With my family moving across the country and the university eager to push me off campus at the end of my freshman year, I was forced into a situation most Temple students face at some point: the apartment hunt.
True, I could’ve placed my fate in the housing lottery and hoped for a decent place to live on campus. But with many frustrating memories of Hardwick Hall and a limited budget, I decided to look past the stadium-lit world of Temple into the wide-open city beyond.
Despite some initial discouragements, I’ve never looked back.
The first apartment I looked at was advertised as having two bedrooms and being within walking distance of public transportation, for $750 a month. The neighborhood was nice enough, but the sight of a cat in the window instantly crossed it off my list. Clean all you want, but pet dander isn’t something that goes away in any building and can be the cause of endless suffering for someone with allergies.
Regardless, I felt obliged to take a tour after setting up an appointment with the tenant, who was trying to sublet the building so he could move. It wasn’t long before I understood why he was so desperate to leave.
Not only could I taste his cat’s dander in the air, but I could smell gas leaking from the stove. When asked about any pest problems, he told me that he saw dead cockroaches on occasion, but none that were alive. At that point I realized it was time to leave.
I learned an important lesson from my first adventure into the stressful world of apartment hunting: If cockroaches can’t survive in an apartment, it certainly can’t be fit for human inhabitation.
Further searches on craigslist.com showed the wide variety of housing available
throughout the city, much of it cheaper than or comparable to the cost of living in a dorm.
One of the major shortcomings of living on campus is the complete lack of character in campus housing. Even the newer buildings like University Village and The Edge have more in common with parking garages than with nice places to live. That’s something you don’t realize until you’ve moved away from North Broad Street.
I was able to find a place in a quiet neighborhood on the border of Roxborough and Manayunk. Many of the apartments and houses don’t have the same high prices as those in neighborhoods closer to the heart of the city. The rail stop two blocks down the street makes for only a 12-minute commute to Main Campus and a 20-minute commute to Center City.
Unfortunately, one thing that’s hard to find during an apartment search is a quality landlord and a fair lease. Tenants and landlords have specific rights, obligations and liabilities under the law for both parties’ protection.
And a lease should reflect that.
A week before I was ready to move in, my cosigner, who happened to be a lawyer, read my lease and refused to sign. It turns out my roommate and I would have been held liable for a lot more than is legally allowed. At the last minute, we had our landlord use the Pennsylvania standard lease agreement, which is a more balanced contract than the homemade, typo-ridden lease we were initially given.
It’s also important to consider taking out a rental insurance policy. These cover belongings from theft, fire and other losses, as well as property damage and medical liability. It’s an invaluable protection that’s surprisingly
affordable, especially if divided between roommates.
Aside from not having to show ID at the door when coming home or signing guests in, the best part of off-campus living is that it opens students up to unique places in the city with atmosphere and personality. It encourages students to explore and experience new things that would otherwise be overlooked. It’s a risk to move away from the safe world of Temple, but it may just be the best decision to make.
Brian Krier can be reached at