Ask the Experts

Haunted House

Like many others, I am living off-campus. I got stuck with a bad situation. What can I do?

This problem is a common one, which reappears each school year. Even though many have written about this, it needs to be repeated for each incoming class. Colleges vary widely in the number of students choosing to live in off-campus housing. For some, it is well over 50% of students. Here are some housing horror stories. Our advice is to learn from these and ask more questions before you rent.

Off campus accommodation represents the biggest, non-academic expense for students and parents, so it is not to be approached lightly. The first consideration is your roommates, who are they? Living with people you do not know can be a potential minefield. Bad behavior, substance or alcohol abuse, uncleanliness, and noise and partying, can all disrupt your study schedule.

Roommates should have expectations of each other and respect for differing agendas and timetables. Although not legally binding, all occupants should write and agree on a list of acceptable house behavior, before moving in. House rules go a long way to keeping the peace, says a rental properties expert.

If the situation arises that once person has to leave, this will cause problems, if they have nowhere to go. Keeping up with other classmates and their accommodation arrangements will allow some flexibility. People clash and conflicts will occur.

Landlords can be a nightmare. Not taking responsibility for the property, failing to honor the rental agreement, and increasing the rent are all commonplace. The easiest way to learn about your future landlord is to talk to last year’s student occupants.

There is no need to put up with bad management, just to have somewhere to live. Landlords have a legal obligation to keep the premises in good and safe working order. Photograph any damage, physical deterioration, insect or rodent infestations, or dangerous aspects of the house. Approach the landlord for action, since these conditions should be stipulated in the lease, advise property management experts.

Even though you have an off-campus lease, it should be read by a lawyer. One nightmare scenario would be a rent hike halfway through your term. The unscrupulous landlord knows you have no choice. Make sure the rent is fixed for the duration of your stay and this is clearly stated in the contract.

When house hunting, contact students who will be moving out. Knocking on doors is as good as any method. Social media may also help. Bulletin boards around campus will be peppered with notices of available housing.

Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!

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