Insight given on off-campus life

Insight given on off-campus life
A diverse panel of students in different living situations offered various tips for dealing with landlords, contracts, neighbors and housemates.

By Tom Ciccone

News Editor

Students considering moving off-campus were taught the do’s and don’ts of venturing beyond the borders of the College at an information session titled “Decoding Off-Campus Living” on Thursday, Feb. 16.

A panel took questions from students concerning finding fair rental leases, dealing with negligent landlords and spotting irresponsible housemates.

The panel consisted of Magda Manetas, dean of students; Dan Frieri, a 2011 alum of the College; Chris Lagoeiro, a student of the College who manages his own properties off-campus; John Zoppina, a student that has commuted to the College since his freshman year and Megan Coburn, a junior mathematics and secondary education double major, who currently lives in an off-campus house.

Frieri, who makes money renting off-campus properties to current students, stressed the importance of analyzing all the details in a lease to rent a house.

“It’s important that you read over your lease very well, maybe even with a lawyer,” Frieri said. “It has to be a one-set price for everyone. You need to take consideration that when you are signing a contract. You need to be able to count on your roommates to make their payments because you are liable for that.”

Frieri warned of an incident where all of the housemates were relying on one person to handle all of their payments. The money was mishandled, and the roommates were fined for not handing in their payments on time.

Some leases set fines for missing rent payments differently. One lease can have fines at 10 percent of the month’s rent payment, while others can set their fines at 10 percent of the total lease. The percentage of the fine can also vary greatly from lease to lease, Frieri said.

A lot of leases also set expectations for renters to take care of the property’s lawn as well as remove snow after inclement weather. However, lawn mowers and snow shovels often aren’t provided with the property being rented.

The panel also stressed the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with neighbors.

“I would say knock on your neighbors’ houses. Just try to be polite and friendly,” Coburn, a student who lives off campus, said.

Frieri added, “I highly advise you don’t park in front of your neighbor’s house. It is legal, but don’t do it. They’ll come after you.”

Manetas, dean of students, stressed the importance of recognizing that neighbors are likely to not be students, but employed commuters who operate on very different sleep schedules.

“I think the biggest conflict is that your lifestyle at this point is so different from your neighbors,” Manetas said. “You’re there for a couple of years at the most — they might have lived there their whole lives. Be cognizant of that.”

Coburn warned of the dangers of having serious safety issues in an imperfect house. For example, Coburn talked about a shower stall in her house that was falling apart and leaving electrical wiring exposed to water.

“You should prioritize your complaints,” Manetas said. “Health and safety are important. Cosmetic issues with the house are less important.”

Frieri added that broken heaters in the winter should be an immediate priority for landlords to get fixed.

The College has multiple resources for students who are having problems communicating with their landlord and getting fixes made to their house. Students can send emails to student advocates who provide legal advice and can be reached at advocate@tcnj.edu. More information about student advocates is on the Student Government website.

A group called the Off-Campus Student Organization is also available to help students who have problems with their off-campus living. The group can be reached at ocso@tcnj.edu.