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7 Off-Campus Housing Tips for Students

Step 5: Basic home maintenance

My dad wisely sent me off to college with a hammer, a screwdriver, nails, screws, metal wire, and scissors. If you’re living in a rental for the school year, I don’t suggest making any major changes to the place (like painting the walls funky colors), unless your landlord has given you express permission to do so. Your objective is to do as little damage to the house as possible. If you want to hang some art made by your wildly talented artist friend, I suggest hanging it with the tiniest possible nail you can find. Be prepared to fill any holes that you make in the walls. You also need to invest in a broom, dust pan and mop. Since you are busy studying and working, you probably won’t have much time for home maintenance. If something breaks, call your landlord right away, and document the call. You can be held liable for any part of your apartment that breaks. I know that dealing with landlords is a drag, but most leases obligate the tenant to report or fix any part of the apartment that breaks during their tenancy. If you allow, say, a loose floorboard to become a missing floorboard during your tenancy, you can bet that it will come out of your security deposit. Deal with house problems as soon as they come up, and you’re less likely to pay for them in the end.

Preventing fires is quite important for a happy and healthy tenancy. Invest in a fire extinguisher, and be extremely careful with incense, candles and halogen lamps. Never attempt to put out a grease fire with water (smother it with the lid of a pan or use the fire extinguisher), and periodically check the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Step 6: Setting up the kitchen

One of the great things about living off campus is being able to cook for yourself. I’m sure you are excited about the absence of mystery meat from your meal plan. Food storage and cleaning dishes are two of the more challenging aspects of sharing kitchen space with roommates. In terms of the latter, it’s best to come to some sort of agreement before moving in with roommates, such as, “Only water glasses are allowed to stay in the sink overnight,” or, “We rotate taking out the kitchen trash on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.” In terms of food storage, what tends to be most successful is for each member of the household to have his own cabinet, and also to keep a communal food cabinet. It also tends to work best for each member of the apartment to have his own shelf in the refrigerator, so that no one accidentally drinks your beer or eats your cheese. It is economical to share milk and jars of spices and salt with roommates. Expensive items like olive oil, orange juice, coffee and fresh produce are best kept private in order to prevent conflict. When I lived with roommates, we kept a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker on top of the refrigerator and each member of the house labeled his own food. Periodically, clean out the fridge. It’s better to do biology experiments in the lab than in your kitchen.

Step 7: Be a good neighbor and live happily

As a college student, your resources are limited. When you need something, like a ladder, you may be forced by necessity to ask a neighbor. For this reason, and to avoid unnecessary visits from the police, I recommend getting to know your neighbors. It is likely that at some point in your tenancy, a gathering at your house could become overly exuberant. Your neighbors will be far less likely to call the cops if they know you and have your phone number to call first. When you move in, it would behoove you to bring your neighbors plates of freshly baked cookies and a card with your phone number on it. Offer to help them rake their leaves or help them to shovel their snow. Say “hello” when you see them. It will pay off down the line. Befriending your neighbors will also help you score points with leftist “community-building” classmates, the benefits of which can only be summed up as invitations to delicious pot-luck suppers that involve private performances by aspiring disc jockeys and ample dessert platters.

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11:35AM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

This is great advice for new students but also great advice for anyyone at anytime when moving into a new place. Thank You

7:57AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

good info! may be moving out before too long!

3:13AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Oops! Please excuse my typo on the previous comment.

3:12AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Thanks for reading this article that I posted. Philipa and Jenny, kudos for the camera suggestion. It's a small action that can save lot's of aggravation, strife and money.

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