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Students learn about off-campus life, rights

Megan Hemler | Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moving off campus involves contracts, and knowing the terms of agreement is an important factor in successful off-campus living, University Associate Vice President for Resident Life Bill Kirk said during an informational meeting Tuesday night.

Held at 8 p.m. in Montgomery Auditorium, “Moving Off Campus: What to Know Before — and After — Signing Your Lease,” covered the basic points students should know if they decide to leave Notre Dame’s residence halls.

There are many reasons why students choose to live off campus, like lower living costs and more lifestyle freedom, but Kirk also pointed out some of the burdens of life beyond the dorms.

“But there is a lot of responsibility involved in moving off campus,” Kirk said. “Really do your homework and understand why you want to move. … You can live off campus for less money than living in the residence halls, but you’re not going to get the same convenience and location.”

The terms a lease can legally include, the basics of paying rent, late fee rules and subletting were all topics discussed at the event.

“I can’t tell you how many students don’t read their lease. … If you’re going to make a deal, at least read the darn thing,” Kirk said.

A common problem students face when leasing occurs when roommates unexpectedly cannot pay rent. Usually, students are still “on the hook” for the total rent, according to their lease agreement, Kirk said.

With off-campus safety a top concern among students, Kirk cautioned that choosing the right location is important.

“Do your homework. … Some places are safer than others,” he said. “Everyone should also have renter’s insurance. … It’s cheap and affordable.”

“One of the things that’s most important for people in the area is we don’t want houses for single families with sixteen students living in them next door to us,” said Kirk. “Make sure you know how your house is zoned.”

Kirk also stressed the importance of student bargaining power.

“It’s completely acceptable to bargain and negotiate,” he said. “There’s been an explosion of supply in housing.”

“Don’t jump on the first place you find because you’re afraid you’re not going to get another one. If what you want is a reasonable, clean, safe place close to campus — you could go and get it now and be in it in a week. Ten years ago I couldn’t have said that.”