Tips for off-campus living
A Parent’s Guide to Their Student Living Off Campus–Surviving the Hype and avoiding a Nightmare
Along with the falling leaves, autumn brings “for rent” signs to yards around Xavier’s campus. These signs are cause for many calls home. The conversation usually starts off with “I need $200 for a deposit and I’m going to sign a lease. That’s OK, right?” We in the Office of Commuter Services and Off Campus Living are all too familiar with this seasonal phenomenon.
The hype around living off campus begins in early October. Many Xavier students are under the impression that if they don’t sign a lease by the first or second week in October, all the good off-campus properties will be gone. This fear that students bring upon themselves often leads to problems with living off campus. Problems range from students signing leases without having an adult seeing the property to students signing leases without realizing what they are signing, to students signing up to live with people with whom they haven’t communicated about their expectations for living off campus.
How do you protect yourself and your student from this hype? The Office of Commuter Services and Off Campus Living encourages you to talk with your student about the following: conducting a search for off-campus housing, casing the joint and negotiating the contract.
Step 1: Conducting a Search:
- Encourage your student to look everywhere for housing—newspaper classifieds, apartment-hunter publications, the Commuter Services web site (www.xavier.edu/commuter) and even Craigslist.
- Consider how much you can afford to pay. Don’t forget to factor in general expenses—water, heat, electric, food, garbage, cable/data, gas to get to and from campus, a parking pass, etc.
- Have your student talk in depth to potential roommates: What’s the atmosphere of the house/apartment going to be like? How are bills going to be shared? How will food be shared? How will chores be split? Who will purchase items for the house (this can range from soap and toilet paper to dishes)? For a complete list of items to think about, go to the Commuter Services web site (www.xavier.edu/commuter) for an off campus roommate agreement.
- Inspect the property carefully. Turn on the faucets in the bathroom, turn on all lights, ask questions about fire safety (If and where are fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, etc.?) and how often have items been updated in the house? When was the last time the apartment was painted? How new are the appliances? How do you contact the landlord if there is a problem? How close is he or she to the apartment to respond?
If there's any damage in the apartment, your student not only wants to ask for it to be fixed, but to record that information so that they don’t get blamed—and charged— for it later. Ask your student to take pictures or a video for their own records and so that you can see the property. Make sure such problem areas are addressed in the lease, either by your student agreeing to live with it, or the landlord agreeing to fix it by a certain date. This needs to be in writing.
- Have your student check out common walls—those shared with adjoining apartments. The more walls in common, the greater the chance of noise from next door. Also consider a common entrance in terms of how much privacy you may want. Does everyone have a key? How secure are the locks?
- Have your student talk to the current tenants and ask questions. How much does the electric cost? How responsive is the landlord? What items have they been happy with? What items have they been frustrated with?
- If your student finds an apartment they love but is a stretch financially, ask if there are responsibilities you can take on to lower your rent, such as cutting the lawn, sweeping common areas or taking deliveries. Or, if you find a great apartment but it lacks services such as utilities, laundry facilities, cable TV and Internet access, ask the landlord to throw some in at no charge. Many newer buildings will. Or offer to sign a longer-term lease or give a higher security deposit in exchange for more services.
- Examine the lease in detail: How much notice is required prior to moving? How large of a deposit do you have to make? How much cleaning is required upon leaving to get your deposit back? Some agreements require first- and last-months' rent plus a security deposit—a significant amount of money. Is the lease month to month? Is your lease a 10-month lease or a 12-month lease? If it’s a 12 month lease, can your student have someone sublet for the summer months? If a roommate drops out of his or her lease, will your son or daughter be responsible for the rent?
- Find out what kinds of cosmetic changes your student can make, such as painting walls, or structural changes, such as adding shelving. Do not make any of these changes without permission from the landlord because you could lose your deposit.
- Find out if the property your son or daughter is renting is covered under your homeowner’s policy. If not, consider buying renter’s insurance. This can protect your student in the event of major damage to the apartment and their belongings.
Living off campus can be a rewarding and exciting experience provided you and your student do the homework and work together. If you have any questions about these steps or would like to talk to someone about your son or daughter signing a lease to live off campus, please contact Angie Kneflin in Commuter Services and Off Campus Living at 513-745-4998 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.