What You Should Know When Selecting Off Campus Housing

Your student may just now be getting settled in on campus and learning their way around, but in Tuscaloosa, the start of the new leasing season for off campus housing will begin in October.

If your student will be considering living off campus next year, there are a few things to keep in mind. Most of all, your student should not feel pressured to sign a lease for off campus housing in October unless you know, and they know, that is the only location where they will be happy.

Below are some tips to help make their search a little easier.

1. Housing and Residential Communities’ Off Campus Housing website is a user-friendly, one-stop site to help students locate off campus housing. In addition to rental property information, there is a resources tab with everything from landlord/tenant relations and how to get utilities turned on to safety tips and transportation resources.

2. Know what you are looking for: Apartment or a house, one bedroom or more, furnished, unfurnished, all- inclusive (rent includes utilities and/or furniture) Do not be pressured into signing a lease now.

3. Know your budget: Rent, utilities, food, transportation, consider getting renter’s insurance.

4. Choose a roommate wisely. A lease is a legally binding document, typically for 12 months. You can’t get out of a lease because you don’t get along with your roommate. Your student should select someone who is as concerned for their safety as your student should be. Your student should select someone who is going to be financially responsible.

5. Before your student signs a lease: In most cases, your student will need a guarantor and that is typically a parent or guardian. Make sure you read the lease completely and ask for clarification where needed. Get any changes to the lease in writing and both of you (yourself, your student, the landlord) initial the changes. Keep a copy of the lease in a safe place and make sure your student has a copy as well. Know the move-in and move-out dates and if you can sublet or not.

6. Moving In/Out: Take pictures of every room: floors, ceilings, walls, appliances (inside and outside), furniture, etc. Use a rental inspection sheet and fill it out before move in; check for hot and cold running water, flush the toilets, check the heater and AC, and make sure the locks on all doors and windows work and windows open. Have the landlord initial it and keep a copy in a safe place. Do the same when moving out.

7. Documentation: Keep a written copy of any correspondence with the landlord about maintenance issues, lease renewals, etc.

8. Responsibilities: Know what your student, the tenant, is responsible for and make sure the rent and utilities are paid on time.

9. Become familiar with city ordinances that apply to the off campus areas. Tuscaloosa has an occupancy restriction, which, in some areas, is no more than 2 unrelated tenants living together. Call the City of Tuscaloosa at (205) 248-5311, give them the address of the rental property, and they can tell you the occupancy number for that property. If your student lives in a house, garbage carts should be brought in off of the curb by 8 a.m. the day after the collection day.

10. Safety: It is never too early to start talking to your student about safety measures when living off campus. Remind your student to lock their doors and windows, not to leave valuables in plain view inside their car, and to lock their car doors. Rather than texting on their cell phone students should also be mindful of their surroundings when outside.

Housing and Residential Communities is currently conducting a survey to gather data on what parents consider when looking for off campus housing for their student. The data will allow us to communicate better with our off campus partners regarding future programs, activities, development, etc. If you would like to participate, click survey link.

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