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When students decide to move off campus, negotiating a lease may seem daunting. But this legal agreement is crucial to residents' quality of life.

A lease “spells out the relationship and requirements for a tenant" — the student — "and landlord,” the legal owner of a house, apartment, condominium or other real estate, according to Jason Cohen, regional property manager for Campus Apartments in Philadelphia. One of Penn’s largest off-campus housing contractors, Campus Apartments is located on the western border of campus and also serves Drexel University and other university areas.

A lease indicates what the tenant must do and may not do in order to live in the property. Cohen emphasized that after signing a lease, all tenants should obtain a signed copy of the document for their records.

At Penn specifically, however, Cohen said that “landlord is a term that doesn’t accurately define [Campus Apartments].” The company owns its real estate in University City, and instead of acting as a typical landlord, it strives to “provide more than just an apartment” for the students who become tenants. Campus Apartments employs “property managers” who offer an on-site support services as “the temporary parent[s] while our residents are away from home.”

Though landlords’ individual duties vary depending on the specific lease — as well as the amount of rent as tenant pays — in most student-housing environments, landlords are responsible for any maintenance problems which arise, assuming the tenants have not caused the problem, according to Cohen.

Though a College senior, who wished to remain anonymous because she does not have a good relationship with her landlord, said her off-campus landlord isn't “bad about fixing things on time and they get the exterminator here when we need him,” overall, the off-campus housing agency she uses is “not fun to work with.”

“They never cleaned our house in between tenants,” she wrote in an e-mail, and the agency’s employees “don’t wear uniforms and just let themselves in without ringing the doorbell.”

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