Finances, Housing Advice, JumpOffCampus, Renting, Student Life

Get interest (AKA beer money) back on your security deposit!

Quick description: As a tenant, you’re entitled to interest paid on your deposits to your landlord. 

Why should I care?

As a renter, you probably had to put down a security deposit, right? And maybe last month’s rent, too. So that sucks. But you know what doesn’t suck? Beer. Burritos. And, uhm, books.

So good news: In Massachusetts, you’re entitled to get up to 5% interest on your deposits to your landlord. It’s all thanks to good old Chapter 186, Section 15B of Massachusetts general law.

In plain English

Here’s how it works, without the legal mumbo jumbo (sorry, pre-law geeks):

  • You give your landlord a deposit for last month’s rent and/or security deposit
  • At the end of the rental year, you get back the interest earned (because it’s like the deposit is still your money)
  • Interest can equal up to 5% of the total, or whatever the interest rate is at the bank where your landlord  deposited the money

For instance, if you ponied up $800 in last month’s rent, at the end of the year your slumlord is supposed to cut you a check. Assuming your landlord’s bank pays out 1% interest, that’s $8 you get back. AKA a free lunch. Or 20 lunches, if you count ramen.

Courses of action

What if your landlord doesn’t pay up within 30 days at the end of the year? You have a few options:

  • If you’re staying on as a tenant, you can deduct the amount from your next month’s rent.
  • If you’re done as a tenant, you get 3x the interest earned, plus court costs and attorney fees.

What to keep in mind

At the end of each rental year, keep a lookout for an interest check from your landlord. Or you could be missing out on a little extra cash that’s rightfully yours.

 

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Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

The Off-Campus Student Toolbox

You really don’t realize how important it is to have some miscellaneous tools around until you need to tighten a screw or hang up a picture.  This is why we’ve put together a quick list of some tools that will make sure you aren’t left in the lurch when it comes to hanging some of your favorite photos.

  • Hammer
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillip’s head screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Assorted screws
  • Assorted nails
  • Stud finder
  • Level

It’s a good idea to keep a small tool kit around your apartment that contains just a few basic items. However, you should always notify your landlord before doing anything major around your apartment.  This doesn’t include changing a lightbulb or tightening a screw here or there, but it will include things like fixing a door.  It’s always best to let your landlord know before you fix anything yourself; you should not take matters into your own hands unless you know what you are doing and you’ve gotten permission.

Having a really basic toolbox is a really great thing to have in any apartment you rent; it will definitely come in really handy whenever you need to fix something small.  Just be sure that before you do anything major, you check with your landlord first.

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Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

When Should I Start Looking for Off-Campus Housing for the Next Academic Year?

One of the biggest questions for many students, especially those moving off-campus for the first time, is just when should they start looking for housing.  The best answer depends on the area in which your school is situated.  If your school is in area where off-campus housing is limited, you may want to start a little earlier, maybe in November or December.  If you live in an area where housing is pretty plentiful, you may be able to wait until January or even February.  However, the idea is to start looking as soon as possible.

Before you start looking, you may want to get a group of people together to house with, or you may want to look on your own.  However, that is one decision you will want to make before you start looking.  You will also want to identify some of your main criteria for what you want in your housing, including things like location and amenities.  Figure out the things that you can live with, and what you can’t live without.  You can use our apartment checklist to ensure that you’re making the right decision for you once you’ve started your search.

All in all, it’s best to start looking for off-campus housing as soon as you can.  Before you go, just be sure to know what you want from your housing.

 

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Housing Advice, Renting

Our New Sample Sublet Agreement

For students, subletting can be a great way to finance your apartment while you study abroad or take that internship that you’ve been dreaming of.  It’s also really beneficial for landlords, too.  We spoke with Diane St. Laurent, a property manager in Rhode Island and our expert, who tells us that if a tenant is no longer able to pay or needs to leave early, a sublet agreement can be a great idea, as a subtenant can take over and ensure that the landlord is still getting paid even when the original tenant has left.

However, putting together a sublet agreement can be confusing, especially if you’ve never done it before.  At JumpOffCampus, we try to make the off-campus experience as easy as possible, and this is why we’ve put together a sample agreement for you.

