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.

 

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
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.

 

Standard
Renting, Student Life

Shopping for Renter’s Insurance

As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts, renter’s insurance is a great way to make sure the unexpected is covered.  However, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out where to start.  It’s doesn’t have to be too hard, though.  All you have to do is shop smart and find a policy that fits what you need.

The first thing to do before you even start searching for the right policy is to inventory your place.  You should put together a list of all the things you have in your place (at least those things that you would want covered by insurance), including their values and serial numbers.  This will help you figure out how much coverage you will need.  You also want to take photos of the items and of your place as it is now.  You may even want to videotape a tour of what your pad looks like.  This way you will have visual evidence as to the current condition and items you have.

You may also want to consider how much you want to pay per month and what your deductible should be.  Your deductible will be the amount you pay before your insurance company will contribute money to fix the damages or replace any items.  You want to make sure that the amounts you choose are those that are right for you.

After you’ve done your prep work, the next step is to start looking at some quotes that include the parameters you would like to have met.  If the quotes you are getting are a little off, you want to figure out if that is something you could live with or not.  You want to check around with a few different places too.  The idea is not pick the first number you see.

When looking at different plans and insurance companies, it is also a good idea to look at the terms they have for their policies.  You want to make sure that they will cover what you need and on terms that are acceptable to you.

After you’ve gathered all of your information, it is then time to compare the prices and the terms; figure out what will be best for you.  After all, this is an investment.  You may even want to talk to a representative (if you haven’t already) to clarify what they cover and how it all works.  It’s also a good idea to talk to your landlord to get their input before making your final decision.

When looking for renter’s insurance, it can be a little overwhelming.  However, it doesn’t have to be too hard, as long as you shop smart and choose the plan that is right for you, you won’t lose out.

 

Reference:

“How to Buy Renter’s Insurance” by Apartments.com

 

Standard
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

Standard
Renting

Protecting Your Security Deposit

When you’re renting, one of your biggest concerns should be ensuring that you protect your security deposit.  This is because you not only want to get back your full security deposit, but you also want to maintain a good relationship with your landlord.  To do this you will have to keep track of any current damage when you move in and ensure that you don’t cause any damage while you’re renting.

The first thing to do when you move in, before you even start unpacking, is to document the current state of the unit.  It is a good idea to go through a checklist of any existing damage with your landlord, if you can.  It’s a good idea to go through the apartment as thoroughly as you possibly can, so you won’t get the blame for damage that may already have been there.  It’s also a really good idea to take a photo or video of the current state of the apartment when you move in.  Any damage you find upon your move-in is something worth documenting visually with a timestamp.

If you find any major problems with your apartment upon your move-in, you should let your landlord know right away.  This could include any type of leak, breakages, major damage, and infestations.  You should also let your landlord know if the conditions of the apartment are unacceptable upon your move-in, i.e. the cleanliness of the apartment is unacceptable or the apartment is not up to code.  You should check your state’s requirements on these codes to see what is necessary for your apartment.

While you’re living in your apartment, you should also make a note of any damage you see that you may have missed in your first walk through.  You should also let your landlord know right away if you cause any damage to the apartment.  It’s best just to own up to your mistake; your landlord will be more understanding if you tell them right away.

Working to protect your security deposit should be one of your main goals while your living in your apartment.   While your landlord cannot charge you for normal wear-and-tear, you should document the condition of your apartment upon moving in, including documenting with timestamped videos and/or photos.  It’s also a good idea to do this with your landlord, if you can, so they are aware of the current condition of the apartment.  Be sure to let your landlord know if the condition of the apartment is unacceptable and/or not up to code.  It is in these ways that you can ensure you get your full security deposit back and that you maintain a good relationship with your landlord.

References:

“Helping You Protect Your Security Deposit” from UMass Amherst Off Campus Student Services 

“How to Get Your Security Deposit Back” from Pine Tree Legal Assistance

 

Standard
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.

Standard