By now, you’re probably sick of living on campus.
The room is too confining.
Your roommate is getting on your nerves.
There’s an odd smell you can’t seem to pinpoint.
The food is just not hitting the spot.
You seem never to be able to get away from campus and you have no idea of what there is to do in Philadelphia anyway.
With all of these frustrations picking at your patience, it’s probably time to flee dorm life and move to off-campus housing.
Though necessity may force you to act impatiently, finding off-campus housing should be done with foresight and care.
The last thing you want is to escape the nuances of dorm life only to be stuck with much worse.
The most vital information a student needs to know is how much an apartment will cost.
Apartments are usually priced in accordance to how many bedrooms they contain.
Depending on the location in Philadelphia, the price will fluctuate.
In Center City, the minimum average cost per month of a single bedroom apartment is $650-$700.
The maximum cost is about $1,200.
Also in Center City, a two-bedroom place can cost up to $1,600 per month.
In the rare case that you can find a three-bedroom apartment, it would probably go for $2,000 a month.
An apartment in North or South Philly will cost a little less per bedroom.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $500 a month, and a two-bedroom can be found for around $700 a month.
When trying to rent an apartment, the first thing a real estate agency will do is run a credit report. Of course, you’ll need a fairly decent credit history.
However, if you have had past problems with credit, some agencies may turn to other factors in deciding whether or not to lease to you.
They may turn to where you lived before or check references for information on you.
In most cases it is also important to show proof of employment.
Along with a valid job, many agencies will expect a parent or guardian to co-sign, depending on the situation.
Although it seems unfair, many places will judge you by your appearance.
If you look uncouth or irresponsible, some landlords will assume that is how you live, thus denying residence.
Yet, if you feel you’ve been judged discriminately, there are laws to protect you.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race/color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disabilities.
If such is the case, you should contact the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
When it comes to your rights as a tenant, you must know what the lease states.
Most important information about terms of rental is in the lease, therefore it is critically important to read it carefully prior to signing it.
According to the Landlord-Tenant Act of the Pennsylvania Consumer Law, neither you nor your landlord may change or break a lease while it is in effect without the consent of the other party.
Within the lease you’ll find your rights to privacy, having visitors, standards of cleanliness, interior changes, etc.
Most leases will not allow a tenant to ruin or damage walls, ceilings, and/or woodwork.
Whether or not a landlord can enter the leased unit should also be written in the lease.
Many leases will state that the landlord may enter the unit at reasonable hours to examine, make repairs, and/or any additions and changes.
Prior to entrance, the landlord usually must give advance warning to the tenant.
The utilities that are separate from the cost of the rent is also important aspect of apartment finding and renting.
Water comes standard with apartments, but other expenses like electricity and telephone connections are paid separately.
Tenants usually buy electricity from the landlord who purchases it in bulk from a public utility then resells it to the tenant through individual meters.
Under the Resale of Public Utilities Services Act, a landlord cannot charge tenants more than the rate that the public utility would cost if the tenant had purchased it directly.
Most landlords have stereotypes as to the habits of undergraduate students. They do not want miscreants who have frequent parties or make excessive noise.
The majority of residents in any given apartment complex are not students, therefore they have little patience for erratic behavior.
Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, a landlord in Philadelphia may evict a tenant if 1) the term of the lease for which the property was rented is over, 2) the tenant is behind in rent, or 3) if the tenant has broken some clause of the lease.
Under this act, a landlord needs no reason to evict a tenant, but must give the tenant proper notice that he/she wants the property back at the end of the lease.
However, a landlord cannot evict or lock out a tenant without going through court procedures first.
Before being evicted, the landlord must supply the tenant with a written notice.
Both the tenant and landlord have laws that protect themselves, and you should make sure the lease you sign does not impede or prevent any of those rights.
In the end, there are a few tips you should always remember:
Do not fall for the first place you see.
Try not to make decisions impulsively.
You may get stuck with a place that looks good on paper, but when it comes to everyday living, it’s more bothersome than a blessing.
Read the lease carefully. You do not want to skim over such an important document.
Know the area.
Make sure there are grocery stores, convenient stores, or anything else you might need in a relatively close radius of the location.
As a student, it may be better to live close to Broad or Market Streets, for transportation purposes.
Broad and Market both have subways that run the length of the city and have many bus stops.
Use common sense. A lot of students are overwhelmed with their new found freedom, and end up abusing it.
You should also ask yourself a few questions.
Can I afford it?
Do I feel safe?
Is it comfortable?
Can I stay here for the full lease period?
Can I get to school/work easily?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve found the right place.
So, if you want to live without the paternalistic eye of Big Brother Temple on you, than off-campus housing is your answer.
But before you make the next hurdle in your collegiate career, take your time to thoroughly investigate all possibilities and options.
Obaid Siddiqui can be reached at Osiddiq@temple.edu