BORED 101: Moving Off-Campus
Buell, North Willard, Isham, Loomis, Hickok just to name a few. At one point most UVM students have wandered through these tightly packed streets either out of curiosity or in search of upperclassmen buddies. As a first-year student living off-campus seems like an alien concept. Landlords, security deposits, roommates, grocery budgets, utilities?! The transition to off-campus living can seem a little overwhelming, however the move can be rewarding in life-skills.
Looking at a lease agreement can be very overwhelming. Agreements are often long, complicated and full of confusing terms. However, it’s important to sit with your (potential?) landlord and take the time to go through your lease. Listed are a few terms that are commonly tossed around in lease conversations:
- Lease: Most apartments will require you to pay first months rent AND a lease in the same amount. A lease is a deposit the landlord hangs on to for your time living in the apartment – and covers any of the damages to the space when you leave. If you move out and your apartment is in good shape – you’ll (hypothetically) get your whole lease back.
- Common Space: Space in your apartment that is shared with tenants on different leases, often laundry rooms, lobbies or entrances are common spaces.
- Guarantor: Someone who agrees to pay for your rent.
- Normal Wear and Tear: The small damages that are expected to occur over the term of a lease. These are covered by your landlord. Be sure to come to an agreement with your landlord over what their definition of normal wear and tear is – some might be fine with putting tacks in the walls; some might not. This will effect how much of your lease you get back when you move out!
- Quiet Enjoyment: An agreement that your landlord will not walk into your unit without prior notification.
- Security Deposit: The additional month of rent that covers damages that occur to your unit. If no damages occur you receive this money at the end of your lease.
- Sublet: another person who lives in your unit and agrees to pay either a portion or all of your rent.
- Tenant: That’s you! The person who occupies property rented from a landlord.
- Utilities: Monthly gas, electric and internet bills that tenants are often required to pay.
Finding an apartment off-campus
Just thinking about an apartment search can be overwhelming. Believe me. It can be difficult to find an apartment in Burlington with reasonable rent, that’s close enough to campus, and looks good to boot. However, UVM has fabulous resources to help students find a place off campus. UVM’s off-campus housing website is an easy-to-use resource created to help students and UVM affiliates find apartments, roommates and subletters – and the Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR) is here to help with semesterly Off-campus Living Workshops. You can even e-mail them for the most up-to-date housing resource information.
Many students also use external resources to find an apartment. I have found Zillow and Apartments.com to be excellent sites for finding properties. Facebook is also a common place for tenants to find roommates and subletters – shake that network tree; you might be surprised by the awesome places that friends of your friends’ friends might be offering up.
September is the prime time to find apartments for the upcoming year. Although, don’t fret if you’re late to the game because spaces are opening up all the time although they may not be your dream apartment.
If rent wasn’t enough – some apartments also require you to pay utilities. Things likes Gas/Heat, Electricity, Internet, and sometimes even water (though rarely). When you first move into a place, you’ll have to call places like Vermont Gas, Burlington Electric, Comcast, or Burlington Telecom to set up your new accounts with them – and to make sure you have them set up before you move in (your newfound freedom is better with overhead lights and refrigerators). Sometimes landlords will need to keep heat or electricity on between tenants for the safety of the property – you might have to pay some of those bills before you move in (or after you move out); so be sure to discuss it with them when you review your lease.
Come up with a plan with your roommates around utilities BEFORE moving in. When it comes to Gas/Heat, Electric, Internet – who’s name is going to be on each? Whoever that is, that person is going to have to collect the funds each month for those bills. Know that delinquent payment of utilities can have affect on your credit score (or service – nobody likes the lights going out on them) – so it’s important to be responsible with this aspect of off-campus living.
If you’re JUST moving off campus, you probably don’t have a ton of stuff to FILL your new apartment with. This part can be fun – but it’s always a process.
First step – spread the word. You’d be amazed with how much plates, silverware, pots, pans, etc family and friends have sitting in their basement that they’re super excited to gift to you. You don’t need matching forks – you just need to be able to eat!
