Off-Campus Living at University Park
When Should I Find A Place?
Some rental offices begin advertising in October and accepting applications for the upcoming fall as early as November. Others may begin accepting fall rental applications in early spring. Spring or summer renters do not 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 share the same living habits. Please do not make this assumption. Discuss topics such as monthly rent, utility payments if not included in rent, guests, study/sleep time, cleanliness, and food shopping. How good are they at paying bills? Will you talk out problems or will grudges and anger grow? Roommate agreements and questionnaires are available on the Off-Campus Living website, studentaffairs.psu.edu/offcampus. Taking this step will help establish basic do's and don'ts of living together.
Apartment Rental Costs
Apartment rentals in the State College average $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 included. Some rentals may be all-inclusive, and for others you may be responsible for 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.
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 the 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. Do not 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/suitemates are responsible for everything stated in the lease. 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. The Off-Campus Living website, studentaffairs.psu.edu/offcampus, offers a great list of questions to ask before signing a lease. Warning: do not 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 located in 221B HUB-Robeson Center. Off-Campus Living provides a website for easy access to housing listings and links to realtors' websites, housing fairs, and much more. Visit studentaffairs.psu.edu/offcampus. Classified listings are updated daily.