Higher Ed, Renting, Student Life

The Effects of Increasing Off-Campus Populations

With increasing student populations, particularly at state schools, it can be difficult finding housing for everyone.  This is why many students, especially upperclassmen, decide to make the move off-campus.  However, while the increase in population can have major effects on the universities, it can also have major implications for the cities and towns near these universities.

For many cities and towns, it can be difficult to find enough space for the students and long-term residents to live.  One example of this can be seen in the Northside neighborhood of Chapel Hill near the University of North Carolina.  In an article by the Jenny Surane of the Daily Tar Heel, she explains 500 of the rental properties in the area are student-occupied, and students account for about half of the population.  However, in a historically low-income neighborhood with only limited space for residents, both student and long-term, the town is put into a difficult place:  Do they allow new developments into the area, or keep the area as it is?

Others problems with increasing off-campus populations are the noise and other disruptions generally accompanied with increases in student residents.  In an article by Jonathan Morris of the Minnesota Daily, he explains the St. Paul City Council’s decision to implement a new ordinance to limit off-campus housing as a result of overcrowding, excessive vehicular traffic, limited parking, and noise and nuisance complaints.  While St. Thomas University (the university primarily effected by the ordinance) has not chosen to contest the ordinance, it will have significant effects on both long-term and student residents as the ordinance may force students to move elsewhere.

Increases in off-campus populations can have a major effect on an area, not in just in traffic, but also in the resources that are available to both student and long-term residents.  It is important for universities to consider the ways in which they can assist their off-campus students to make informed decisions about where and how they live off-campus.  For while living off-campus may just seem easy for students, there is certainly more to it than meets the eye.

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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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Housing Advice, Renting

The REAL Cost of Renting

If you’re renting for the first time, you should be aware of what utilities you will have to pay, along with your monthly rent payment.  While some apartments have utilities included in the cost, others only cover some of the utilities, and some don’t cover any.  If you’re looking at apartments with either of the latter options, you want to know what those utilities will be and what they will cost.

Heat:  The three most common options you will have for heating will either be gas, electric, or oil.  The major difference between these three is that gas and electric heat will be billed monthly, while oil heat, in some cases, will be billed when the oil tank needs to be filled.  This means that you will be billed only once or twice to fill the tank, however, this bill will be reasonably large as oil is expensive.

One common misconception about oil heat is that it is the most expensive option of the three (oil, gas, electric).  This is actually false; according to an article we read by the U.S. Department of Energy, electric heat will actually tend to be more expensive, despite its high efficiency.  However, natural gas comes out to be the cheapest, as it is roughly three times less than oil heat.

While you don’t get much of choice when it comes to choosing your apartment’s heating system, you should be aware that, in many cases, your landlord may request that you keep the heat at a minimum temperature.  This is generally meant to prevent the pipes from freezing, however, this should be factored into your heating budget.

Water and Sewer:  In most cases your landlord will cover the bill, and may even factor this into your rent.  However, if they don’t cover this expense, there are some things you need to know.  First off, your water and sewer bill will come together on one bill and your average monthly cost will depend on the area in which you reside.  For example, according to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, the average one family customer used about 180 gallons per day in 2012 and was charged around $73.70 per month.  While this price will not be the same for most states, in an article we read by Brett Walton at Circle of Blue, in 2010, rain-scarce regions actually had the lowest residential water rates and the highest water use.

Secondly, you also have to be aware that your water bill will depend on a lot of things, including how you pay the bill (does your landlord split the bill, do you pay per apartment, etc.) and how many people live with you.  You may want to factor in at least $100 per month if you live alone and about $50 per month if you live with roommates.  This way you can budget for those months where your water use was high.

Trash:  This is another expense that, in most cases, your landlord will cover.  However, if they don’t and you’re on your own, your monthly trash collection bill will depend where you are living and how many roommates you have.  For example, your bill may be around $50 if you are living in an apartment building.  If you’re renting an entire house, it may be a little higher.  This a very specific question, as it varies greatly from one town to the next, so this a good question to ask any potential landlord.

Electricity:  In an article we read at AverageElectricBill.org, your bill will depend on your consumption and the rate charged by your provider in kilowatts per hour.  The quality of your appliances will play into the average cost, as well as how often you use each appliance.

