Off-Campus Housing General Information
OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING ADVICE
- Don't sign a lease for an apartment or house unless you are certain you want it. A lease is a legally binding contract, so you remain responsible for the full rent, even if you move out.
- If the landlord makes any promises or representation about the unit or the lease terms, get them in writing. If you are promised new furniture, $15 a month to clean the porch and hallway, guaranteed parking or whatever the case may be, make sure the lease reflects this. Verbal contracts can be impossible to enforce and some leases expressly preclude verbal agreements.
- Don't commit yourself to a place that you can't afford! Don't put yourself in the position of signing a lease for a large place alone, and having to find people to move in and help pay for it. Each fall, there are students who rented a multi-bedroom place in the spring, and still have not been able to round up enough housemates to make the payments. Anyone who has signed the lease remains legally liable for the full rent.
- Carefully consider whom you choose as roommates. If a cotenant fails to make payments, then the landlord can legally hold the other tenant(s) responsible.
- Before you move in or during the first week living together with your roommates/housemates, clarify your expectations and the "house rules" for: cleaning, having visitors over, quiet time, paying bills, summer subletting, and any other issues that are important to you.
- Get renter's insurance for your belongings. If your things get ruined or stolen for any reason other than the landlord's proven negligence, then the landlord is usually not responsible. Renter's insurance does not have to be expensive.
- The landlord is required to provide you with a property Inventory Checklist at move-in. If you don't get a copy, ask for one. Take the time to complete it fully and return it. Keep a copy! (Inventory checklist forms are also available on-line and at the Housing Information Office.)
- Notify the landlord of any problems immediately, and keep a written record of events and communications between you. If the problem is not satisfactorily resolved, notify us in the Housing Information Office.
- Be a reasonable tenant. Realize that things sometimes go wrong, and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to correct problems. Treat the unit and your neighbors with respect.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE SIGNING A LEASE
When you go out on your off-campus housing search, take notes about each rental unit you look at. Inquire about the following with the landlord and with the tenants currently living in the rental. Ask to check these items for yourself, whenever possible.
- Which furnishings come with the rental?
- What, if any, work will be done to the rental before the next tenants move in?
(Ask the landlord to put any promises in writing before you sign the lease.)
- Which utilities, if any, are included in the rent?
- How much do the utilities cost on average each month?
- Is the heat, gas or electricity included?
(Electric heat is more expensive than gas heat.) Does the heat work well? Where is the thermostat?
- Who should receive maintenance requests, and how? (Always make requests in writing and save a copy.)
- In what condition are the appliances (stove, refrigerator, oven, garbage disposal, dishwasher, air-conditioner)?
- In what condition is the plumbing? Do showers leak or faucets drip, or does the toilet get plugged often? Is the water pressure relatively steady? (Ask to check it.)
- Does the hot water stay hot? (Ask to check it.)
- Do you ever see bugs or rodents?
- Where is the trash picked up? Who takes it to the pick-up spot?
- Where are the electrical outlets? Are they adequate for computer, sound systems and appliances?
- How loud/quiet is the building at night and on weekends? Are the neighbors quiet?
- Is parking available? If so, where? Is there an extra cost? Is the lot cleared of snow in winter or is it the tenant’s responsibility to remove snow?
- Is there additional storage available outside of the apartment?
- Where are the nearest laundry facilities? If on the property, do they get crowded?
- How is the security in the building? Are there deadbolt locks and a peephole in the door? Do the windows close and lock securely? How secure are the laundry, storage and parking areas?
- Is there an application fee? Does it apply toward rent if you sign the lease?
- Is there a cleaning fee? Can you earn it back by doing the cleaning yourself?
- How much is the security deposit? Do you have the option of paying it in more than one payment?
- When can you move in? When is the last day of occupancy? (Check the calendar before you sign the lease to make sure that you are not going to be in a bind for housing after your lease expires.)
UTILITY COSTS & INFORMATION
Electricity and Gas