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Economical to Extravagant Off-Campus Living
Just a few months in from your freshman starting college and they bring up the subject of where they want to live the following year. By December, they are ready to sign a lease. It is hard to imagine making a decision so early, however; the demand for living in certain areas is driving the need to sign early. You will hear them mention specific apartments yet all you want to know is the rent amount, is the area safe, how much it costs to rent an apartment. There will be questions you may not have thought to ask.
By far, perhaps the most extravagant and newest complex to open across the street from the UF campus comes with a rooftop infinity pool, cabanas and lounge, a gym, racquetball courts, an arcade and game room, free tanning and an internet café. They have the studio’s all the way to 6 bedroom apartments as well as exclusive penthouse and VIP units. Amenities include fully furnished packages, flat-screen TVs in every living room, private bathrooms, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, washer and dryer in every unit. The lower level will consist of retail stores. While one might assume there would not be a demand for this style of college living, mark our words, there has been a waiting list for certain units that started before it was built.
Of course, as much as we may not want to deprive our students of luxury living (excuse my sarcasm), there are far more affordable and economical apartment rentals in Gainesville. For those in sororities, many opt to live in the many apartment rentals in walking distance to their respective houses. Rent varies according to whether they select a luxury apartment or a simple apartment. This area does tend to be higher priced due to its proximity to sorority row.
Students can also look into the Cooperative Living Organization, which is a dorm-style housing, home to 80 students from both UF and Santa Fe College. Its purpose is to provide low cost housing. As a co-op, the facilities are maintained completely by students who live at CLO. Residents work around two hours a week to contribute back to the organization. The deadline to apply is in February.
Another popular area for students is the apartments around midtown. These are close to many of the bars and restaurants as well as the campus. For students looking for a more urban feel, there are apartments in downtown Gainesville, which is the area around Main Street and University Avenue. Head out past Archer and you will find even more affordable, and older, rentals. The further you are from campus, the less expensive the rental; however, you will want to make sure they are on bus routes if that is going to be their primary form of transportation to campus.
There are also small private homes and cottages available surrounding the UF campus. Many juniors and seniors will look toward this type of living for more privacy (and let’s not kid ourselves, parties). Most apartment and home rentals are managed by property management companies so you will not be dealing with the actual owners.
Below we break down what questions your student should be asking:
Most apartments and houses near campus require you to work with property management companies. Unfortunately, many of the multiple room apartment rentals will only include one parking space. My daughter’s four-bedroom apartment fell into that category. That leaves the other occupants having to pay for off-premise parking which is extremely pricey, sometimes as much as $120 per month per spot depending on location. I needed my daughter to have a spot that was in a safe area and in very close proximity to her apartment. You will definitely want to ask that question.
If your student will need to find parking, they will need to go through the City of Gainesville (of course, they can look on Craig’s List or any other listing as some students may offer their spots for a fee. You can purchase a decal for the city online at the City of Gainesville website or at City Hall downtown. For most of the area behind sorority row, you will need a Zone 1 parking permit. This is $110.25 for the year and is valid from the end of August to the end of September of the following year. This decal can also be purchased for scooter parking for the same price. When buying a decal you will need to bring the following information:
1) Valid driver license
2) Current vehicle registration in the resident’s name or in the name of a parent with the same last name (see note for different last name instructions)
3) 2 Proofs of residency (Lease & ISIS, GRU bill, Cable bill or other bills received as mail. Junk mail is not an acceptable form of proof).
This is the option most people use but it is difficult to find parking a lot of the time. Another option is to post on the UF Facebook pages to see if anyone is selling a parking spot or knows of people who have lots where they sell the spots. This option is usually more expensive than city parking but less expensive than parking at the apartment complexes.
Make sure you find out the overage for utilities for the apartment. We quickly learned that after getting a bill for her first month stating they went over the allotted amount of $120.00 per month. The management company will split the overage between the number of tenants.
Most apartment leases start after August 1st and go through July 31st of the following year. The leases are based on 12 months but many students are only in Gainesville for two semesters. This means your student will either have to pay for the summer months or they can sublet. Some students charge for others to use their specific room to store. We recommend limiting that to those they know as you do not want to put yourself in a position of being responsible should something happen to another person’s belongings. My daughters did not sublet their rooms but let friends store in their room. Also, note that new residents (not renewals remaining in the same apartment) do not move in until a few days after leaving a three to a five-day gap in where to store their belongings. The rationale is that the management company needs to clean the apartment.
We faced this same dilemma and had to move their belongings into storage for 4 days. This involved hiring a moving and storage company at a large expense. We looked at many options but unfortunately, this ended up being the most cost-efficient.
Inspecting the Apartment
Make certain your student (and yourself if you are there) inspect the premises thoroughly. Remember, for many of our kids, this is their first experience with renting an apartment. Take pictures of any damage, no matter how small, as they will be charged if they did not fill out the damage report when they first moved into their apartment. If they hang up pictures or use any nails on the walls, make certain they spackle and repaint. The charges add up fairly quickly. Worth repeating- Take 100 pictures, then take 20 more time-stamped. You could be charged for damages to the apartment. If you have not documented everything, prepare for those charges.
The responsible party for payment
When reading through the lease, make certain that your student is only responsible for their individual room and not the entire apartment. While you may believe your student is moving in with their BFF’s, if one decides to vacate for any reason, whether to withdraw, study abroad or the living arrangement did not work out, you do not want to be responsible for that person ’s portion of the lease.
Make sure you are familiar with the terms of subletting as many students leave for Summer A and B or a combination thereof and may want to sublet their room to a third party.
Along those lines, each bedroom should have its own key different than the other bedrooms. This gives your student the ability to lock their bedroom should they decide they do not want anyone having access to their personal belongings.
Your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover them while they are living off-campus (many will cover if they are living in an on-campus residence at no extra cost). Check the terms of your home insurance policy. Most of the large insurance companies offer separate renters policies at a reasonable rate. You may also want to look at two of the more reputable college student insurance companies, college student insurance, and NSSI.
For information about students’ favorite apartments, click here.