When it comes to transitions and new experiences, your late teens and early twenties have all the other decades beat. Think about it—most college students see their living situation change every time a summer break or a new academic year comes around. For many collegiettes™, the first and biggest of these transitions takes place in an on-campus residence hall, complete with a random roommate, an 8x10 dorm room and a resident advisor.
Eventually, though, it’ll be time to leave all the fun and frustration of dorm life behind for a new life off campus. You’ll replace the cafeteria’s Chicken Finger Wednesday with your own personal Starving Grocery Shopping Thursday, and you’ll swap out your RA for a landlord. The transition from life on campus to life in an apartment or house is a pretty big one in its own right—luckily, Her Campus has you covered with the ten most important things to keep in mind when you decide to venture off campus.
1. Living with Landlords - Know Your Rights and Document Everything
While living on campus, you rarely deal directly with the people who own your space. This, of course, will change when you move off campus. From the moment you sign your lease to the day you turn in your key, make sure you know how to interact and communicate with the landlord who’s leasing their property to you.
From the very beginning, make sure you’re documenting everything you possibly can. Any verbal agreements with your landlord need to be in writing as well, says Allison Lantero, a Boston College senior who took her landlord to small claims court and won.
Allison and her roommates decided to take their landlord to court after their security deposit was only partially returned, with no detailed receipt and no bank statement for a $1,200 damages charge. They won the case, but Lantero says it would’ve been easier if every stipulation of their lease had been in writing—some agreements were made over the phone and couldn’t be documented in court.
“If it’s not in writing within the legal document of the lease, it’s not enforceable,” says Kendal McDevitt, former coordinator for the Office of Off-Campus Community Relations at Appalachian State University. For any agreements that are not written into the physical copy of the lease, McDevitt recommends writing them in, and having each roommate as well as the rental company initial the changes. “First, go through the apartment and document the condition of rooms and appliances. Some apartment complexes provide handouts for this. If not, take a blank sheet of paper in with you and write down damage of anything you see. Second, take pictures of the apartment in its original condition. Keep a copy of the pictures yourself and submit a copy to the rental company,” McDevitt says.
Still confused about your rights as a renter?
“Have a lawyer look over the lease for you,” says Chelsea McLeod, a recent grad at Rhodes College.