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Renters insurance can bring peace of mind

Kent Aubry

Daily Egyptian – November, 2011

Although it is not usually required, renters insurance is a good investment for anyone who rents property.

But many wonder if it is needed.  Anyone who rents property should purchase renters insurance to protect their belongings.

Renters insurance policies help protect people from a variety of threats that may occur on their property. It is just as important as car and homeowner’s insurance, and in many cases can protect them from losing thousands of dollars in losses.  Many policies protect belongings against everything from fire damage to vandalism.  However, in some instances such as floods and earthquakes, property may not be protected and separate policies may need to be purchased in order to protect against those disasters.

The first mistake many people make is thinking they do not own enough property for renters insurance to pay off. A student may not be worth as much as their parents taking into account student loans and credit card debt.  However, the average student’s belongings can add up to thousands in replacement value.  This money in property can be lost or damaged at any point, which could leave many without enough out of pocket money to replace it.

In situations where an apartment is damaged by natural disasters, the landlord provides the insurance to the building itself; it does not cover the inside of the apartment.  Say the roof is damaged from a hailstorm and water leaks onto someone’s beloved flat screen TV, ruining it.  The apartment’s damage is covered by the landlord’s insurance but possessions inside the apartment are not. Without a renters insurance policy, the renter will be left with no one to help replace the TV, a tragedy to all.

Furthermore, renters insurance helps protect from potential lawsuits against the renter.  If someone is unintentionally injured on a property, the renter will be held responsible.

For instance, say a visitor steps on broken glass and cuts their foot on the renter’s property, the renter could be responsible for injury and possibly face a lawsuit.  Renters insurance could have prevented a situation like this from happening.  Many policies provide liability coverage to any visitors who are injured on the property rented.

Renters insurance is important for all, no matter the value of property involved.

Purchasing a policy is as easy as visiting a local insurance agency to obtain a quote, a small step that could save thousands of dollars in lost property down the road.  Many providers in the Carbondale area will be more than willing to assist in the purchase of a policy to meet desired needs.

Although it would be best to never have to cash in on it, renters insurance will provide peace of mind from losing everything.

For Carbondale Insurance Contact Mike Harris of Country Financial.


Tips for a Happy Carbondale Apartment

  • Research the Carbondale landlords.
  • Research roommates.
  • Ask to see the apartment/house.
  • Create a checklist of what is broken.
  • Get a copy of a lease and read it over carefully.
  • Find out how much utilities usually cost.
  • Take photographs of every room
  • Take photographs of anything that is broken.
  • Talk to current tenants to find out about the


Return to Today’s news with the
Daily Egyptian at SIU Carbondale


Lease agreements lost in translation

Lauren Leone
Daily Egyptian

Elaine Conrad said miscommunication between the tenant and the resident is one of the main factors that lead to unreturned or delayed security deposits.

Conrad, community programs coordinator, works specifically with international students who have difficulty getting their security deposits back. Conrad also helps students understand their rights and responsibilities before signing a lease.

“Leases can be difficult to understand, even when English is someone’s first language,” she said.

Conrad said leasing policies differ from one apartment complex to another. She said some complexes have security deposits, which are to be paid beforehand, and some deposits are attached to the monthly rent.

Conrad said a verbal agreement is not enough.

“You can avoid any misunderstanding in the lease by asking questions, and getting anything agreed upon that’s not in the original release, in writing,” she said.

Richard Hall, a lecturer in the finance department, said security deposits are a hot issue in Carbondale, but there is an Illinois state law that can help residents in the event a tenant holds a security deposit for an extended period of time. The Security Deposit Return Act explains what a landlord has to do when returning a security deposit, he said.

The law applies to tenants of residential real property containing five or more units. This would include the larger apartment complexes in Carbondale such as Home Rentals, Lewis Park, and Saluki Apartments, Hall said.

The law states the lessor, or landlord, has 30 days from the date the resident vacates the premises to supply an itemized statement of all damages and the estimated cost for repair.

“That is from the date the premises is vacated, not the date of the end of the lease,” Hall said.

He said if the landlords do not supply a statement within 30 days, they are obligated by law to return the security deposit in its entirety within 45 days.
The law states if management is aware of some damages but is unsure of the exact cost, they still have to tell the tenant how much it will cost after 30 days of sending the original statement out.

This could lead to some tenants not seeing their deposits for nearly two months.
Hall said if the time frame in the leases differs from state law, and the complex has five or more units, state law prevails.

Conrad said she stresses for students, national or international, to read every point of the lease and to find out if the security deposit is refundable or not beforehand. She said there could also be a cleaning deposit as opposed to a security deposit.

Students need to take photos or have written record of any damages in the living space, she said.