To put together this resource, we reviewed tons of different lease agreements, and drew upon the best elements of each.  Why re-invent the wheel, after all?  Our agreement outlines the basics of what you’ll need to consider when subletting, including things like liability and your landlord’s approval.   It ensures that you don’t forget the essentials, and makes room for all the provisions you and your landlord need.

Dealing with sublets doesn’t have to be stressful, and with the Official JumpOffCampus Sublet Agreement, it can be even easier.  It’s only one click away!

Added Considerations for Subletting:

For student tenants:  We strongly urge you to talk to your landlord before subletting, as your lease may not allow for it and/or your landlord may require specific accommodations for subletting in a new/revised lease.

For landlords:  St. Laurent explains that sublets will only be legally possible under specific conditions:

a)    The original lease makes provisions for subletting.

b)   If the original lease does not have a provision for subletting, the original lease is terminated and a new lease with the new tenant is made, or

c)    The original lease has a provision for modifications, in which a sublet clause could be added to legalize the sublet.

St. Laurent also explains that sublet agreements should establish proper liability for damage and payments.  She explains that with longer sublets, it is a good idea to have the new tenant liable for damages, and with shorter sublets, it is best to have the original tenant held liable.  In this way, the appropriate individuals are held accountable.

 

The material and information contained in this agreement are for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on the website as a basis for making any business, legal or any other decisions. JumpOffCampus assumes no legal liability (to the extent permitted by law) or responsibility for any loss of damage (including, without limitation, damage for the loss of business of profits) arising directly or indirectly from the use of the agreement, or any of the material contained in it.

References for Our Sublet Agreement:

Tenant Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin

REALTECH Real Estate Services, Inc. in Pleasanton, California

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Housing Advice, Renting

What do I do when something gets broken or damaged in my apartment?

If anything breaks while you are residing on the premises, and it is not your fault, it is best to let your landlord know immediately.  This way they will not assume you damaged it, and this will prevent you from having to pay for the damage to be fixed.  Things can happen, and so it’s best to just let your landlord know right away.

If you caused damage or broke something on the premises, the best thing you can do is let your landlord know immediately, as well.  Do not try to fix anything on your own.  For while your landlord may deduct from your security deposit, you’ll be better off by letting them know.  This way your roommates will not be held responsible for any of the damages (if you have roommates), and you can maintain trust between between you and your landlord.

We should also note that it is a good idea to keep track of anything that is damaged, broken, or anything that is just not working properly, upon move-in.  If you notice something, let your landlord know immediately, and keep a record of it.  You may even want to take a photo (if you can), just in case.

Overall, breakages and damages can occur.  The best thing is to let your landlord know right away when something gets damaged or broken.  For while you may have to pay, it will help you to maintain trust in your relationship with your landlord.

To find out more information on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance/tenantrights.

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Housing Advice, Landlords, Student Life

Tips for Improving Landlord-Tenant Relationships

The landlord-tenant relationship is often one of the most strained.  For landlords, according to one of our previous posts, our expert, Diane St. Laurent, explained that this incompatibility often extends from the expectations and rules of the rental.  For tenants (especially student tenants), this incompatibility may extend from poor communication and misunderstandings with landlords.  This is why we’ve put together some tips to help both landlords and student tenants improve the renting process and improve this typically strained relationship.

For Landlords

Take a mentor role with your student tenants.  According to St. Laurent, one of the most important things landlords can do is to take on a mentor role with students by “treating them as adults and [holding] them accountable for their decisions.”  She explains that this is one of responsibilities landlords assume with renting to students, as this is the time that they will be assimilating to their independence and adjusting to all new responsibilities.  By helping students through this process, it will not only help the landlord to feel that their tenants are making good decisions, but student tenants will feel more comfortable in maintaining their responsibilities.

Keep open and honest communication with tenants.  According to St. Laurent, landlords are also accountable for building lines of communication with their tenants.  In this way, student tenants will feel like their ideas, questions, and concerns are being heard, and landlords will feel that problems are more easily and swiftly resolved.

Be professional.  According to St. Laurent, rentals should be managed like a business.  This means that landlords should feel a sense of a responsibility of responding to problems and concerns of tenants to not only to keep tenants happy, but also to ensure that the property is well taken care of.

For Student Tenants

Pay your rent on time.  One of the biggest problems landlords and tenants can have is late rent payments.  This is not only a problem that will most likely create others, but it can also further exacerbate any existing issues within the relationship.  Therefore, it is important for tenants to budget for and send their rent payments so that they arrive on time.

