Our view: Beware of caveat emptor

It’s hunting season again. Students bundle up, travel all over Kent and search craigslist for the best deals. The prey: a clean and affordable apartment.

It’s an incredibly important search for students. Generally, the apartments need to be close enough to campus for either a short walk or drive. The rent and other bills have to be low enough to afford on a limited budget. The neighborhood must be safe. The apartment or house needs to be clean and in good condition. It’s also helpful if the management is close by and friendly. Above all, the place has to be a good fit.

Those are a lot of requirements to meet. But, considering rent alone is usually several hundred dollars each month, students should make sure they are going to get their money’s worth.

Living off campus is a pretty big step. It’s a move away from the safety of life at home with parents or the help of a Residence Assistant in the residence halls. You’re finally on your own and responsible for what happens to you. As common as it is, this is a huge leap forward in growing up.

Because you are the only one in charge of you, you need to make sure where you live is the best place for you. Check the ads, check the classified sections, check craigslist – go wherever you want to find a place with a description and location that sounds appealing.

The next step is to contact the manager/owner/subleaser to set up a time to visit. It’s usually not a good idea to move into a place if the first time you’re setting foot in there is moving day. It’s not always easy if the place is too far away to check out (i.e. finding a summer residence for an internship), but do it if at all possible. At the very least, have whomever you are going to rent from send you recent photos.

If visiting an apartment complex, make sure to see the actual room for rent. Some places have showrooms. Those rooms are usually immaculate and may falsely raise your expectations. If you’re going to give them your hard-earned money, you should see a real room.

Check with the landlord ahead of time what is included in the rent. Electricity is usually not. Don’t get caught off guard with what extras you have to write checks for. Every place takes a security deposit to make sure they have some sort of protection in case their renters cause any damage. This is completely normal. When you move out, if you haven’t broken anything, you should get your deposit back.

On the day of the big move, take pictures of the apartment or house before you bring anything inside. Look for any problems, such as cracks, peeling paint, leaky faucet, etc., and document them with both a camera and a pen and pad. Make sure they are dated. These can help settle any future damage disputes.

If you have any problems with a landlord or manager, contact Student Legal Services. You’ve already paid for their help through your tuition. Go talk to them before you rent, too. They have some great advice. The Web site is http://www.dept.kent.edu/sls/. It even has a section on housing info, including what to do before you sign a lease.

The Commuter and Off-Campus Student Organization is hosting a housing fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today on the second floor of the Student Center.

Above all else, to ensure you have as few problems as possible, always pay your rent on time.

The above editorial is a consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.