“If you can get them to sign off on that, or be present while you are taking pictures, that’s the smartest thing to do,” she said.

Richa Asarawala, a graduate student studying electrical and computer engineering from India, lives in Campus Habitat and hasn’t had any issues with her tenants.

“Before signing a lease, they need to read the whole lease papers carefully,” she said. “Not each and every lease is the same.”

Conrad said the Students’ Legal Assistance Office, located on the 3rd floor of the Student Center, has representatives available when students need advice concerning legal issues with understanding apartment leases.

Asarawala said students should be cautious when searching for apartments and not to rush into anything.

“Before you sign the lease, they are very good with you, but after you sign the lease, they sometimes don’t care for you at all,” she said.

Q: How much security
deposit can a landlord charge?

A: All states allow landlords to collect a security deposit when the tenant moves in; the general purpose is to assure that the tenant pays rent when due and keeps the rental unit in good condition. Half the states limit the amount landlords can charge, usually not more than a month or two worth of rent — the exact amount depends on the state. Many states require landlords to put deposits in a separate account and some require landlords to pay tenants the interest on deposits.

Q: What can a landlord
deduct from a scurity deposit?

A: Landlords may normally make certain deductions from a tenant’s security deposit, provided they do it correctly and for an allowable reason. Many states require landlords to provide a written itemized accounting of deductions for unpaid rent and for repairs for damages that go beyond normal wear and tear, together with payment for any deposit balance.

Q: Is the landlord required to return the security deposit?

A: A tenant may sue a landlord who fails to return his or her deposit when and how required, or who violates other provisions of security deposit laws such as interest requirements; often these lawsuits may be brought in small claims court. If the landlord has intentionally and flagrantly violated the law, in some states, a tenant may recover the entire deposit — sometimes even two or three times this amount–plus attorney fees and other damages.

What to consider when renting

Kent Aubry

Daily Egyptian – November, 2011

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.

Communication is key with new roomates

Kent Aubry

Daily Egyptian – November, 2011

It seems everyone knows someone who didn’t get along with their roommate.

Whether randomly selected or a best friend, two completely different people in one space can be a recipe for disaster. Being a roommate isn’t an easy task for anyone, but having a roommate is an important experience which can help develop problem-solving abilities.

Whether it’s because they are self-centered, messy or just because they’re too weird, there is always someone hard to tolerate. Although it may not seem like it at the time, living with a person like this provides a great learning lesson that cannot be taught in a classroom.

Cooperation skills, generosity and patience can be learned by living side-by-side with an intolerable person. Even more importantly, it teaches a person how to take the high road when they would much rather commit murder. Learning how to deal with clashing personalities will inevitably help in the future when stuck with the intolerable co-worker, supervisor or parent-in-law.

The random roommate process normally takes place the freshman year of incoming students. Colleges now try to match roommates by interests, habits and majors to better match people. Though this is better than a completely random pairing, it still doesn’t ensure that there is enough in common to live together while maintaining sanity. In order to ensure an easy transition to living together, people should avoid certain practices.

Don’t be the roommate that takes over the entire place. Just because one roommate got there first doesn’t entitle them to transform the entire place. It also doesn’t entitle them to take the best room with the best window on the best side of the place.

Transforming a room without the input of the other roommate makes the space only comfortable for one person. The best way to avoid a clash within the first ten minutes is to wait until all roommates are present before hanging posters, decorations, etc. Sharing a room requires an effort on both sides in order to build a bond between each other.

Just because roommates live together doesn’t mean they have to do everything together. The roommate that sticks like a leech following everything the other does can get annoying in a hurry. Sharing friends is fine, but it is important to have a separate friend group in order to keep space between each other.

A boundary on borrowing is another essential aspect in regards to getting along with a roommate. Not everyone follows the “what’s yours is mine” philosophy and it is important to set ground rules at the beginning. It is crucial that both roommates feel their belongings are safe and each roommate should discuss what things are off limits.

Don’t be a pig. Piles of old clothes, dirty dishes and bacteria-ridden trash can turn a living space into a dump quickly.  Set up guidelines on whose turn it is to do which chores and stick to it. Whatever it may be, a dorm room, an apartment or a house, it is important to keep it functionally clean. It doesn’t have to be showroom-ready at all times but it should, at a bare minimum, be tolerable.

If living in a small apartment or dorm room, don’t take up all the space. Keep the room comfortable for everyone and respect boundaries. Try not to invite people over the nights a roommate is studying. Don’t wake up and start blasting music while a roommate is sleeping. Be considerate toward your roommate, and expect they be considerate toward you.

No one wants to be intolerable as a person.  No one wants to live with an intolerable person, either. Maintain good communication between each other and avoid driving each other insane.  Set up guidelines and let each other know if something is irritating.

