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Sophomores pursue off-campus housing

Mel Flanagan | Tuesday, October 11, 2011

While senior year may seem far in the future for the class of 2014, many sophomores looking to rent an ideal off-campus house begin their search as early as this semester.

Off-campus concerns chair Emily LeStrange said interested students should do adequate research on a property before signing a lease.

“The best piece of advice I can give is to encourage new renters to talk to people they know currently rent[ing] from a certain landlord or housing agency,” LeStrange said. “They can give you honest feedback about their experiences and can point you in the right direction.”

LeStrange said students often feel pressure from landlords or housing agencies to sign a lease before they have time to fully comprehend its stipulations.

“You should take the time to review the agreement and ask any questions if they arise,” LeStrange said. “There will always be housing off campus, so don’t feel rushed to make an agreement.”

Students should fully comprehend any financial terms of the lease, LeStrange said. She advised prospective renters to especially understand what utilities are included in the rent and how rent payment would be scheduled.

“Even some minor things may be in the lease, like a policy on pets,” LeStrange said. “It’s important to really understand the agreement. Most students forget that a lease is a binding legal document, and I think it is very important to always keep that in mind.”

Off-campus president Tess Fitzpatrick said safety is another key factor in choosing a house.

“Some apartments and housing areas are known for robberies, and students need to know the safety aspect involved in moving off campus,” Fitzpatrick said.

LeStrange suggested students read crime reports for the area if they are unsure of the neighborhood’s history. The off-campus student website, offcampus.nd.edu, includes complete crime reports filed by students in the surrounding area.

“It’s important to be an informed renter,” LeStrange said. “Sometimes this means you need to gather your own information about the neighborhood you are going to live in.”

LeStrange said student government would host a lease fair in the LaFortune Ballroom at the beginning of November.

“We invite landlords and housing agencies to campus so that students can meet the people who have properties for rent,” LeStrange said. “Importantly though, we want them to be informed renters — they should see what is available.”

Fitzpatrick said the lease fair gives students an opportunity to thoroughly examine the pros and cons of each option.

“I think it will be really constructive, especially if you’re looking to get a house since you really need to start that sophomore year,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can see what’s out there, the price range and what’s convenient location-wise.”

LeStrange said the student government office also has “Good Neighbor Guides” that provide general information on both renting houses and living off campus.

“Specifically, the ‘Living Off Campus’ section highlights things like landlord-renter relations, renter’s insurance, social gathering information, budgeting and utilities, etc.,” LeStrange said.

Despite the challenges, Fitzpatrick said off-campus living is an invaluable experience in college.

“There is a lot of freedom with moving off campus,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is more responsibility, but I think it’s great for students at this age to be able to live off campus.”