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Have you recently taken out a private student loan or signed a lease at a nearby student apartment? If you answered yes, you could find yourself in deep financial trouble.

Jamie Owen from Student Legal Services recently spoke at UCF on the top financial mistakes students make. Among them was signing a lease with a student apartment, many of which can be found along Alafaya Trail.

Owen said the leases are "universally awful." The complexes write them themselves, she added, and are nearly impossible to get out of once the dotted line is signed.

"The minute you sign it you are in it and there a lot of ways it can go wrong once you're in it," she said. "One of the main culprits is the damages claim. I will usually see, on average, on the days I see students, three or four security deposit/damages claims."

Owen said, more often than not, students come in with damages claims without pictures of the damages or forms from when they moved in. This doesn't leave the lawyer with much to work with.

She passed a previous client's damage claim around the room for the students to see. That particular student had more than $3,000 in damage claims. Luckily, she was able to get the final amount decreased, but a substantial price was still paid.

Owen also recommended being careful when choosing roommates, especially in a joint lease. All roommates are held equally accountable for everything in a joint lease, she said — despite who is at fault.

"Leases are written by the landlord and they're probably going to hold up in court, if you get that far," she explained.

Her advice to students renting is always take pictures, lots and lots and lots of pictures. Also, keep all move-in forms with damages from the previous tenant listed.

Concerning student loans, Owen said private loans should be avoided at all costs. Federal loans on the other hand, give students a few more options when it comes time to pay them off.

"My students loans are constantly on my mind. I think they are very helpful and I wouldn't be going to college if it weren't for them," said Valencia student Autumn McComas. "You just have to be educated about them and be aware that once you take them out, you will need to pay them back."

Chrissy Fidelus, a UCF student majoring in Sports Medicine, said the No. 1 tip she took away from the information session was to avoid private loans and only take out federal loans for grad school.

"The insight on PAYNE vs. IBR repayment plans will help when it comes to budgeting for grad school in the future," she said.

Another big mistake students usually make revolves around car insurance — or a lack thereof.

Most students do not have enough insurance to cover the necessities, Owen said. She gave a few brief pointers for students to keep in mind:

  • Property damage insurance covers property that you damage, not your own.
  • PIP covers medical costs if you're in an accident.
  • BIL covers medical costs of the other party. At least 10/20 coverage is needed to avoid license suspension if someone is injured in an accident where you're at fault.
  • Collision insurance covers your car from losses in a crash.
  • Comprehensive insurance cover your car for things other than crash losses
  • UM covers you if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured

"Ten thousand PIP and $10,000 property damage is not adequate," Owen said. "Can't afford it? Maybe you shouldn't be driving a car."

Owen also warned against working for free — something with which many students are probably quite familiar. She advised students to visit the Experiential Learning Center to learn how they can get paid for their internships.

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Brogan Morris is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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