Like many of your other utilities, your state and your provider will determine your average rate.  For example, the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs reported recently that the average bill for its residential customers was about $112 per month.   However, according to reports distributed by U.S. Energy Information Administration, average electric bills can range from $80 to $200 per month, depending on where you live.  This is why it’s good to ask your landlord what is the average monthly cost of electricity for your apartment.

Internet/Cable:  If you’re a student, cable may be a luxury but Internet is a necessity if you hope to do your schoolwork at home.  You’ll have to see first what your apartment is wired for, as some units are only wired for one particular service provider (Cox, Verizon, Comcast, etc.).  While each provider offers different packages, the basic packages will run from about $50 to $70 per month.  In some instances you may find that one person in the building has purchased an Internet package and is willing to share the connection with others for a lesser monthly payment.

You will also need to factor in other added costs associated with Internet and/or cable.  In an article we read by Amy Hoak at Marketwatch by the Wall Street Journal, she explains that you want to be sure to factor in costs associated with set up.  Many providers will actually tack on a cost to set up an Internet and/or cable service in your place.

In terms of paying utilities, the most important thing is to understand how they will be billed, explains Hoak.  You want to ask your landlord what utilities you will need to cover, and how the bill will be distributed.  You’ll also want to ask what the average prices will be per month so that you can get a better idea of how much money you should factor into your budget for those utilities.  You may even want to ask them what the highest price they’ve paid before so you can prepare.  The main thing is not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.  It’s better to ask a lot of questions now rather than not having trash pickup, having no water, no electricity, and getting to winter and not having heat.

Other articles we referenced:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=oil-versus-natural-gas-home-heating

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Housing Advice, Renting

How to Make Yourself a More Attractive Tenant

The deadbeat tenant:  perhaps the most-feared in the landlord community.  This person is the tenant who never pays their rent on time, or at all, and will often leave their landlord with financial and/or physical damages that the landlord will have to take care of.  It is often for this reason that landlords will place prospective tenants through a rigorous screening process.  It certainly makes sense; you wouldn’t want to have to pay thousands of dollars in damages that were caused by someone else!

Well for those of you who consider yourselves good tenants, you have to let yourselves shine.  However, it can often be hard when the process is so rigorous and there may be plenty of other tenants out there who claim to possess the same qualities as you.

The first thing you want to consider is a credit check.  Often landlords will conduct a credit check on each of their prospective tenants, especially if they’ve experienced deadbeat tenants in the past.  For college students renting on their own, this can be an issue as many students either have bad credit or no credit at all.

In an article we read by Kay Miranda on eHow.com, she explains that you should include a cover letter with your application that honestly explains your credit situation.  You will also want to include information in this letter about what would make you a good tenant, and explain that you will be willing to work with the landlord to make sure they are comfortable with the situation.  Miranda explains that this could be agreeing to pay via direct deposit, or paying a higher security deposit.  You will also want to include any personal references that could vouch for your reliability and responsibility.

Many landlords will also request a face-to-face meeting or interview with you.  You want to prepare for this meeting like you would for a job interview.  You should be prepared to answer all potential questions they could ask, including those related to your finances and credit history.  You should be open and honest with them about this, as it is important to be honest with them and address their concerns.  You should be aware that your reactions, your demeanor, and your appearance will all play a role in determining whether the landlord chooses you or not.

As with any interview like this, you should also be upfront regarding your concerns.  Be prepared with questions that you may have for the landlord.  Their answers to these questions will also help you to gauge their reaction to you, as well as how willing they will be to work with you.

Overall, it is important to develop a good rapport with all of your previous and future landlords.  While the most important part of being a good tenant is complying with the terms of your lease, it is also important to keep the premises clean, tidy, and well kept.  This is because the way in which you maintain the space and leave it when you move out will prove to your current and any potential landlord (should your previous landlords give you a reference) that you are a good tenant.

Another major part of being a good tenant is keeping open communication with your landlord in regards to any repairs, damages, questions, or concerns that may arise.  In another article we read on eHow.com, they suggest also keeping a record of all of your correspondence with your landlord, just in case a problem should arise.  It is always important to let your landlord immediately (and in writing) about any problems or maintenance that must be taken care of.

