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You may have heard your student already discussing off-campus living options for next year. That’s because leasing season for next year, August 2017- July 2018, starts October 1st in Tuscaloosa. While leasing season may be gearing up, that does not mean that your student needs to rush and sign a lease. This is a time to explore the many off-campus housing options there are around Tuscaloosa and really consider where they want to live and who they want to live with. Once the lease is signed, your student, and possibly you, are legally obligated to the terms of the lease. Make sure you and your student understand the terms of the lease and if you have any questions that are not being answered by the landlord, or you don’t feel comfortable signing the lease, don’t!
There are two types of leases, a joint lease, and an individual lease. With a joint lease, everyone’s name appears on the lease; however, if someone does not pay their rent, the others must make up that difference. With an individual lease, your student is only responsible for their portion of the rent. If the others do not pay, your student is not obligated to make up their portion. Most of the larger apartment complexes are offering individual leases while the majority of the houses for rent will be through a joint lease. Be sure to read the lease, know what type of lease you and your student are signing, and be familiar with the content of the lease before you sign it. Always ask questions if you do not understand the wording. If you do have questions about your lease, the Civil Law Clinic, located at The University of Alabama Law School, will meet with your student to discuss and explain the lease. They can be reached at 205-348-4906.
Your student should carefully consider where they want to live, and if they want the responsibility of living in a house or if they prefer an apartment. Many of the larger apartment complexes are now offering all-inclusive options. This means that you write one check each month which includes the rent and utilities. Furniture is often included as well. Many properties offer a bank draft option, so you don’t have to write a check each month. It is up to you and your student to decide which option is best for your situation.
The City of Tuscaloosa has an occupancy restriction regarding the number of unrelated people that can live together. In most areas of the City, occupancy is limited to no more than three unrelated people living together. However, in the Historic Districts, in most instances, the limit is no more than two unrelated residents. Some rental properties in the area do allow up to 5 unrelated people to live together. It is always best to confirm what the occupancy restriction is for the rental your student is considering. There are several Historic Districts located just off campus where a number of our students live. You can call the City of Tuscaloosa at 205-248-5311, give them the address of the rental property, and they can confirm the limit for you before you sign a lease.
While the landlord has the responsibility to provide a living environment that meets all building codes for health and safety among other responsibilities of maintaining the property, your student has responsibilities as well. Tenants are expected to pay the rent on time; follow the landlord’s rules for the property; maintain the rental property in a responsible manner; use all electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems in a responsible manner; abide by the terms of the lease; and respect the privacy of neighbors.
While it is not a requirement at the majority of the rental properties in Tuscaloosa, we encourage you to consider renter’s insurance. The cost can be as little as $200 a year. If you have a homeowner’s policy, check with your insurance agent to determine whether or not your students’ belongings are covered under your policy.
The Off Campus Resources staff, located in room 133 Martha Parham East, is available to assist you and your student in locating off-campus housing. The off-campus housing website, offcampushousing.ua.edu, allows you to search for housing from among hundreds of options that are available. Should your student be considering studying abroad or participating in the Co-Op program, you can search for short term leases as well as look for sublease options that other UA students have posted. It is best not to sign a twelve-month lease if your student will be participating in one of these programs or graduating in December. Keep in mind that if your student leaves campus for any reason and is under a lease agreement, they are required to continue paying the rent unless they find someone to sublease their space.
On the website, under the “Resources” tab, you will find information related to living in Tuscaloosa, how to get your utilities turned on, occupancy and zoning information, safety tips, and more.
Encourage your student to stop by one of the Off-Campus Housing Fairs this fall. Held at the Ferguson Center from 10 a.m.–1 p.m., the Fair is an opportunity to talk with over 25 properties about off-campus housing. Fall dates are: October 5th, November 8th, December date is TBD.
For our students that are new to Tuscaloosa and are not familiar with the rental properties and where they are located, our office will be coordinating bus tours of 19 properties during October. The tours will take place between 5 p.m.–8 p.m. on October 10, 11, 17 and 18 with different properties being toured each night. Your student should look for more information in the coming weeks on how to sign up for these free tours.
Please visit our website at offcampushousing.ua.edu or contact us at 205-348-0020 for additional information related to off-campus living.