4 Things Students Should Know Before Renting a House off Campus

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Campus accommodations can make students squirm. Yes, they are convenient, but they’re also expensive, sometimes gross, and often noisy. If you’re a looking to avoid all that, these are the things students should know and consider when renting a place off campus.

Renting a house off campus can be pricey, but if you have a good group of friends to help split the bill, it can be a viable alternative to post-secondary residences. This option may make you a bit nervous. You’ll be solely responsible for paying your bills—and paying them on time for that matter—and you’ll be living with a group of people for the first time. If you really are gung-ho about living off campus, here’s some tips you should know about looking for properties, dealing with landlords, and signing your first contract!

  1. Look for Anything and Everything at a Viewing – It can be daunting looking at rentals in person. What do you look for? What if you miss something? One in every eight groups of students will sign up for the first house they see. Don’t be lazy; explore your options. If you’re going to be renting with a group of friends, have them come to the viewing too. The more eyes you have, the less easy it is to miss something that could be a big issue. If they can’t come (even though they should), ask the parents to tap in. It also helps to take pictures to remember the house. You’ll likely be viewing more than one, and they can turn into one big blur after a while. When actually in the rental, you’ll want to look for keys issues. Student rental houses are often under maintained and generally older properties. Keep an eye out for mold. Even though you can’t see, you should be able to smell the dampness. When exploring your possible future digs, look for any signs of infestation. Fecal matter is a telltale sign of animal issues so check the cupboards. You’ll also want to check for any loose or hanging wires and that there’s enough water pressure for you and your group of friends.
  2. Closer Isn’t Always Better – It is convenient, but not always better. Rental properties closer to your school tend to be more expensive because of the convenience already mentioned. Plus, these houses may be in worse condition due to the excessive partying habits of your classmates. Renting a house farther away may require you to wake up a bit earlier, but you won’t pay inflated rent prices. If you’re concerned about parking or getting to school, consider public transportation. Most universities and colleges give their students free access to public transit through their tuition fees.
  3. If They Ask for Money, Don’t Worry - it’s Legit — If you’ve found a house that would be perfect for you and your friends, you may be required to put down a holding fee. A holding fee guarantees your spot as a renter for a certain amount of time and prevents the landlord from showing the house to other possible tenants. Holding fees are normal. If they ask for this, they aren’t being shady. Once you give them the money, though, ensure you’re given a receipt in return.
  4. Iron out the Details – Once you’ve found a rental house you like, it’s time to get serious and iron out all the details with the landlord. Ask how long the lease is for (it’s usually one year), what happens during the summer when you may be gone, and how he or she wants the rent to be paid. Don’t forget to discuss repairs. This is a must! Make sure the landlord agrees to repair problems, and insert it into the contract. They may seem like a nice person, but don’t just take their word for it that they’ll fix the fridge when it goes on the fritz.

Rental houses are a great option for students who are tired of the party scene that campus accommodations provide. When looking for a house, keep your eyes out for anything, and take someone else with you. A holding fee is perfectly normal, so don’t worry if they ask you for money. Lastly, make sure you know everything you possibly can before signing the rental agreement including who’s responsible for repairs and how long your lease is for. If you go into this experience with your eyes open, you won’t get any surprises.

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