A trip to ReSource and Good Will are a must (the latter has two stores, one on Shelburne Road and another in Williston). Sometimes this takes a few trips as the items in stock rotate – but without a doubt you can get most things there super cheap. You might need a splurge on a few essentials – a bigger trash can, toilet scrubber/plunger, and some dish clothes are a must.
Misc Money Musings
Burlington is an old city and it has a lot of old houses. This is good to keep in mind in relation to your heating costs. Heating an old house during a record cold-snap in January will quickly drain your bank account. Often student houses are close to a century old. Outside of rent, utility bills can fluctuate in prices however during the coldest and warmest parts of the year they will skyrocket. Compared to dorm-life I am much more cognizant of turning lights off and keeping the thermostat turned way down to minimize these costs. Sweatshirts and cozy winter clothes can help – but be aware that some landlords have rules about how low you can keep your thermostat (to prevent frozen pipes). Maybe you’ll luck out and find a place where heat is included in the rent – these elusive apartments are rare, but not impossible to find.
For many, moving off-campus also means grocery bills. Depending on the person food budgets can fluctuate greatly. That City Market swing through might be a convenient grab – but it can also add up. If money is something you’re tracking I suggest some of the more cost-conscious grocery stores – just a short drive down Rt. 7 / Shelburne Road. Signing up for a savings card will keep grocery costs even lower. It can sometimes even be helpful to split a $60 Costco membership with your roommates and buy things in bulk. This is especially helpful for things like toilet paper.
Tips & Tricks
A couple random things we learned in our off-campus travels:
- You cannot be charged an ‘Application Fee’ to rent; but you can be charged a ‘credit check’ fee.
- Check the term of your lease. If you leave before it’s up – you don’t get your lease back. Some leases go month-to-month after 6-12 months.
- Meet your neighbors! Remember that not everyone living in Burlington is a college student – you’re a part of a community now. Neighbors can be super cool folks and knowing them will make everyone’s life better – it could even prevent theft.
- Know what day you’re expected to pay rent. Some landlords will charge you for each day it’s late. Also find out if they want one single check, or if you and your roommates can each write their own to send in one envelope.
- Think about renters insurance. Theft and break-ins aren’t the norm – but also aren’t unheard of. Renter’s insurance is super cheap and will cover most of your stuff in case something bad happens.
- 10pm-7am are designated “Quiet Hours” by the city of Burlington. Noise that can be heard beyond your apartment between these hours could land you a fine (sometimes up to $500!). In Burlington, this applies to everyone on your lease – so if your roommate is being loud and you’re not; you’ll also get a ticket. Even if you’re not home.
- Think about parking. What do you need? Does the apartment have off-street parking? If not, what will you do during Parking Bans in the winter?
- Wondering if there’s a Parking Ban in the winter? Call (802) 658-7669 or sign-up for notifications on Nixle. All parking bans are declared by 3PM of that day. Free parking is available in City garages during the ban.
- You need to provide your landlord 2 MONTHS notice before your lease ends.
- Your landlord must provide you 48 hours’ notice before entering your apartment – unless it’s an emergency.
- Need furniture? Looking to get rid of your furniture? The Office of Student & Community Relations hosts the Spring Move Out Project every May in an effort to keep graduated students from leaving furniture on the curb. Speaking of which…
- Don’t leave furniture on the curb. The city will cite your landlord who might pass along any fines or ill-will towards you.
Burlington and UVM do their best to have your back as a renter – it can be tough out there. It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities BEFORE you encounter a sticky situation.
UVM’s Office of Student & Community Relations is the best stop for information on your quest for housing knowledge. They know it all – and even host community events to bring students and community members together to make our city enjoyable for all. They can also help if you have questions about a tricky landlord or even if you’re just trying to navigate having housemates for the first time.
Their Off-Campus Living Guide has a much deeper dive on all things renting in Burlington, and we highly recommend reading over it.
Other resources that’ll help you on your way:
- Office of Student & Community Relations;
802-656-9405; [email protected]
- An Illustrated Guide to Vermont Renter’s Rights (PDF)
- Move-In/Move Out Checklist (PDF)
- Burlington Code Enforcement Office
- Vermont Tenants (non profit)
- The Definitive Guide to Renting in VT (PDF)
Good luck apartmenting! See you at Open Streets BTV, you off-campus-er, you.