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How to find off-campus housing

Tips to snagging your temporary dream home

As if you were not already stressed out enough with finals and holiday shopping looming, if you are a sophomore or junior it is also time to figure out if you are going to live on or off campus next year. Luckily for you, if you are leaning toward the latter, The Concordian is here to help via this friendly step-by-step list.

1. Weigh the benefits and costs of living on or off campus. There are a lot of factors that should be considered when searching for the best living situation. According to Jasi O’Connor, director of residence life, things to consider include proximity to campus, roommate preferences, type of residence and rent and other costs, such as utilities.

2. Find a landlord. Besides networking through friends, students can utilize residence life’s landlord list, which can be accessed in the Parke Student Leadership Center. Last January, junior Maddie Johnson and her three prospective roommates used the list and had instant success. “We actually only ended up (needing to get) in contact with one landlord,” Johnson said. “She showed us two houses and we (live) in one of the houses that she showed us.”

3. Find a good landlord. Not all landlords are created equal. It is important to find someone who has a close relationship with the property he or she is trying to rent. “We’ve got a lot of people here who don’t live in the city who are landlords … so then it’s up to their agents to get the work done,” said Peter Schultz, professor of art history and a landlord on the side. “Having a landlord who actually lives in Moorhead who (cares) about their property is a big deal.” The quality of the property can also be a telltale sign of how present and responsible the landlord is. “The house will tell you everything you want to know about the landlord,” Schultz said.

4. Be mindful when touring your potential place of residence. Schultz pointed out that the furnace — particularly the upkeep of the air filter — the cleanliness of the gutters and the quality of the plumbing are the three most important features to check out, yet these are commonly ignored by students. Paying attention to other aspects is important as well, but ultimately cosmetic concerns, such as scratched paint and missing doorknobs, are secondary because they can be more readily fixed by the landlord.

5. Read your lease. Do not sign a lease before knowing what is in it, as a lease is a binding contract with your landlord that will come into play if any disputes with your landlord arise. “If I could only say one thing to students, it would be, ‘Read your lease before you sign it, and make sure you know what it says,’” O’Connor said.

6. Don’t be afraid to argue the terms of your lease. “A lease is a negotiated contract; it’s not set in stone,” Schultz said. “I think that students get the sense … that piece of paper is somehow unquestionable … (b)ut every clause in that document can and should be negotiated.” For example, O’Connor recommended that if you plan to study abroad and would like to sublease during that time but your lease does not state it allows subleasers, ask about it, and there is a good chance the landlord will be willing to alter the terms of the lease. Asking for an adjustment in rent costs is another example of when one might negotiate a lease.

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