Sharing a space with another person isn’t easy to do, but with the correct amount of give and take, it can work.

Students who are interested in living off campus should stop by the Students Legal Assistance Office on the third floor of the Student Center. The office provides a student with important legal information that should be known before signing a lease.


Pros and Cons of purchasing a pet

Kent Aubry

Daily Egyptian – November, 2011

Buying a puppy or another animal can seem like a great idea for many college students. However, this decision should not be taken lightly and comes with a lot of responsibility.

Pets can provide an array of benefits to its owners.  A pet provides companionship, security and can positively affect the owner’s health.  On average, pet owners visit the doctor’s office less frequently compared to those who do not own pets.

People who own pets are found to be more active, and one significant finding is that pets can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.  Owning a pet can also decrease depression and antisocial behavior.  Pets can help keep the owner’s mind off of what is bothering them and can help calm them down when stressed out.

Having a pet in college can bring added benefits as well.  Typically college towns have a lot of people in them, making them ideal to train a dog to be sociable.  It will be easier for the pet to accept strangers into its home if it is frequently around new people.

The benefits of owning a pet comes with some drawbacks.  Pets require time and attention.  The busy life of a college student does not always allow this.  Class schedules, social activities and work can interfere with a student’s spare time.  Special scheduling will be needed in order to ensure the pet is getting enough attention.

Owners also need to set aside extra money for animal expenses. Owning a pet is not a one-time payment and costs can add up in a hurry.  Pet food, grooming and trips to the veterinarian are all expenses that will require additional financial planning.

Travis Beasley, a senior studying psychology, adopted a puppy from the Humane Society this year.  After the initial payment of $125 for shots and spaying, Travis also dishes out about $50 per month in additional costs for dog food and other supplies.

Owning an animal that requires a lot of attention can alter social life and sleeping habits.  Sleeping in is no longer an option if a barking puppy needs food on a set schedule or needs to go outside.  College parties and weekend events may not be an option if a pet needs cared for.

Finding an apartment is a difficult task by itself.  Adding to the difficulty is finding a place that allows pets.  It is common for landlords to restrict certain breeds of dogs or not allow pets of any kind.  Some landlords add on “Pet fees” in order to protect the apartment from damage done by the pet.

In Travis’ case, the Humane Society also required additional documentation providing information on his current residence due to a bounce-back of animals that landlords would not allow.

The added struggle of finding a place does not end here.  It is also important to make sure it is accepted by the roommates involved.  Not all people enjoy the company of a pet.  It can also be seen as an intrusion of their personal space.  Roommates should expect that the house or apartment may be damaged because of the pet.

Also, additional help with walking and cleaning up after the pet may be required by roommates.  All roommates need to come to an agreement before a pet is brought home.

Although it seems there are more cons than pros, a pet can be a great addition into a person’s life.  Pets of all types can bring happiness, companionship, security and added health benefits to owners.  It is important, however, to plan ahead to avoid getting a pet at the wrong time.  Consider the financial and time management aspect fully before making the decision.

Some apartment problems avoidable

Mary Beth Arimond

Daily Egyptian – Februrary, 1996

Some students are starting to look for places to live next year, and they should learn some tips before signing a lease; otherwise, according to Students’ Legal Assistance, they could run into landlord and roommate problems.

The landlord problems began for Heather Hoydn when her neighbors played a trick one evening by shutting off the power from the main line, she said. However, as the power went out, so did the lights hovering over the parking lot.

Hoydn, a senior in early childhood education from Bartlett, said she realized she was paying her landlord’s electric bill along with her own. After ranting and raving, she finally received a refund on the difference of about $100 between her electric bill and her landlord’s bill, she said.

“I felt victimized when I rented from my landlord,” Hoydn said.

But, she said her problems were not over yet as one of her roommates pulled her into a financial disaster.

“My roommate tried to live in my apartment for free,” she said. “She didn’t pay rent, and she delayed almost every utility bill by about a month. By the end of the first semester, she owed me a $1,000.”

Hoydn said she finally got her money back after kicking her roommate out, but she still had to pay for her roommate’s bounced checks and had to search for a new roommate to help cover utility costs.

To avoid these kinds of problems, students should visit the SIUC Tenant-Landlord Union or Students’ Legal Assistance on the third floor of the Student Center to pick up a 30-page booklet on what tenants should look for before signing a lease with a landlord and their prospective roommates, Scott Pfeiffer, USG chief of staff, said.

Pfeiffer said the booklet suggests that students find out the background of the landlord. It informs students on how to understand and read the lease.

The booklet also has a section on how to avoid being taken advantage of when a roommate leaves, he said.

“One tip the booklet gives is students should settle any financial matters before the other roommate leaves,” Pfeiffer said.