It is relatively simple to make yourself a more attractive tenant in the eyes of potential landlord.  All it takes is being open, honest, and demonstrating responsibility and reliability.   Just be sure to address concerns they may have regarding your credit history and any other concerns they may have.  Keep in mind that fostering good relationships with any landlord you have cannot only provide you with a great reference for any potential landlord, but it will make your renting experience that much better.

Other articles we referenced:

http://www.ehow.com/how_4731666_good-tenant-rental.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2062599_spot-potential-deadbeat-tenant.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_8455475_interview-prospective-tenant.html

http://www.ehow.com/about_4674958_deadbeat-tenants.html

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Budget-Friendly Ideas, Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

Finding Furniture For Cheap

If you’re renting for the first time and your apartment is unfurnished, you may be wondering how on earth you’re going to be able to furnish the entire place on your own.  As a student it’s especially difficult because you’re working with a smaller budget.  However, you do have options.  That’s why we’ve come up with some ideas to help you you aren’t breaking the bank when it comes to furniture shopping.

Ask the previous tenants.  If you get a chance, ask the previous tenants if they would be willing to leave some of their furniture for you.  It’s certainly worth a shot to ask them about specific pieces you would want and offer them an amount you would be willing to pay for each item.

Ask you friends and family.  It’s always worth it to ask your friends and family if they have extra furniture that they would be willing to sell to you.

Check online.  At JumpOffCampus, we offer a “Classifieds” section that will help you find furniture.  Just check your area and see what people have posted.  To check out this section of our site, go to http://www.jumpoffcampus.com/marketplace_listings .

You can also rent furniture online.  Currently we are now offering a deal on our resources page for our New York metro users to rent furniture from Cort Furniture for 10% off.  To check out this deal, just check out our website!

Check local yard sale listings and flea markets in your area.  You never know what you’ll find when you visit a yard sale or a flea market, but you may just find the piece of furniture you’re looking for at a significantly cheaper price.

THINGS TO CONSIDER:

Don’t pick things up off the street.  Although it may seem like a great deal, you may end up with more than you bargain for.  Let’s just say that you get what you pay for, and at Free.99 you’re getting just that.  In most cases, it will probably be broken, damaged, or it will be carrying some unwanted guests (i.e. roaches, mice, bed bugs, etc.).

Any pest is a definite concern when you’re picking up used furniture, especially free furniture you find on the side of the road.  Our advice is to just leave that freebie alone.  In the end, it will potentially save you more money . . . and a huge headache.  Especially with bed bugs, they are extremely difficult to get rid of once you have them, and they can come from the cleanest of environments.  If you don’t believe it can happen, just check out this article from Suncoast News.

Inspect ALL used furniture for insects and pests BEFORE you bring it into your home.  As we’ve mentioned previously here and in our post about bed bugs, you need to be especially careful that you aren’t bringing any unwanted guests into your home.  Be sure to use proper inspection procedures to make sure you’re safe.

Inspect ALL furniture for broken or damaged parts BEFORE you pay for it.  This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you don’t want to pay for something you can’t use.  You want to inspect anything before you purchase it to make sure that nothing is broken or appears poorly constructed.  In an article we read by Laura Coffey at Today.com, she explains that you should be sure to inspect all the furniture IN PERSON before you purchase it.  That way you can be sure you are getting what you are paying for.

Plan ahead for transportation.  According to Coffey, you want to be sure to prepare to transport the piece before you purchase something.  This includes moving it from where you bought it and moving it into your place.  You may also want to consider how you’ll move it out when you leave.  Measuring is a great way to do this and to ensure that you aren’t buying furniture you can’t even get into your apartment.

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Finances, Housing Advice, Renting

The Lowdown on Renters Insurance

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to move off-campus, including remembering all the furniture you have to bring, all the supplies you’ll need, and all the food you’ll have to buy.  However, before you move in, you may want to consider getting renters insurance.

