Off-Campus Living at University Park
Once you decide to live off-campus, other questions come to mind, such as when should I find a place, who shall I live with, how do rents compare, and what is the rental process.
When Should I Find A Place?
Some rental offices begin accepting applications for fall rental as early as the previous November. Others don't begin renting for fall semester until June 15 or July 15. The remaining firms begin accepting applications for fall rentals sometime in between. Spring or summer renters don't need to plan so far in advance; one or two months before should be sufficient.
Choosing A Roommate
All best friends are not meant to be roommates. Because you enjoy someone's company, it's easy to believe that you'd share living habits. Please don't make that assumption. Discuss eating, partying, study, and cleanliness preferences with potential roommates. How good are they at paying bills? Will you talk out problems or will grudges and anger grow? Copies of a roommate agreement and questionnaire are available from the Office of Off-Campus Living which help individuals establish basic do's and don'ts of living together.
Apartment Rental Costs
Apartment rentals predominate in the State College area market, although comparatively fewer rooms, houses, and trailers are also for rent. Fall 2013 monthly apartment rents averaged $500 for an efficiency, $625 for a one-bedroom, $850 for a two-bedroom, and $1,100 for a three-bedroom. All rents are subject to change depending on the market fluctuations and proximity to campus.
Since several hundred dollars separate these rental figures, it's important to learn what services or conveniences are covered. The rent is all-inclusive for some apartments. For others, you'll pay the electric, cable TV, and other utility bills. Ask who pays for water, sewage, gas, garbage, heating oil, electricity, and phone service. As a rule, house renters find more of these bills in their mailbox each month than apartment dwellers.
Other variables which can affect rental rates include the cost of parking, whether the rental is furnished or unfurnished, and whether the lease is for nine or twelve months.
In the State College rental market, many property managers ask serious prospective tenants to file a formal rental application and to pay an application fee. Before you sign a rental application or pay a fee, completely understand the agreement you're making. Many applications have a clause which binds you to sign a lease if it is offered. If you do not sign that lease, you can lose your deposit, or with some applications, you can be required to pay rent and fees until a new tenant is found. Above all, take your time to compare prices and services. Don't let anyone push you into a deal you will regret later.
Most tenants will be asked to pay the landlord a security deposit. Landlords use security deposits as a form of insurance that tenants won't damage the place they're renting. By law a security deposit can be the equivalent to one month's rent. To ensure the full return of a security deposit, it's important that you and the landlord have an accurate record of the unit's move-in condition. Inform the landlord in writing of needed repairs, take photographs of the living unit, and complete a damage checklist. Keep a copy for yourself, and date it. The last step and the most important in the procedure is signing the lease for your new home. The lease lists the terms and conditions under which you rent a place. Once it's signed, you and your roommates are responsible for everything in it. Ask questions at rental offices so you understand the terms of the lease before you sign. Be aware that with verbal leases, if a disagreement arises, it's your word against the landlord's. Warning: don't sign a residence hall contract and a lease for the same time period; both will be legally binding.
Help Available in 234 HUB-Robeson Center or the Off-Campus Living Website
At University Park campus, resources are available for students at the Office of Off-Campus Living, 234 HUB-Robeson Center. An appointment can be made by calling 814-865-2346. There you can obtain materials useful to conducting an informed housing search. You can also seek assistance from the Off Campus Student Union (OCSU). OCSU is a student advocacy group and is located in 221B HUB-Robeson Center. Off-Campus Living provides a website for easy access to housing listings and links to realtors' websites. Visit studentaffairs.psu.edu/offcampus. Listings are updated daily.