www.iii.org and specifically, www.iii.org/individuals/homei/hbasics/renters/Helpline.
Renter’s insurance is required for tenancy at King & Queen Apartments. Proof that you have a renter’s insurance policy must be provided at the time of lease signing. More information about the specifics of the renter’s insurance policy provision can be found in the lease agreement.
7. Repairs and Maintenance Issues
Report maintenance issues as soon as you discover them to avoid further damage or problems. All notifications of any problem should be done so in writing. In writing means either online through this website, via email or by letter. The best and most efficient way is by submitting online maintenance request.
8. Defaulting on a Lease
Defaulting on a lease can occur in many different ways. Being a good tenant is more than just paying your rent on time. Examples of a default include, but are not limited to non-payment of rent, breach of provisions of the lease, breach of provisions of the rules and regulations of the lease.
If a tenant breaks the lease or does not pay rent, his/her lease may be considered to be a warrant in debt for the amount owed (which includes rent, late fees, court costs and attorney’s fees). If a judgment is issued against a tenant or tenants, it affects his/her credit rating and may result in a garnishment of wages or checking accounts. Landlords can evict tenants for nonpayment of rent and there is a legal procedure a landlord must follow before they can actually put a tenant out.
If rent is not paid as agreed upon in the lease, a landlord must first serve a “Material Noncompliance Notice for Non-payment of Rent” notice, and then, if rent is still not paid, file an “Unlawful Detainer” with the General District Court. Then, if the landlord gets possession of the apartment in court, he/she must file a “Writ of Possession” (effectively an eviction notice) with the sheriff.
9. Approaching the End of the Lease
Tenants at King & Queen Apartments must give written notice at least ninety (150) days prior to the end of the lease term that they are staying in their apartment and will be signing a new lease. If such written notice is not received at least ninety (150) days before the end of the lease term, the lease will be terminated, without renewal, and the apartment will be rented to new, approved applicants. New leases are signed each year by all tenants, new and existing.
The VRLTA allows outlines how the security deposit is to be handled when a tenant vacates the dwelling unit. If the deposit is held by the landlord for more than the thirteen months, then the tenant is owed interest according to Virginia law. The deposit, less any itemized will be returned to the lessee within forty-five (45) days after termination of the tenancy. The deposit is returned as one payment to the tenants in the lease jointly.
10. Vacating the Apartment
Now that you have given notice that you are not renewing your lease and you are preparing to move. The following points should be considered when vacating your apartment:
- Tenants must be sure that they have given the required notice stated in the lease agreement. King & Queen Apartments leases require one hundred fifty (150) days notice of whether a tenant wants to renew. If proper, written notice is not given, the lease will terminate at the end of the term, without renewal.
- A vacating cleaning/checklist, as well as, a damage addendum are typically included in the lease, which describes the standards of how and by whom the apartment should be cleaned when the lease has ended, the apartment is vacated and the charges that will be accrued if the provisions are not met. Tenants should be sure to review these provisions and standards.
- Tenants are encouraged to be present for their move-out inspection. The inspection must be made within 72 hours of termination of occupancy. They should have each person sign each sheet and go over the vacating checklist to verify that everything has been done that was required.
- It is important that tenants keep copies of all records, including move-in inspections, repair reports, damage reports, letters, vacating checklist and, most importantly, the lease itself.
- Tenants are encouraged to be present for both their move-in and move-out inspection. They should get a copy of the inspection report or make their own as they go along.
- A forwarding address needs to be given to the landlord to return the security deposit by mail. Landlords have 45 days to return the security deposit, less any deductions, after the final inspection date.
- The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires that a list of itemized deductions from the security deposit and the security deposit refund itself is to be returned within forty-five (45) days after the end of the lease. If a tenant is not satisfied with the security deposit disposition, he or she should contact the landlord, or their managing agent, in writing.
- Notify the US Postal Service of your forwarding address before you move. This can be done online at USPS.com. It is no one else’s responsibility but yours to forward your mail.