In an article we read by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, what many students may not realize is that most landlords will not have insurance that protects their renters’ property.  More and more landlords are, in fact, requiring that their tenants have renters insurance when they move in.  For students, renters insurance is a great way to protect important things like computers, stereos and other important property.  While you may be concerned that it’s an added expense, consider that the premiums are only about $15 to $30 a month.  That will save you a lot if your laptop gets damaged or stolen!

Photo from myfirstplace.com

When you’re looking at purchasing renters insurance, there are two basic types of coverage you should be aware of.  The first type is personal property coverage (the most common type), which will pay to repair or replace your property if it’s damaged, destroyed or stolen.  The second type is liability coverage, which will protect you against any claim or lawsuit from any injury or damage while on the property that you’re renting.

However, there are many differences when it comes to the providers and the plans they offer.  Be sure to talk to your landlord, your parents, and the insurance providers about the plans they offer and what they cover.  Don’t take the first plan you see, but shop around before you make your decisions so that you get the coverage that works best for you.

Here’s a checklist we found at Leaky.com that will help make it easier for you to find renters insurance.

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Housing Advice, Renting

Subletting Your Apartment for the Summer

If you are going home for the summer or taking that internship in New York, you may want to consider subletting your apartment.  That way you won’t be paying for an empty apartment you’re not staying in.  However, there are some things you may want to consider before you do.

1.    Check with your landlord to see if you can sublet.  Not all landlords like people subletting their units, and if you sublet without their permission both you and your tenant could be evicted.  However, if they do allow subletting and/or you have a good relationship with them, they may let you.  In an article we read on eHow.com, they explain that you should only be subletting what you have the right to sublet.  This means that, for example, if you have a month-to-month agreement with your landlord, you want to make sure that your are subletting on a month-to-month basis.

2.    Talk to your friends to see if they would be interested.  It will be significantly easier for you to sublet for a few months to a friend rather than a stranger.  That way you can leave some of your personal belongings behind and you don’t have to worry about it.  It may also be easier for you to address your concerns with them, and for them to address their concerns with you.

3.    If you can’t find a friend, you may want to post up your sublet.  At JumpOffCampus we post sublets for anyone looking to sublet their apartment.  You can also post up your sublet around your campus to see if anyone at your school would be interested.  There may be someone taking summer classes that needs a place to stay for a few months.

4.    Set a reasonable rental price.  In a blog post we read by Kathleen Corlett on HerCampus.com, you want to set a price that won’t scare off any potential renters.  You have to be aware that you probably won’t get the full rent, so you want to take that into consideration.  You will most likely get about 75% of the actual rental cost.

5.    Whether your roommates are staying for the summer or they aren’t, you want to be sure in considering their opinions.  If they are staying for the summer, you want to be sure that they have a hand in deciding whom you will sublet to.  As they are the one(s) who will be staying with this person, you want them to be just as happy with your decision as you are.  If they aren’t staying for the summer, you want to be sure that you set ground rules togehter for the renter that both of you will be happy with.

6.     Meet the prospective tenants.  This way you can see who you will be renting to.  According to Corlett, there are a lot of rental scams out there.  You want to be sure that the person who you are renting to is legitimate and someone you feel comfortable with.  You can think of this process as kind of like a job interview.

7.    You want to be sure to draw up a written and binding agreement between the renter and yourself.  You want to be sure that the tenant agrees to pay the agreed amount each month and that they abide by the terms of your lease that you and your landlord had agreed upon.  In this agreement you may want to consider including any ground rules that you have established for the tenant.  Be sure to check with your landlord to see if they too have any additions to this agreement, or any additional paperwork they may need you or the tenant to fill out.

8.    Get a security deposit from the tenant.  This will ensure that you’ll be covered if there is any damage done to your apartment while your tenant is there.  you’re not left with a hefty bill or lose out on your own security deposit.

9.    Arrange for the tenant to send you money.  This way you will make sure the rent is paid directly to your landlord.

10. Make sure to clean up your place before you leave.  Cleaning before you leave is considerate, and is a great way to make sure none of your possessions get damaged or lost.

11.  Take photos before you leave.  That way you can verify what the apartment looked like when you left before the subtenant moved in.  You want to be sure to date this photo if it is not already time-stamped.  This is just in case any problems arise with damages or other incidents.

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