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How to Sign an Apartment Lease: Step-by-Step for OSU Students

By Bella

You’ve discovered the ideal apartment and you’re prepared to seal the deal. After filling out your application and receiving approval, the next step is signing your lease!

At Rambler Columbus, we’ve assisted numerous students in securing leases for their housing apartments and recognize that it can be a complex process.

To guide you through the lease signing process, we’ll discuss what a student housing lease entails, key considerations when signing, and additional important details to keep in mind.

boy smiling at ethyl and tank near OSU

How to Sign a Lease at a Student Apartment in Columbus

Step 1: Understand Your Lease

Before beginning the process of signing a lease, it’s important to understand what a lease entails.

An apartment lease represents a documented contract outlining the terms and regulations governing the use and occupancy of a residence, established between a landlord and tenant.

Student housing apartments typically offer individual leases rather than traditional leases. This is extremely common in the Columbus student housing market.

Read Next: Student vs. Traditional Apartments at OSU: Which is Right for Me?

An individual lease is a rental agreement in which multiple people living in one unit only take responsibility for their room, plus communal spaces. Under this agreement, each tenant pays rent separately to the landlord and holds no liability for damages to others’ spaces. Individual leases are sometimes called “by the bedroom” leases. 

For instance, in a 4×4 (four bedrooms, four bathrooms) setup with three other roommates, your financial responsibility covers solely your bedroom, bathroom and shared living spaces.

It’s worth noting that rental costs for each bedroom may fluctuate based on various factors such as included amenities (e.g., variations in room size, presence of windows, attached or detached bathrooms).

Step 2: Review Your Lease

Now that you understand what an individual lease is, it is important to understand the process of signing one. Familiarizing yourself with the precise terms outlined in your lease and comprehending the following steps upon your decision to sign are important in this process.

Things to Look Out For When Signing a Lease

The lease for a student housing apartment typically spans about 40 pages, presenting extensive details. It’s crucial to meticulously review each page to understand your liabilities. Remember, as a legally binding agreement, it’s essential to fully grasp the terms before committing.

You’ll want to pay close attention to:

  • Important dates – Think about move-in and move-out, summer vacation, and holidays. You’ll want to keep these in mind so you know which are applicable to you and if you are wanting to sublease.
  • Important fees – Many student housing complexes charge various fees so it’s important to know what you will be expected to pay.
  • Rent amount and due date – The rental rate can vary room to room in an individual lease so it is important that your rent amount is what you expected before you sign your lease, as well as when your rent is due each month.
  • Pet policy – Student housing in Columbus typically allows standard pets for a deposit and a monthly fee. You’ll also want to be aware of any limitations on breed or size.
  • Renters insurance – It is always a good idea to have renters insurance in case anything goes wrong with your lease. Some apartments offer rental insurance of their own for a small fee, which may be optional or required, so be sure to understand the policy before signing.
  • Length of the lease – Leases at student apartments are typically 12 months, but make sure to ask before you sign! If a shorter lease is available it will probably cost more per month than a typical year-long lease.
  • Renewing your lease – Most student housing leases end on the date stated in the lease, but if you would like to renew and stay longer, you typically have the option to do so. Make sure you stay up to date with the protocol for renewing a lease
  • Breaking your lease – Hopefully you’ll never have to break your lease, but in case something happens, it is best to be familiar with the policy so you aren’t caught off guard with the terms. 
  • Subletting – Whether you plan on studying abroad, moving back home over summer, or accepting an internship outside of Columbus, you’ll want to plan ahead if you are looking to sublet your apartment. Some landlords prohibit it, some allow it, and some allow it only with approval. If the lease does not mention subletting, you should ask your landlord to clarify.
two girls at ethyl and tank near OSU

Step 3: Sign Your Lease!

Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed your lease and understand the details, it’s time to put pen to paper! For full-time students without a job, having a guarantor is often a necessity.

In Columbus, most landlords, especially in student housing, require a guarantor for undergraduate tenants. But what exactly is a guarantor in a student housing lease?

A guarantor co-signs the lease and assumes responsibility for any rent payments you might be unable to cover. Typically, this role is filled by a parent or guardian. Expect both you and your guarantor to undergo a credit check, so be sure to have all the necessary documents like bank statements, pay stubs, and Social Security numbers.

Once both you and your guarantor have signed the lease and cleared the credit check, your lease should be on its way to approval! 

Read more about guarantors in our article: What Is a Guarantor? Everything You Need to Know as an OSU Student, to fully understand what a guarantor is and their role in the leasing process.

Before you know it, your application will be complete, and you’ll be settling into your own student apartment near OSU! Should you run into any challenges or need assistance, contact the Rambler Columbus leasing team – we’re happy to answer any questions about your housing search.


Bella is the Leasing & Marketing Team Leader at Rambler Columbus. She graduated from Northern Kentucky University. She is a lover of concerts and iced matcha lattes from Daydreamer!

June 17, 2024


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