When signing paperwork, no one ever looks at the fine print. People usually just flip through the papers, eyes glazing over all the clauses being agreed to, trying to find that black dotted line. Every contract has the same basic information, right? Why waste the time analyzing every page? Wrong! In every official document you sign, there is vital information within the fine print. One agreement that many West Chester students have to sign includes the leasing agreement. Students just out of high school, excited for the prospect of living on their own for the first time, sign the leasing agreement without a second thought or glance. Take a closer look at the fine print though and you will find some shocking specifications in your lease that all students should read before signing on that dotted line.
One of the most significant yet usually unknown conditions included in your USH lease is the Bed Bug provision (clause 4H in the 2018-19 Lease). This clause states the following:
“Tenant must inspect the Unit for bed bugs within 48 hours after moving in. If Tenant does not notify Landlord of bed bugs within 48 hours, then Tenant agrees that no presence or infestation of bed bugs exists.
During the Term, Tenant must report evidence of bed bugs to Landlord immediately. If there is a report of possible bed bugs, then Landlord will provide a licensed pest control service (a PSC) to inspect the Unit. If the PCS does not find a bed bug infestation, no further action will be taken. If the PCS does find evidence of bed bugs, the Unit will be treated. Tenant is responsible for all PCS costs and fees.
Tenant agrees to fully cooperate with Landlord and to follow all instructions to treat and eliminate bed bugs. This includes Tenant having their personal property (including clothing, bedding, and furniture) treated according to approved methods, which will be at the Tenant’s own expense. Any items removed from the Unit must be disposed of off-site.
If Landlord confirms the presence of bed bugs in Tenant’s Unit, Landlord has the right to temporarily relocate the Tenant. If Tenant is temporarily relocated, Tenant must remove all their belongings, at Tenant’s expense. Tenant’s rent will not be reduced because of the presence of bed bugs or a temporary relocation.”
Now, no one expects they will ever have to deal with bed bugs, but sometimes life throws unexpected things—or critters—your way. It does not matter how clean your room is—bed bugs can come in from anywhere. With the thousands of dollars USH residents pay, many students would expect that emergency situations, such as bed bugs, would be covered under the hefty expense, but this is not the case. If you are unlucky enough to experience a bed bug problem, not only do you have to undergo the stress of getting rid of them, but you may also have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for a problem that could have come from anywhere. More residents need to be aware of this provision before signing the leasing agreement so that they can be prepared if they find themselves in this unfortunate situation.
Another disturbing provision USH residents unsuspectingly agree to is the Release of Liability (clause 7B):
“Tenant is releasing (giving up) the right to sue Landlord if Landlord is negligent, and as a result of Landlord’s negligence, there is property damage, injury, or loss of life. Tenant agrees not to sue Landlord for this.
Tenant’s release includes giving up any claim that Landlord is liable for any:
a. fire, accident, injury, death or property damage or theft at the Facility;
b. delayed delivery, damage, or loss to Tenant’s mail;
c. criminal or wrongful act at the Facility;
d. conflict between Tenant and another person at the Facility;
e. failure to provide Tenant with a service required under this Lease, including but not limited to telephone, cable TV, telephone service, internet service or any other similar service; or
f. malfunction of machinery, appliances, or equipment serving the Premises or Facility.”
I was very taken aback when I read this clause. This small provision packs a monumental punch. Many residents do not realize that they agree to “giving up any claim that the Landlord is liable for any fire, accident, injury, death, property damage or theft.” Now, death is extremely rare in the case of student housing; injury and theft seem more plausible. Since most residents skipped to the last page of their lease and signed away their life—quite literally—they gave up all rights to fight if anything were to happen. Did you realize what you were agreeing to?
With this school year quickly coming to an end, many students are finalizing their housing plans for next year. Before you sign, seal and deliver, take a closer look at the lease you are authorizing: there just might be some startling stipulations you need to be attentive to.
Maria Marabito is a first-year student majoring in English writings track. ✉ MM883631@wcupa.edu.