By Molly Linder

A University of Georgia housing expert offered some direct advice for students faced with the decision of where to live.

“Before students sign a housing contract, they should read and understand it,” said Kim Ellis, the associate director for assignments and contracts at UGA’s University Housing.

Ellis, who provided her advice as part of an email interview, listed three questions every student should ask and answer before signing a housing contract:

  • What are the terms?
  • What is the length of the contract?
  • What is included in the fee?

Ellis said her office supports students who are interested in on-campus housing by assisting them with learning about the various on-campus residential communities and options, but ultimately she said students must understand what they are committing to in the housing agreement.

“Contracts are legally binding. It is important to read every word and ask questions,” she said in the email. “Students should be very clear on the terms of the contract before they sign.”

According to the UGA Housing website, “All first-year students are required to live on campus.” But after that first year, most UGA students live off-campus, and a college town such as Athens, Georgia, provides a lot of options to consider.

Before signing an apartment rental lease, Apartmentguide.com said it is essential for individuals to research the property they are interested in, which means knowing the area, living costs, roommate situation and if the property is pet friendly and if it comes furnished or not.

Molly Lee, a fourth-year sport management major at UGA, said some apartment complexes have some utilities built into the monthly rent, so checking with the desired complex is important.

“When we read through the lease, they made it pretty clear I would have to pay for the electricity and things like that, but water is included, so that was definitely something good to be aware of because that played a role into then deciding if the actual renting was worth the price or not,” said Lee, who is leasing through RentAthens, one of the college town’s largest rental companies.

Avail.co, a rental management software company, explained on its website there are various upfront costs that renters must consider when choosing an apartment. For example, many apartments have application fees, security deposits and pet fees, if applicable.

Along with the upfront fees that renters are faced with before moving, Lee said that understanding the lease is especially important. Along with the rules of the renting space, there will also be a timeline included with information about when move ins are allowed, how to move out and when the monthly rent is due.

“I think it is just really important when you go into a binding contract to just be aware of all of the rules and what you are agreeing to,” Lee said.

In some cases, those rules will require the renter to obtain renter’s insurance, which can be an additional expense to consider.

NerdWallet.com, a financial planning website, explained the landlord’s insurance solely protects the structure of the rental property, not a renter’s personal belongings.

While this may add another fee, either recurring or upfront – there are several payment options, and the NerdWallet information explained how renter’s insurance is necessary to protect personal belongings that might be damaged or lost due to a fire, a storm or a burglary.

 

Molly Linder is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.