When choosing to live off-campus from your college or university, many students are entering into their first rental agreement and are not very experienced about the rental market in that particular area. However, with a little research, college students can ask some commonly addressed questions and concerns and be better prepared to know if a particular community is right for them. The following is a list of frequent questions and concerns that should be decided with each particular student if he or she feels the need to investigate these items further before signing a lease.
Lease terms – What are the exact terms of the lease? Should you transfer to another college or university before the lease has expired, would you be responsible for paying a penalty to break your lease? Another item that also needs to be addressed is a roommate situation. If a roommate should move out, and you cannot replace him or her, does the community make concessions to move you down to a smaller unit, or would you be forced to still pay on a large apartment that you really don’t need? This also leads to the question of the security deposit. Make sure to inquire just how much is returned upon move-out, and what expectations need to be met to ensure return of your deposit.
Pet policy – If you have pets, you need to inquire about fees. Many apartment complexes require pet deposits. Sometimes, they are partially refundable upon move out. Other times, the apartment complex will retain the whole fee for “damages”, even though no damage may have incurred. Be sure to inquire if the complex has a any breed or weight restrictions about dogs, as many will only allow certain breeds of dogs, and those that weigh up to a specified poundage.
Security– Should you leave early in the morning for class, or return late at night after a job, you will definitely want to inquire about the community’s safety. If planning to live in an apartment complex, be sure to ask if there is a courtesy officer available. This is usually a police officer who assists the complex out with security. If so, you may feel more comfortable requesting a unit in the same building. Also, ask to see the complex’s crime statistics. If there are none available, locate the nearest police substation and speak with officers. Tell them where you are planning on moving to, and since they work that particular beat, they can provide you with some insight on crime.
For extra reassurance, and if you are able to afford it, many newer complexes offer units with alarms in them. The only downside to this is that these communities tend to be on the higher-end of the rental market’s price range. However, with several college roommates, this can be easily overcome, and the added assurance of an alarm is a bonus to many people.
In the end, make sure you come well-prepared to investigate your new off-campus home. Whenever possible, try to have someone who has rented properties before come with you, or enlist the help of a real estate agent. Many times, real estate agents will know about private rental opportunities that often ties can be at a significant savings over traditional rental communities.