Do I meet the qualifications to live off-campus?
University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents policy states that all freshman and Sophomore students must live in university residence halls unless they meet established criteria for exemption. Students must submit documentation in addition to completing the Request for Exemption form provided by the Department of Residence Life. Students are not released from the requirement unless they receive written authorization from the Director of Residence Life. For more information, view the Off-Campus Housing Qualifications document.
How much rent can I afford?
Rent is not the only cost and utilities are often overlooked. Are you getting cable or DSL? What is the cost of the gas and electric and do I have to pay those bills or does the landlord take care of this. Ask the landlord for the apartment's "average utility costs." If the landlord does not have this information, you can contact the utility company directly. Make sure you know what utilities are covered by you and what the landlord will take care of. Make sure it's written in the lease.
How far should I live from Campus?
Do you want to walk or drive to campus? If you need to drive to campus, you will need to find parking on the street or obtain a student parking permit. City of Platteville parking regulations can be found on the city's website. Another option is Pioneer Transit, UW-Platteville's shuttle bus service, which provides transportation to locations around the campus and throughout the community. All students ride free with a UW-Platteville Student ID.
What should I consider before signing a lease?
When you sign a lease you are making a binding legal document. Not all leases are all the same. Make sure you carefully read and understand everything in the lease before signing. Make sure all blanks are filled in. If your lease is contingent upon any promises made by the property owner, get those promises in writing as part of the lease. Inspect the property and get everything in writing. If repairs are needed, have that written into the contract. Be sure to include a completion date in the clause. Only a written guarantee assures you that the promises will be fulfilled. Both parties should sign and date any additions to the lease. Make sure the apartment you looked at is the same one listed on the lease that you are signing. Pay special attention to any non-standard rental provisions included in the lease. Make sure that you receive copies of the fully signed lease and any additions agreed to by all parties.
For more information, check out the Important Documents list in the sidebar.
What should I know about safety?
You are your own boss when it comes to safety. Eighty percent of student fatalities due to fire occur in off-campus student housing. Do you know where your smoke detector is and have you changed the battery lately? Do you have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it? Who can you call in the case of emergency? Landlords are required to install the detectors and ensure they are operable at the time the tenant first occupies a unit. Thereafter, tenants are required to ensure each detector is functioning properly with working batteries and is not disabled. Tenant must give notice to landlord if detectors are not working property. [Wis.Stat. 101.145 and 101.149]
How do leases handle roommates?
The most widely used type of lease is one where all tenants sign one lease and are "jointly and severally liable" for all terms and conditions of the lease. This means that all of the tenants, no matter how many, can each be held legally responsible for all actions of any and all other tenants on the lease. On this type of lease, the term "tenant" does not refer to any one particular person, but rather to the singular collective entity fo all persons listed on the contract. Since all tenants can be held responsible for the actions of any tenant who, for example, fails to pay rent, leaves early, or damages the landlord's property, it is a good ide to carefully choose reliable roommates and sign a Roommate Agreement. A Roommate Agreement does not alter the "joint and several liablity" of the rental agreement with the landlord. However, it may be used if a dispute among the roommates arises.
Do I need renter's insurance?
Insurance is cheap but your stuff might not be. You may spend thousands of dollars on a new computer, TV and furniture. If your belongings are stolen, vandalized or destroyed in a fire or other disaster, your landlord isn't responsible for replacing them. If you can't afford to replace these things all at once, then you should protect these things with renter's insurance. This often costs as little as $12 a month and can cover fire, theft (not only from apartment but other places such as the trunk of your car), and liability claims (e.g. your dog bites someone or a guest falls at your apartment). Check your family's homeowner's policy to see if this can be added to it. Otherwise, check with insurance agencies who may offer this type of coverage. More information about renter's insurance for college students is available at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Do I need permission to have a pet?
Check the lease before you get or bring a pet into the rental unit. Most landlords only permit pets with prior written authorization. Even if the landlord gives a "verbal" okay to have a pet, it is a good idea to get written permission signed by your landlord and keep a copy for your records. If you currently have a lease, the landlord may just add the permission to that lease. In this case, make sure both you and the landlord initial and date the change to the lease. You may be required to pay a pet deposit, some or all of which may be nonrefundable. Be sure to discuss deposits and monthly pet-related fees in advance. And have these fees put into writing, too. Request a copy of any house rules pertaining to pets. Check out the attached Landlords who may permit pets list.
What are my renter's rights?