Condo Calamity



My friends and I want off-campus housing for this year. Please tell us how to avoid problems with housing and each other.

Every student is confronted by this question. It's timely to address it now, before you return to college. Students and nervous parents are partners in this choice.

Statistics are difficult to gather across colleges nationwide. Let us say on average, 50% of students will live off-campus at some time during their time in college. We want to overview issues about living off campus, your lease and rights, plus managing your relationship with roommates.

Where you choose to live will have major impact on your college experience. You need to manage classes, coursework and schedules, plus accommodation and finances. Differences in cost and convenience are the two factors to consider when making the decision to live on or off campus, explain experts in rental properties.

You can have the convenience of being on campus, which will save time and expense getting to your classes. Amenities are often included in the cost on campus, so you will not get separate bills for cable-TV, internet and electricity.

Off-campus housing may be cheaper and offer more space and freedom, but you may need to pay for transportation, so add this into the balance. You're likely to have your own bedroom when sharing a house, unlike a dorm room. What's the value of personal space?

Weigh in the cost of meal preparation and buying groceries versus a campus meal plan? Allocating the cost of food is difficult, with housemates sharing the same kitchen. If you pay for something and put it into the refrigerator, it suddenly becomes common property. You must manage your living expenses more efficiently off campus.

When renting private property, you'll need a lease with the owner. This is a binding legal agreement that sets out the terms of your tenancy. Breaking it is likely to cost you, so make sure you are familiar with the contents, cautions a property management company. That's your first lesson in civil procedure. If there is a problem, you can probably prevail if you need to go to court. You can pay the cost of legal bills or take the time and file yourself. Your landlord knows you do not have the time to take him to court. So, the lease is worthless, if you cannot enforce it.

Deposits are typically required for long-term rentals, to cover property damage or failure to pay the rent. The deposit is usually a half- or full-month’s rent. You should get this back at the end of the tenancy, providing the property is has no excessive wear-and-tear. Renters insurance is another item you should consider. This will cover a break-in and stolen property.

Finally, be aware of horror stories: dispute with dorm buddies, excessive partying, problem neighbors and unreliable landlord. This is why they created social media. Investigate online, before you rent.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in - Robert Frost.

(Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times).

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