Campus Guide '17: Advice for navigating the road to living off-campus
The Ranch at Star Pass, located on Shannon Road south of Broadway, showcases the many amenities they offer to student residents. Student housing apartments such as The Ranch create special offers, such as individual leases, to cater to the large UA student community in Tucson.
Leaving home for college and gaining independence is an important milestone that presents many choices. For students who choose to make the transition from living on-campus in dorms to off-campus in an apartment or a house, keep the following tips in mind.
Since the UA keeps climbing the list of top colleges in the country, student housing is booming in Tucson. Some of the most popular housing locations are Campus Crossings, The Ranch, North Pointe, Gateway at Tucson, The Cadence, The Ledges and The Retreat.
Every semester the UA hosts a housing fair held on the Mall in front of Old Main to give students the right information to find the place that suits them best. One resource is the UA’s office of Off-Campus Housing. It compares different types of student-housing, which is the number one source when searching for potential places to live.
Off-Campus Housing works to connect students to the right resources for their next housing situation.
“Basically what we do for off campus housing is we are primarily helping students who are moving out of the dorms,” said Dustin Long, a senior studying Care, Health and Society and office coordinator of Off-Campus Housing. “If they are looking for any places to live for the upcoming school year we’re their first point of contact.”
Long said that a lot of times students don’t know where to turn, especially when looking for different places to live off-campus. Off-Campus housing helps students narrow things down and provide them with useful information.
“We are going to be the people who have ties already with properties and communities that we can refer the students to,” Long said.
Students who move out of the dorms and sign housing contracts are faced with a brand new monthly expense: utilities. Several student housing apartments offer some utilities included in the rent, but almost every housing option requires tenants to pay for the electricity they use.
In addition to included utilities, many student housing apartments offer individual leases, or “by-the-bed” leasing. This can be extremely valuable to your own financial well-being, even if you love and trust your roommates.
“When students come here with roommates from student-housing, we explain that they are financially responsible as one,” said Yanil Martinez, a leasing specialist with Avilla Homes. “If their roommates skips out or is late on rent, the late fee is applied to the home, not to the specific person. We do not get involved with holding one person accountable as everyone in the home is under one legal contract.”
Martinez said that working with students who rent together is always a different situation than single-family renters. Student housing allows students to have the freedom to be solely responsible for themselves, and if a roommate fails to pay rent it does not affect anyone but that person. The contracts and leases are specifically designed to be sole and separate for students with little financial experience. It’s important to know that non student-oriented housing may not offer this convenient feature.
On the west side of town, Gateway at Tucson, The Ranch and Campus Crossings are hotspots for students to live. These apartments are located farther away from campus, but offer free shuttles for students to commute between the UA campus, Pima Community College and their apartment.
“The cost difference between student housing and dorms ... it is so affordable,” said UA engineering student Crystal Lopez, a leasing manager with Gateway at Tucson. “You get a nice apartment for a great price and it’s a great way to meet people and network.”
Many student housing apartments are furnished, which is helpful for students on a budget who cannot afford to buy furniture. However, unfurnished options are also available if students wish to customize according to their own vision.
Great deals on furniture are not too hard to find. Look at places like Ikea, Sam Levitz or even second-hand stores that sell cheap furniture with character.
“I think that places like Target and Walmart have some of the best deals for students,” said Jordyn Luna, a junior studying Education. “Bookcases, bedding, boxes to store stuff and toiletries are some things that you can get for a real steal when it comes to deals around this time.”
In addition, department stores like Ross and Burlington Coat Factory are great places to treat yourself to something nice, but also necessary, such as dishware, bedding, furniture or decorations for your room. These types of additions can bring some personality to your living space.
The bottom line is that finding a great price is up to the student renter. You should call properties that interest you, make visits, tour homes and figure out what you want. Look at reviews, ask friends who may live in student housing or any type of off-campus hosing to learn your options. It’s also important to know your rights as a renter.
“Working in the industry helped me a lot because when I had issues I knew my rights,” Martinez said. “I knew what the industry standards were and many times with issues like leaks, AC issues and other maintenance-related items, I spent time arguing with management as they would brush it off and tell us we needed to wait not knowing that I was aware of the laws.”
Martinez is well versed in fair housing laws. She said that the Landlord and Tenant Act exists to help you through issues like these.
“I have lived at four different student housing communities and they need to understand we aren’t children and deserve equal treatment and attention as we are all adults and paying consumers,” Martinez said.
Renting an apartment or house allows you to have your own place. It is an important decision, so take your time, do your research and find out what your dream home on a budget looks like.
Follow David Pujol on Twitter.