Off-Campus Living: Ten Things to Think About Before You Rent
It’s almost the end of the school year and you’re already looking forward to the fall, including moving into an off-campus apartment and getting away from evil roommates and gross hall bathrooms.
But before you make the jump, here are some things you should consider:
Individual and group leasing
Group leasing generally means that the rent is paid in a lump sum, while individual leasing means you are only responsible for your share of the rent. If you sign a group lease, you are responsible for all of the rent regardless of what happens to your roommates. If your roommate does not turn in her rent money to you on time, this could affect your credit score because the rent will be late. If she decides to break the lease and move out, you will still be responsible for her share of the rent. Individual leasing only makes you responsible for your share and if someone else in your apartment does not pay their rent, it will not affect you or your credit score. Definitely consider looking for apartments that offer individual leasing if you have the choice.
Distance from campus
When I signed my lease this year, I was distracted by all the amenities my complex offers and overlooked one HUGE point. My complex is 15 minutes away from campus- even more with traffic- so if I want to get to class on time, I have to leave half an hour before class starts to leave time for me to park and walk to class. Though I enjoy where I am living, I really wish I would have thought about this more and advise you to do the same. If you really like the complex, but it is a little farther away, just make sure you realize just how long your commute will be. It’s worth pondering, especially if you’re not a morning person.
Some complexes are extremely strict about guest parking in the complex and do not offer many guest parking spots, making throwing a party at your apartment pretty difficult. If you know that you want to have people over all the time and are extremely social, this is going to throw a damper in your social life. People will be less likely to come over if it’s harder for them to find a place to park. Also if you have a significant other, they will always have to hunt for a spot to park when they want to come over. Though you won’t be disadvantaged because you always will have a place to park, make sure to think about this.
Pay attention to your surroundings
Let’s say you found the perfect apartment complex, but it’s not targeted toward college students. You are disappointed to find that your neighbors are elderly and their weekends consist of playing bridge and taking long walks. If you want to live in a quiet complex so you can focus more easily on your studies, then this could be a viable option for you. However, if you want to meet neighbors and throw parties, you may want to reconsider the people who will be living around you.
If you have a puppy or are considering adopting one sometime soon, find out the apartment’s policy on pets. Some complexes restrict the size and breed of dogs that can legally inhabit your apartment. Some will even make you pay a monthly fee to keep your pet there and an initial fee, which is usually around $100 or more. If you don’t anticipate and plan for this, you could run into financial troubles.
The best way for you to keep your electric bill down is to ask the landlord for advice. Some complexes vary, but your landlord should have the best idea on what a good temperature to set your thermostat is. He or she can also tell you the average amount a utility bill at your complex so you know what to aim for. If the average utility bill is $20 at your complex and you’re paying $40, you obviously need to change some of your habits. Don’t be afraid to talk to neighbors and find out what their utility bills are, too.
This is not like the dorm. You do not have the luxury of the trash room being down the hall. Now you have the responsibility of taking your trash to the dumpster and keeping the outside areas of your apartment trash free. Some complexes will even charge you for having trash around the outside of your apartment, which is something you will probably learn the hard way. Where I live now, we were charged $20 for a trash bag sitting on our porch and $5 per day it sat out there after being notified. Trust me, there are better things to spend money on than trash fines.
Having bad neighbors could ruin your off-campus living arrangements if you don’t address the situation properly. The best way to start off on the right foot is to introduce yourself when you are moving in. Give them your phone number and tell them if your parties get too loud that they can contact you. If appropriate, get their phone numbers so that you can do the same. This creates a truce of sorts and sets you up for good neighborly relationships. This way, if your next door neighbor is blaring his bass at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday night while you’re studying, you can let him know without causing drama by involving security or police.
Long gone are the days of the communal bathroom which is cleaned for you by the University staff. Now, cleaning is your responsibility. If you do not keep up on your cleaning, your apartment will get really dirty and messy. If it gets bad enough, you could cause real damage to the furniture or even attract insects. Plus, your friends won’t want to come over. Who wants to party in a pig sty? Also make sure to budget in money for cleaning supplies- you’ll need them.
Make sure you are well versed on all of the amenities your complex offers. Taking advantage of the amenities you are paying for will not only help your bank account, but will make things more convenient for you. Does your complex offer free tanning? That’s less money out of your wallet. Is there an office space with printing? This could be clutch if your printer runs out of ink. Are there security officers? This could ease your anxiety when you’re walking from your car late at night. Make sure you know what is being offered to you because you’re wasting your own money and time if you don’t.
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