Don’t Sign that Lease Just yet

As most college students are preparing to choose housing for the 2005-2006 school year, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Neighborhood Housing Office(NHO) has several issues that house hunters should take note of.

One major consideration Lisa Sarnowski of the NHO points out is the change in average monthly rent based on the month students sign leases.

A good example of this pricing difference can be found in leases for three-bedroom houses beginning in June or July. The average monthly rent in such cases is $1520 if students sign the lease in February. By April, the same house would most likely drop to about $1250 per month, and by the beginning of the school year may drop as low as $900 per month.

UWM Junior Tom Enright sees this information as useful in his search for new housing.

“College students don’t exactly have money to throw around, so we need to go for an affordable lease,” Enright says.

Another issue Sarnowski feels students should consider is the reliability of their landlord.

Earlier this month, several students were removed from their homes due to violations on the part of their landlords. Some of these violations were caused by re-zoning issues and landlords ignoring a city ordinance that prohibits more than three unrelated people to live in the same housing unit.

While the students were allowed by their landlords to reside in illegal living arrangements, Sarnowski feels that students should be informed of the consequences of breaking the ordinance.

“Students should recognize that the city is trying to crack down on students living illegally,” Sarnowski says.

The office is working with the Student Association in an attempt to change the ordinance and allow more unrelated people to live in a single home.

The NHO provides several resources to help students find an affordable home with a reliable landlord.

The UWM Housing Fair, which is held every April in the Union Concourse, showcases many homes within walking distance of the campus. Last year over 200 housing units were advertised through the fair.

Another resource available through the NHO is a landlord feedback form. Many students fill out this form each year to inform others of their experiences with a particular landlord.

Enright sees these as useful resources, but is also concerned with the time they make take to effectively use.

“People sometimes don’t shop around enough when looking for an apt or house,” he said. “One concern is that there will be other students just as eager to pounce on the homes shown as you are.”

The NHO is dedicated to providing quality resources to those looking for housing near campus. Any landlords with major violations of city ordinances are removed from the office’s listings.

The NHO is also looking to improve their feedback form to include ratings for area landlords based on student responses. Sarnowski says the NHO is would like to improve resources or create new services by listening to what UWM students want.

Those interested in the NHO’s resources can visit their office in the Union room 302.

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