Living off-campus means introducing a new man or woman into your life — your landlord. Though stereotypes abound about the character of landlords — a balding man in a wife beater shirt, holding a broom comes to mind — every homeowner renting houses to college students is different, and it’s your responsibility to figure out how to interact with your particular breed.
As should be expected, some landlords will have reservations about renting their house to you. More than likely, though, if they are renting their house to college students, they expect you to trash it to some degree, so if something breaks, make sure you have a valid, non-alcohol related explanation. They are also less likely to respond to your calls because, after all, you are just some punk kid playing house. Be persistent. Make sure you have your landlord’s number accessible to call when there is a problem. There will be problems.
Perhaps worse than a grumpy or overly suspicious landlord is the smooth talking landlord, the kind that look like the Brawny paper towel man incarnate. Don’t be fooled! He’s not the young, hip guy who “gets” you and your housemates’ quest for independence. Renting his house to you is a business, and you just fell for the used car salesman charm, with no way out.
When dealing with the Brawny paper towel man, don’t allow yourself to be acquiesced by his seemingly laidback,
amiable demeanor. Laidback translates to no washing machine for a month. Nice means you won’t be able to yell at him when you have no washing machine for a month. Be assertive but not too aggressive.
If you call your landlord with a particular grievance, make sure you brainstorm how you are going broach the subject and what possible solutions you will discuss. Makedemands, but be crafty in concealing it. It’s always a mistake to skip saying “hello” and instead greet with “We don’t have hot water. I need a shower NOW.” But also avoid allowing a problem to go unresolved because your landlord convinced you there was no problem via his telecommunication slyness.
Establish a workable relationship with your landlord, whether they are of the broom wielding or smooth talking variety. Be — or pretend to be — patient and respectful when discussing matters involving the house, but also assure that you are representing your and your housemates’ welfare at all times. Familiarize yourself with the New Jersey Tenant’s Rights, so that you aren’t just some punk kid, but an educated punk kid.
Katie Brenzel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.