5 Considerations for Renting at College

Living in off-campus housing brings a new set of challenges for students.

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Student housing comes in many forms, much of it university-provided. But renting a house or apartment while attending college comes with its own special considerations.

JULIE:

A couple of weeks ago Lindsey and I wrote about her decision to stay at college for the summer. That decision meant she would be renting a place to live for the first time since she left for college.

This was her first time renting, so there were some things she had to learn about. Incidentally, it has been a while since my husband and I were renters, so we had to relearn along with her.

1. Rental contract and agreements: These things are usually pretty standard, but it pays to have someone look over them before anyone signs on the dotted line. About 30 percent of the people who seek help from the legal services department at Lindsey's school, the University of Kansas (KU), do so for rental-related matters, including having contracts reviewed, according to a recent KU Parent Association newsletter. That might be an option at your school as well.

2. Roommates: Choosing a roommate for a dorm room is one thing, but roommates for a rental house or apartment are not only sharing a living space—they are financially linked as well.

Make sure you've fully researched and discussed all the expenses that come with renting, and not just the rent. Security deposits and utilities are two things that college students may overlook if it's their first time renting. Also talk about how and when the bills will be paid and who will be responsible for making sure that's done.

[Learn about roles and responsibilities in roommate relationships.]

LINDSEY:

I've been living "on my own" for nearly two years now. There's a big difference, however, between living in a residence hall and in an off-campus apartment. I knew how to do my own laundry and get around Lawrence, my college town, but there were still aspects of renting my own place that I had concerns about.

1. Moving in and out: Especially if you're subleasing someone's room, make sure you set clear dates for when each person will move in and out. If the day you need to move in overlaps with when the current tenant will be out, you may need to have a conversation about accommodations for those few days.

Also, don't overlook what exactly you're paying rent for. If you're paying a half month's rent, it's not unreasonable that you ask to move in as close to the 15th as possible.

2. Rules and regulations: Are pets allowed on the property? Who is responsible for yard work? Are there rules regarding parties or overnight guests? Questions like these can affect day-to-day life in a rented house or apartment. Make sure you fully discuss what is expected of you with your landlord. This can help ease any fears you may have about working with a landlord, as well as prevent tensions down the road.

[Get tips for talking with your landlord.]

3. Common areas: When living in a residence hall, my roommate and I were able to split our room right down the middle, so there was no confusion about who was responsible for which part of the room. Houses and apartments are different, however, because they contain common areas like kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms.

Discuss with your roommates whom is responsible for keeping these areas clean and what kinds of guidelines everyone would like to use there. This can make interactions with roommates and housemates go much smoother, even if you're only living together for a short time.