Borough, Penn State introduce model lease to improve student leasing experience

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A collaborative community group, led by Student Legal Services, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, created an online resource called Lions Lease to help landlords and tenants with a model lease. The purpose of the website is to help consumers navigate the marketplace, review and understand their leases, and become satisfied, responsible tenants.

The idea of creating a model lease, which is a draft contract for landlords and tenants, is something that had been discussed by State College borough, students and the University for a long time. Kelly Mroz, director of Student Legal Services, spearheaded the project last fall.

A committee made up of representatives from Student Legal Services, landlords, tenants, student leaders, borough officials and attorneys took the project from concept to reality.

“We had a community meeting and came up with some ideas on what we would need to do to move this forward,” Mroz said.

The project evolved as the committee started working together. The group agreed that an educational tool would be the most effective resource.

“That was where the idea for the model lease website came from,” Mroz said. “We wanted to put together a robust, multimedia, educational tool that is specific to our unique rental community.”

The committee sought out feedback from students to ensure Lions Lease was a resource they could understand.

“We offered comments to make some more things clear and to try and make it more user-friendly. And I think they definitely have done that,” said Morgon Goranson, University Park Undergraduate Association borough representative.  

The website outlines a three-step process for students to reference before they become tenants: plan, research and avoid scams. Each of the steps is explained on the website with tips such as how to budget and research a potential landlord.

There’s also a section that features how-to videos that offer tips for students on choosing an apartment, apartment maintenance, and move-in and move-out checklists.

The final version of the model lease was vetted by attorneys, landlords and tenants, with the ultimate goal of providing fair terms. Additionally, there is an annotated version of the model lease that allows students and landlords to go line-by-line and see further explanations and definitions.

“It’s important for students to understand what’s in their lease, specifically regarding borough ordinances and regulations that would apply within our community,” said Kevin Kassab, supervisor for Health and Neighborhood Services. “It helps students be better neighbors, to be safe, and for their housing experience to be a good one.”

The goal of the model lease was to create a tool that is collaborative and recognizes the commonalities between landlords and tenants.

“Many people view landlord and tenant relationships as being very adversarial when in fact a common theme with this committee was that they have a lot of common goals,” Mroz said.

With the creation of the model lease, the borough can be more proactive and give information so people can make more informed choices, which will hopefully reduce the number of frustrated student tenants, said Centrice Mulfinger, assistant to the manager for Community Engagement.

“If we want our students to really grow roots in the State College community and have a happy experience as a student, then being able to provide these resources in advance will make them feel that the State College community is welcoming,” Mulfinger said.

The future of the model lease will be responsive to the needs of the community. The committee will listen to feedback and make changes as necessary.

“What we hope is that students will be educated consumers and not just sign whatever gets put in front of them,” Mroz said, adding that her goal is for students to have a really positive leasing experience.

Students can access the model lease and additional resources at lionslease.com

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Last Updated April 19, 2017