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Daily Egyptian

What to consider when renting

By Kent Aubry

Moving into a new place can be a tedious task. Several considerations must be taken into account to ensure the tenant gets exactly what they expect and pay for. Everything from price, size, location and legal agreements should be considered in order to make the right choice of where to live. The first and most obvious factor for most college students is the price of rent for an apartment or house. A general rule of thumb is to contract with rent less than 30 percent of individual monthly income. Renters should expect to pay a large sum of money when first contracting. It is common for landlords to require first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit upon signing. Don’t forget that most apartments require tenants to pay their own utilities. Generally speaking, the larger the home or apartment, the more the utilities will be. Electricity, water, cable and Internet are all common expenses that can add up to a substantial amount on top of the cost of rent. Rent varies from landlord to landlord and can also change with location. Rent can also be inflated due to added amenities that come with living at the apartment complex. Many apartments now offer features such as pools, tanning beds and workout centers. Though these appeal to most, it comes with a cost. With Carbondale’s rapidly changing weather, often tenants who paid to have a pool never get to use it in the spring and fall semesters, which makes it nearly worthless to have. It is important for the potential tenant to look past some of the unnecessary features and consider what they will actually need. The best advice would be to talk to people who currently live in the apartments to get an unfiltered and unbiased opinion about the living situation. The second most important thing to take into account is the size and features of the apartment. Look at the size of rooms such as the kitchen, living room and bathroom. Is one full bathroom enough for three people? Is my couch too large for the living room? Will a kitchen table or bar fit in the dining room? Remember to visually estimate if the furniture already owned will fit into the allotted areas. One bedroom per person is commonly used in finding a new place. However, many college students have considered splitting a room to save money. This however comes with the common flaw of not having enough space for both people’s belongings and has a tendency not to work out. Besides the fact that a living situation like this can be uncomfortable, landlords often frown upon splitting bedrooms. Don’t forget to consider other amenities as well. Things such as dishwashers and laundry machines may not be included with the apartment. Also, parking can be a potential downfall. Is there free off-street parking? Or is a permit required for each vehicle? These added concerns can create a headache for anyone with a vehicle. Other things to consider is if the place is pet-friendly. Having a pet significantly limits the available housing options. Many landlords don’t allow pets, whereas some allow only certain types of pets. Some landlords advertise places as pet-friendly establishments but restrict breeds of “vicious” dogs such as pit bulls, German shepherds and rottweilers. Location also plays a key role in choosing where to live. Remember, the contract signed often means the tenant will be stuck with their decision for a lengthy period of time, so it is important to look at the area surrounding the apartment. Consider things such as the cost of commuting to work or school, neighbors, lighting during both day and night as well as how accessible the house or apartment is from the outside. Don’t overlook flaws such as train tracks, street lights and noisy intersections. Look at surrounding neighborhoods as well. The neighborhood may seem safe, but may be on the edge of a high crime area. Try visiting the potential apartment or house on different days of the week. What may look peaceful during the week could turn into party central by the weekend. If moving into a larger complex, also consider the apartment’s location in the building itself. Laundry rooms and busy hallways located nearby can contribute to a considerable amount of annoyances. Last but definitely not least: the lease. The lease is a legal agreement between the landlord and the renter and can cause several disagreements during the course of its existence. It is important to understand the commitment on both the landlord and signers end as well as how long the lease runs. Many students in college towns such as Carbondale try to find nine month leases. However, it is uncommon to find apartments that offer month-to-month leases and many landlords require committing to a full year. Breaking a lease comes with added penalties and rarely pays off in the end. Signing a full year’s lease can sometimes be offset by subletting the apartment or house if the landlord permits doing so. Be sure to fully understand the lease before signing it. Most leases are long and dull to read but contain a lot of information that was probably not mentioned previously. Make sure to understand move-in and -out dates as well as other regulations like fire codes. Ask about the small things such as policies about guests and wall hangings. It is always a good idea to have a lawyer view the lease before signing to ensure the tenant is getting exactly what’s expected. Our campus offers student legal assistance at no extra charge for SIU students and is on the third floor of the Student Center.

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The student news site of Southern Illinois University