While seniors are off finding jobs and waiting to hear back from prospective graduate schools, other students are dealing with the chronic problem of housing. While sophomores next year will be required to remain on campus, many of our future juniors and seniors will be looking for off-campus apartments. As first time renters, the task may be daunting. I’d like to assure you that the Rensselaer Union is here to help.
The first step is finding a place to live. There are many ways to find an apartment, such as ads in The Poly, or flyers posted around campus. One of the easiest places to search is through the Union website. Point your browser to http://offcampus.union.rpi.edu and login with your RCS ID to find listings of properties available for rent.
A tour is an essential part of the search process. You and all of your expected roommates should have an opportunity to walk through the place and ask questions. It is best to have in mind a number of inquiries and be willing to ask questions. This is your opportunity to understand what you’re getting into.
Make sure that the bedroom, bathroom, living area, and kitchen are to your liking. Look at closet space and pantry space too. If you see an issue, point it out. The landlord may be happy to take care of something, big or small, if it helps you make a decision to sign the lease.
Once you have decided on a place, it is time to sign a lease and make it yours for the year. The complexity of the document can vary, but in most cases there is enough legalese to make the layperson a bit uncomfortable. Again, the Union is able to help.
Your activity fee dollars fund a legal service offered free to students by Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo, and Johnson, attorneys at law. They have visiting hours Mondays and Wednesdays in Union Room 3511 from 3:30–5:30 pm. The first hour of each day is for walk-ins, and the second for appointments.
The attorneys can serve students in a number of capacities, and details are provided at http://home.union.rpi.edu/pages/view/9. Their services include the review of leases, which can be very useful for the first time renter. They request that leases be faxed to them ahead of time for review, so that the “in person” process can be an efficient use of time. For more information about legal consulting provided by the Union, inquire at the admin office.
When it is finally time to move in, there are a few final issues to deal with. Your apartment may or may not be furnished. You may have an agreement with your landlord to have an allowance for furnishing, or it may be all on you. If it’s up to you, you probably want to stray on the frugal side when it comes to furniture you will only use for a year or two.
Goodwill is an excellent place to get your needs met at a low cost. So is the Salvation Army. Stores like Big Lots can also be good for the student living on a tight budget, when it comes to getting the essentials like a desk, dresser, and shelving.
I wish the best of luck to everybody looking for a place to live next year, amid the sometimes confusing changes going on with residence life. In the Union, you have a variety of support for this important process.