Searching for an apartment can be a daunting task, especially for students who are moving off campus for the first time. Fortunately, both the Virginia Tech Off-Campus Housing Office and various apartment complexes have resources available to help students make sure students are asking the right questions before signing a lease.
Off-Campus Housing Office manager Kate Balfour said one of the more important pieces of advice she could give to students is to not rush into signing a lease.
“We’re pretty young to be taking on the responsibility of a rent,” she said. “It can be intimidating.”
Balfour’s office provides a convenient checklist of things to consider when searching for housing. The checklist, along with other brochures providing information like the utility costs and pet policies for various apartment complexes around Blacksburg, can be found in 121 Squires Student Center.
This checklist helps to remind students of “things you might not think about,” Balfour said, “like groceries and the cost of gas.”
In terms of questions to ask your potential roommates, Balfour said “you should go with your gut.”
“Living in the same dorm and getting along well doesn’t mean you’ll get along living in the same apartment,” she said.
Students should have conversations with their roommates to decide how bill payment and grocery sharing would go before signing a lease, Balfour advised.
She also emphasized the importance of getting to know your lease.
“Read the whole lease before signing,” she said.
Student Legal Services, located in 143 Squires, provides free consultation services by appointment-only to students who need help with their leases and realtors.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also has a list of frequently asked questions accessible on its Web site. These questions are not specifically designated toward student leasers but toward leasers in general, especially those who feel they’re having a problem with their landlord.
The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act established guidelines for the responsibilities that landlords have to their tenants. If students are having problems with their landlord, they should contact Student Legal Services, which can provide free guidance to them.
Balfour said that students who needed help with making their decision about living off campus could attend the Off-Campus Housing Fair on Jan. 27 in Squires Commonwealth Ballroom. Students can meet and connect with representatives from various housing complexes and amenity providers.
The Foxridge Apartment Homes also offers a brochure to potential leasers entitled “20 Questions you need to ask before renting” available at its Welcome Center.
On one side of the brochure is a list of 20 questions dealing with subjects ranging from parking policies and bus lines to security fees and utilities. On the other, Foxridge offers its personalized answers to the questions.
Even though it is provided by Foxridge, complex representative Melinda Dunford said that the brochure is a great resource for students, no matter where they decide to sign a lease.
Above all, students should always make sure to talk to their landlord about specific rules governing their property.