Follow the terms of your lease.  As St. Laurent mentioned, one of the greatest problems can be incompatibility with landlords and tenants over the expectations and rules for the house.  It is best to read your lease in full before signing, and address any concerns you may have with the terms at that time.  Going forward, you should also keep a copy of your lease handy so that you can refer to it later, if needed.  This will not only enhance the clarity of your lease, but it may also allow you to negotiate the terms of your lease.

Take care of your rental.  This is not only your home, but it is also someone else’s property.  Be sure to take good care of the property and to be mindful of the “wear and tear” that you inflict on a property.  This will not only keep the property nice for you, but it will also help you keep your landlord happy and ensure that you get your entire damage deposit back.

Get to know your neighbors.  Surprisingly enough, grouchy neighbors can be one of the biggest sore points between you and your landlord.  This is because your neighbors will often report your “bad behavior” to your landlord.  As we mentioned in our previous post on this topic, it is important to get to know your neighbors to avoid unnecessary conflicts and frustration with both them and your landlord.  

Keep open and honest communication with your landlord.  We advise this for both landlords and tenants.  It is important that tenants let their landlords know when they have problems, when they need repairs, and especially when there has been damage to the property.  While telling your landlord you’ve damaged something on the property may be difficult, it will be better to tell them right away.  This will help to ensure that you maintain trust and honesty with your landlord.

However, you should also be mindful to be reasonable in your requests when you need something done.  Avoid calling your landlord over when a light bulb needs to be changed.  The things that you can do yourself are most likely the things you shouldn’t bother your landlord for.  It’s the things you can’t do and don’t feel comfortable doing; these are the things you should be contacting your landlord for.

Overall, while landlord-tenant relationships are often strained, there are certainly things that both parties can do to improve their relationship.  All it really takes is honesty, professionalism, open communication, and a sense of responsibility to ensure that the rental process goes smoothly.

References

How to Be a Good Landlord – 7 Tips, Advice & Responsibilities by Angela Colley

5 Tips for Being a Great Tenant that Landlords Love by Angela Colley

10 tips for a healthy landlord-tenant relationship; Perspective: Renters must read the lease, know landlord’s expectations by Ben Holubecki

A Guide to Good Landlord-Tenant Relations by DoItYourself.com

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Housing Advice, Landlords, Renting

Why Landlords Should Encourage Renters to Get Renters’ Insurance

For some landlords, it is purely the decision of the tenant on whether to get renters’ insurance or not; for renters, renters’ insurance often seems like an “unneeded expense.” However, by renters not having renters’ insurance coverage, it cannot only hurt them, but it can also hurt their landlords. This is why it is important for landlords to not only educate their tenants on the benefits of renters’ insurance, but to encourage them to get this type of coverage.

First, by ensuring tenants have renters’ insurance, landlords can prevent any unwanted insurance claims being made against them. In fact, according to survey by Joshua Tree Consulting, rental property owners deal with about eight insurance claims like this a year. By helping to educate and encourage their tenants to get renters’ insurance, it can limit the number of these claims and the associated legal expenses that may come with it.

For landlords, renters’ insurance can also help cover their deductible in cases in which their tenant is responsible for damage to the property. In fact, according to a white paper published by Joshua Tree Consulting, landlords pay an average of over $2,400 per property for tenant-caused damage, as compared to just over $1,300 in properties where landlords required tenants to carry renters’ insurance. In this way, landlords can save money by encouraging tenants to get renters’ insurance.

While there are several financial benefits to encouraging renters’ insurance, responsible landlords can also value the importance of having this type of coverage. Incidences like fire and theft are not so “farfetched” in that they are impossible. By encouraging tenants to get renters’ insurance, landlords can help ease the minds of their tenants, so that should these incidences occur, they know they will be covered..

Renters’ insurance for both tenants and landlords is smart choice when renting, as it can save both parties money and stress in the case of fire, theft, or injury on a property. Landlords should remind tenants of the implications that incidences have, and the damage and loss they can inflict. It is important to stress foresight and caution when renting, as accidents can happen. For while renters’ insurance may seem like an unneeded expense now, it is something that will help both landlords and renters get through the times in which the improbable becomes probable.

Reference

“Renters’ Insurance Protects Landlords as Well as Tenants” by Jeffrey Turk

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