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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Safe Student Housing for Off-Campus Rentals

Rising on-campus housing costs and waiting lists for college dorms may mean you and your students are looking for a house or apartment rental. Before signing a lease, consider these questions and tips to ensure student housing is safe.

Avoiding crime near student housing

Look for housing in a space and a neighborhood where crime won’t be an issue. Research online regarding the crime rate in the immediate area. This is especially true if your student wants to walk or bike to and from campus. If considering an apartment for student housing, does the complex have security cameras and a guard on duty? Is it well lit? Does the rental have an alarm system and if not, does the lease allow you to set up a wireless system? How close is the local municipal or campus police station? Is the rental near the campus bus line?

Home safety matters

Student housing rentals should have smoke detectors in the common living areas and in each bedroom. Ask if these devices are also carbon monoxide detectors. These dual-purpose detectors are reasonably priced, and the landlord should invest in them. Most likely the local building code requires them. Ask whether the landlord tests detectors on a regular basis.

Invest in a fire extinguisher for the kitchen if the student housing doesn’t come equipped with a one.

If your student will be on a second or third floor, invest around $60 in a fire escape ladder that can be hung on the window framing to provide a secure route to the ground in an emergency. If your student’s building is a high rise make sure there are lighted exit signs showing the way to escape routes.

Students should create a communication plan with roommates in case the need to evacuate ever arises, as well as a designated outdoor meeting place.

Maintenance questions

If the student will be in an apartment, does the complex have on-site maintenance? If the student housing is a house or duplex, do maintenance requests go straight to the owner or to a management company? Find out the procedure for submitting repair requests and the expected response time.

If the student housing is more than seven to ten years old, inquire whether the landlord has had the HVAC, water heater, gas lines, and electrical systems checked and serviced regularly, and ask to see records. If they are unavailable, the building is on the older side and it does not seem well maintained, move on to other choices.

Renters insurance for student housing

It’s a good idea to purchase renters insurance. It will pay for the loss of your student’s belongings through an event such as a burglary or fire in student housing. It will also protect your student from liability costs associated with any acts they might commit that cause harm or loss to a visitor or to other tenants.

For example, If your student forgets that something is cooking on the stove and a fire results, renters insurance will cover damages and injuries up to the limits of the policy you purchase. For that reason purchase more than a minimum coverage amount. Renters insurance is reasonably priced — generally between $100 to $250 per year depending on where you live and the amount of coverage you purchase — so there’s no need to scrimp on protection for student rental housing.

Most states do not require tenants to have renters insurance, but many lease agreements do and require you to show an insurance declarations page as proof.

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