Surviving Life Off Campus

In our most recent Husky Hour on 11/18, we discussed the in’s and out’s of surviving life off campus. This is everything you need to know when you’re trying to find a place that best suits your needs. 


*All italicized words will have descriptions at the bottom of the post.

Roommates:

  • Figure out who you want to room with for the next year or six months.
    • But how do you find them?
      • Ask your friends, people within your associated student orgs, Greek life – someone or a group that you will feel comfortable with.
  • Meet with this group or person and discuss your needs
    • what do you want in a rental?
      • Make sure you’re all on the same page in terms of noise, payments, cleaning, etc.

Rental (wants/needs):

Here are the following aspects to keep in mind when looking for a rental, based on the needs/wants you have either discussed with roommates or if you are living on your own need//want out of a space.

  • While looking at all of these aspects, you will need to keep in mind the triangle of renting (cost, quality, location). The triangle of renting only allows you to pick two out of the three options available. To elaborate, if you are looking for something lower in cost you may have to look further away from campus or if you want to be near campus, you will need to sacrifice the quality of your living space. For example, you may only be a 10 minute walk from campus and be right downtown, but your bathroom ceiling might also leak every few weeks causing your apartment to flood. So, vice versa for the other options – if you’re looking for something nicer quality, you will either have to bite the bullet and pay more to be closer to campus or you will have to look further away like in Hancock or Chassell for a nicer quality place. However, if it’s over in Hancock or Chassell, it will most likely be lower in cost, so there’s a silver lining of wanting something nicer quality.
      • Type:
        • Apartment
        • Townhouse
        • House
        • Duplex
      • Location:
        • Near campus?
          • If you are closer to campus, you can walk there, but you will most likely be paying more.
        • Downtown?
        • Elsewhere in Houghton?
        • Hancock or further?
          • Do you and/or your roommates have a car? This would allow you to look further away from campus, but you do need to keep in mind that you will still be paying for gas roughly once a week or so. You will also have to purchase a parking pass for campus or will be paying the meters, as well.
      • Price:
        What can you and/or you and your roommates afford collectively? Consider that you may not just be paying rent but also:
        • Water
        • Electric
        • Heat
        • Internet

While some of these may be included in the rent, most of the time not all will be. Also, consider the following costs that you will all be responsible for either individually or collectively that will influence your decision:

        • TV/cable (which can usually be lumped in with the internet via Charter, but will still be more pricey).
        • Plowing
        • Lawn Care
        • Trash
          • Is there a dumpster, do you have to buy city bags, will you be responsible for taking it to the dump?
        • Maintenance

Lease Dates:

  • Almost all leases in this area will be for 1 year and can start anywhere from early May to late summer.
    • Think about the time frame you and/or your roommates will need to be moved in by.
  • Signed is usually completed by early November, but there will always be places available after this first deadline.
  • If subleasing, keep in mind the lease you will be taking on from the previous tenant and how long you will sign on to be there.
    • Are you taking on the rest of the year or are you taking on 2 months?

Where to look for rentals:

  • USG website
  • GSG website
  • Facebook marketplace
  • Houghton Off Campus Housing website
  • Craigslist
  • Class year Facebook group
  • Ask friends/ask around
    • Ex. I asked my friend the other night if he knew any graduate students going back home after this semester and he countered back and told me that he would have two rooms opening up in the spring for my roommate and I to move into.
  • Call landlords or property managers/look at their websites to see if they have anything available.
    • Ex. the Houghton Off Campus Housing website

When you Find a Potential Rental:
When you find a potential place or places, contact the landlord about doing a tour/walk-through of the property.

  • Keep in mind that with COVID-19, they may have more precautions or want to send pictures instead, be accommodating.
  • You can ask for a picture of the blueprints/floor plan, which will help you get an idea of the layout and what you’re in need of.
  • Ask all questions you have about the property, such as:
    • Laundry
      • shared, in unit, free or coin operated, not on site?
    • Furniture
      • Is the rental furnished at all, if so, with what?
    • Parking
      • How many parking spaces if any are there on site, is there a lot down the street?
    • Plowing
      • Again, make sure you have a clear idea about this, as we have snow 6 months out of the year.
    • Payments
      • Do you have to mail in a check, pay online? What day of the month is rent due by?

Leases:
Keep the following things in mind when receiving a lease:

  • How to get a lease from landlord
    • Do you need to apply? How do you request/receive a lease?
  • Once receiving a lease, landlords should give you an appropriate amount of time to sign the lease, don’t feel pressured or obligated to sign something right away.
  • There will always be something else available, whether or not it is your first choice.
  • Ask questions if you have any.
  • Leases are legally binding documents, once you sign it, you are held to completing the terms.
  • Is it a joint or individual lease?
  • DON’T sign more than one lease, DON”T sign something you don’t understand, DON’T sign something you can’t afford.
  • Don’t be afraid to propose addendums if you feel comfortable.
    • Ex. If you agree with your landlord that you will take care of lawn care during the summer months instead of someone else in exchange for money off your rent, you could propose that would be in the addendum to make sure that you both are under legal obligation to uphold this.

Landlord/Tenant Etiquette:

  • Treat your lease like a business contract.
  • Don’t ask your current landlord about other landlords or properties that aren’t theirs.
    • Ex. you wouldn’t go to a Subway and try to order McDonald’s. Or you wouldn’t go to Rhythm and ask them to sell your old Walmart bike for you.
    • Either way, don’t put a landlord in a situation where they are selling someone else’s product.
  • Pay attention to emails/notifications from your landlord. These will include information you need to know, such as moving-in and moving-out, and other pertinent information such as plumbing issues or construction.

Descriptions:

  • Triangle of Renting
    • The triangle of renting is composed of (cost, quality, and location) of your rental. It only allows you to pick two out of the three options available, depending on which aspects are most important to you in a living space.
  • Subleasing
    • Subleasing is when you are extending your lease out to a new person to take over already said lease. However, the original tenant on the lease will still be reliable for obligations within the initial lease signed.
  • Joint Lease
    • This is when all tenants sign the same lease, meaning that as a collective everyone is responsible for all rules, regulations, and payments agreed and signed on.
      • Used most commonly.
      • NOTE: If you need to break a lease for whatever reason and are in a joint lease, this means both you and your roommate(s) are ending the lease and can be liable for damages or may forfeit your deposit.
  • Individual Lease
    • This is when all tenants sign individual lease’s, for the same shared unit. However, the lease if for their bedroom OR their own personal share of the lease.
  • Addendum
    • Any additional material added to the lease that is not on the initial document.
    • Remember to communicate with a landlord if you would like to add an addendum.

Additional Resources:

Sample Lease

A Practical Guide for Tenants & Landlords


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