Tips for Parents
Here’s How to Help Your College Student Get Housing
Your child’s first off-campus apartment at college will likely be the first home they can call their own, away from the supervision of parents and dorm RAs. But as a student with little or no income, your child will most likely need your help to find and rent this first apartment, as well as any subsequent apartments they may rent during their college years. Finding student housing isn’t easy, especially if your student is going to school far from home.
When it’s time to rent an apartment for your college student, you need to know what you’re getting into financially. You also need a way to evaluate properties and neighborhoods, sometimes at a distance. Finally, you’ll want to take this opportunity to help your kid become more independent by teaching them how to search for, and find, adequate housing.
Know Your Financial Obligations if You’re Co-Signing
Landlords are often reluctant to rent to college students because young people often have little or no income. Of course, that’s not always the case; some kids have jobs or receive financial aid sufficient to cover some housing costs. However, in most cases, parents have little choice but to co-sign a lease for a student. Before you sign, however, you should know that co-signing makes you responsible for the whole lease, not just your student’s portion. That means that if a roommate damages the apartment or skips out on rent, you could be held responsible financially, even if that roommate wasn’t your child.
However, some landlords will allow separate leases for each roommate in a unit, and that can offer you some protection if you’re moving your child into a roommate situation. You can negotiate which portions of a lease you’re guaranteeing when you co-sign. Of course, you can also move your child into a one-bedroom or studio apartment where they will live alone, absolving you of potential responsibility for roommates.
Evaluate Properties From a Distance
One of the hardest parts of choosing housing for a college student is evaluating the properties when you can’t travel to look at them in person. Of course, nothing beats viewing properties firsthand, but this can be difficult if your student lives far from home or if you have a limited amount of time to view apartments in their college town.
Even if you can’t view properties in person, however, you can do more than search for University of Nebraska-Omaha apartments, choose the first complex and hope for the best. You can use Google Street View to get an idea of what the neighborhood is like and even get some idea of the property’s condition. It’s also a good idea to look for online reviews of the property from previous renters, or look on neighborhood Facebook groups or on forums like Nextdoor to learn about details like criminal activity or see what neighbors are gossiping about.
Even if you can’t view apartments in person, try to make sure your student can — after all, they will be living there for at least nine months. Some parents hire a family friend or other individual to view apartments for them, especially if neither they nor their student can view the property in person.
Teach Your Student to Apartment-Hunt
Renting college accommodations for your student provides the perfect opportunity to teach your student about apartment hunting and taking financial responsibility for an apartment. Discuss with your student the financial and legal responsibilities that come with renting an apartment, and make sure your child is clear about your expectations regarding what share of the rent and utilities they will be expected to pay, and what condition they are expected to keep the property in.
This is also the time to talk to your student about the importance of viewing properties with a critical eye — looking into cabinets for mouse droppings, flushing toilets and turning on taps and examining the property for signs of previous damage or poor maintenance. Talk to your student about looking for signs that a neighborhood may be questionable or that the neighbors at a specific unit might be a pain. For example, discuss visiting a neighborhood at different times of day to see what it’s like when the neighbors get off work or paying attention to whether neighbors at other houses on the block keep their yards and homes clean and well-maintained.
It might seem like just yesterday that you moved your student into their freshman dorms, but now it’s time to find him or her an off-campus apartment. Apartment-hunting for a student can be stressful and exhausting, but try to look at it through your child’s eyes. For him or her, it’s the beginning of adulthood and an exciting new chapter in life.
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