Larry Schultz, law clerk for SIUC Students’ Legal Assistance, said students could be victimized if they have little experience or knowledge of renting property.

Schultz said if students have legal problems with their landlord, they should refer to Students’ Legal Assistance.

“We go over the general facts of the situation between the landlord and the tenant,” he said. “Once we determine the legal rights, we advise them the advantages of out-of-court settlements and the consequences of being successfully sued.”

Schultz said his office does not handle student-to-student conflicts. He said for this type of service, students should go to Alternative Dispute Resolution, a service in the SIU School of Law.

“It’s an organization that helps folks who would rather not litigate,” he said. “Students usually realize they can’t afford to sue or be sued.”

Schultz said most universities have offices dedicated solely to helping off-campus housing residents, but that is not the case at SIUC.

Sharon Hammer, Carbondale city attorney, said students should do research on landlords and roommates before they sign a lease.”Students could learn which landlords have a bad reputation and should know their roommates’ financial history,” Hammer said.

She said students should create a checklist of what should be in the apartment and what is broken upon moving into an apartment.

“They should walk through the apartment or house with the person they will rent from,” she said. “If they won’t come along, then students should take photographs of anything they could be charged for, so if the landlord charges students for a ripped carpet, they have a better argument to get their deposit back.”

Hammer said students should ask for a blank copy of the lease and read over it very carefully before signing it. She said students might be able to negotiate certain terms of the lease.

“Landlords are willing to alter leases with tenants if they are responsible and won’t tear up the place,” she said.

Bonnie Owen, said many of the misunderstandings she has with her tenants arise when tenants do not read leases thoroughly.

“My leases are very comprehensive,” Owen said. “My staff goes through the lease with the students, and they explain to them what they need to pay.”

Darren Pierson, supervisor of Home Rentals, said anyone who wants a copy of the lease can get one, and they should take it seriously.

“Everyone should read the lease, realize it’s a document and know they are going to deal with Home Rentals for the next 12 months,” Pierson said.

Carbondale Apartment hunting requires careful planning

Kelly E. Hertlein
Daily Egyptian – August, 1997

Students, beware: Renting can be hazardous to your pocketbook.Each semester, students who are eligible to leave the dorms behind move into apartments, houses or mobile homes. However, there are many important facts and details that students should know before paying their first month’s rent.Mike Peterman, co-owner of Bel-Aire Mobile Home Park, suggests looking at apartments, houses or mobile homes as early as possible to find good locations.

“The best selection is available in early February for the August semester,” he said. “People even come in as early as January and by May, usually, everything is gone.”Peterman also said to always keep an open mind. A prospective renter should not settle on the first place he or she comes across, as better deals may be lurking right down the road.”Most of the time,” he said, “prospective tenants will decide on about five or six models and then choose from there, depending on price and size.”

Jennifer Hart, an undecided sophomore from East Peoria, said the safest way to choose a dwelling is to look at its cost and at its lease as well.

“You should ask to see a copy of the lease and read it,” she said. “Check if the apartment is furnished, then double check all of the appliances and furnishings that are included in the lease because some of the establishments do not include what the lease says you are supposed to receive.”

Another problem that may occur with leases is understanding the responsibilities of each tenant. Kelly French, manager of Garden Park Apartments, said tenants often are unsure of whether or not they are signing joint leases. In a joint lease, all roommates are subject to the leasing contract and are responsible for each other.

“Prospective tenants should make sure they know everyone [who signs a lease] is responsible for the lease,” French said. “If one roommate moves out or drops out of school, the rest of the tenants in that apartment will have to make up each month for his or her rent. “However, the lease is not the only concern one should have when fearing that a roommate will move out. Hart said that before installing service of any kind, such as electricity, cable or others, decide whose name will appear on contracts. Dividing the responsibility between roommates usually works best.”

If you have only one person’s name on every service bill, then you are more likely to take advantage of that person by asking to pay later,” Hart said. “But if everyone has their own service charge with their name on it, you are more likely to pay the bills on time. “Other bills that may slip past consideration are water and trash fees, which many Carbondale landlords include in rent.

Kathleen Kelly, a junior in athletic training from Bloomingdale, said tenants should check to see if water and trash fees are included in rent or paid separately.”The amount of rent per month may be cheaper if water and trash are already included,” Kelly said. And although bills and leases may sound like the most important factors to consider when renting for the first time, French and Peterman both agree that getting along with any roommates is the most important aspect in hunting for a place to live.

“(First-time renters) should chose each other wisely,” French said. “They have to get along and make sure they can live together.” Peterman said choosing the right roommate is important. “Habits cause friction between roommates, and that is how I lose some of my tenants,” Peterman said. “They think they will be able to live together when in reality they just can’t.”

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