Looking for a place to live?

Meghan Bogardus

Whether it is your first year living off campus or your third, when the time comes to look for a place to rent, it can be nerve-wracking.

Maybe you are uncertain of what you can afford. Maybe you don’t know when you should start looking. Maybe you don’t even know what questions you should be asking.

From legal issues to roommate squabbles, here are some tips you should take into consideration before you sign on the dotted line.

Find roomies you trust

“The first rule of thumb would be choose your roommates wisely,” said Carol Crimi, an attorney with Student Legal Services.

As students are entering into a joint lease, if a roommate doesn’t pay, it falls to the others living there to pay for them. Crimi advises students to live with people you trust.

Olivia Colony, senior math major who lives at University Townhomes, said she hasn’t had any problems with her roommates but has heard horror stories of people who have.

“Just because you’re good friends with someone does not mean you’re compatible to live with them,” Colony said. “I think a lot of people don’t think about that, but I’ve seen a lot of close friendships end because people didn’t mesh well living together.”

Crimi suggested that students living together form a roommate agreement before or as soon as they move in. This way, roommates are looking at everything together and agreeing on things before there are problems.

Legally, your landlord:

has to provide contact information on the lease itself. Address is the minimum.

is not responsible for property damage in the event of theft or an unanticipated problem like a bursting pipe.

has to repair a problem in 30 days after notification. In writing is your best bet for proof.

has to return a security deposit or give an explanation as to why it isn’t being returned.

Start looking early

Colony said she and her roommates started looking for a place to live off campus February of her sophomore year to move into the next fall. Emilie Liadis, the executive director of the Commuter and Off-Campus Student Organization, said some students — herself included — start looking for a place to live an entire year in advance.

But if you haven’t started looking yet, not to worry — COSO has your back. Liadis said the annual housing fair will be held on Feb. 22, with many of the local housing providers in attendance.

Liadis also directed students to KentCribs.com, a search engine that takes some basic preferences in mind to match you up with an apartment.

Read before you sign

Once you find that perfect place, the first thing you will probably do is sign a lease, which is usually a pretty dull document of several pages full of lots of legal terms.

“I find that too often, students don’t even read the lease,” Crimi said.

Crimi recommended reading the lease thoroughly with your roommates and then if you are still confused, come into Student Legal Services for a lease consultation. Both Crimi and Liadis agreed that students don’t take advantage of the legal services they pay for as a part of tuition.

Liadis said in the coming months, COSO also plans on providing a program in fair housing rights as a way to educate students and make sure they are not getting ripped off.

So you’ve moved in. Now what?

Once you’ve moved into your house or apartment, Crimi suggested making a good record of the condition of the place, including digital pictures. This could be any minor and major damages and marks on walls or carpets.

“One of the most expensive items students are charged for is the replacement of the carpet,” Crimi said.

Crimi also recommends that students keep a detailed record of everything they have paid to the landlord, so there can be no confusion.

Outside the legal realm, Colony suggested students also keep in mind additional costs outside of rent and utilities.

“I didn’t realize how much I ate until I had to buy my groceries every week,” she said.

Another cost Colony didn’t factor in was buying furniture for an unfurnished house. She said she and her roommates got a lot of hand-me-down things from family members to keep costs in check.

“It could all add up pretty quickly,” she said.

Contact Meghan Bogardus at [email protected].