By Derek Woellner —

Living off campus can be a great experience. For many University of Wisconsin–Stout students, next school year will be the first time they are living on their own without supervision. In order to usher in the next generation of renters, a panel of experienced seniors have gathered to offer advice. Panel members include two-year renters Derek Woellner, Amanda Groth and Chip Douglas.

Looking for a house

There are two options when looking for a place to rent: either act quickly or wait it out. Acting quickly will assure you more options to choose from and make your summer a little less stressful, but waiting it out saves you time and energy. Sometimes roommates make last minute decisions, drop out and a spot needs to be filled. Those who have been waiting it out will be able to be the heroes that fill those spaces.

If you choose to be one of those who act quickly, it is important to diversify your search methods. By touring, looking online and asking around you can find a place that best fits your needs. A great place to meet landlords, check out properties and maybe even find a roommate is the Housing Fair. The Housing Fair is put on by the Stout Student Association and will be happening November 6 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Memorial Student Center Great Hall.

Comparing prices

When shopping for a place to rent, the costs can be distributed in different ways. Utilities, Internet and cable may or may not be included in the price. If the property doesn’t have a washer and dryer you’ll be paying pounds of quarters at the laundromat. Also, there is usually a security deposit that needs to be paid at the time the lease is signed. Unlike the laundromat, you do not pay the security deposit in quarters.

Finding roommates

When evaluating a potential roommate, it is important to pay extra attention to the person’s level of craziness, because that level will rise once you are living together. Friend may turn foe as dishes pile up and toilet paper runs out. But don’t let that scare you away; sometimes the pros outweigh the cons. Living alone is way more expensive and there will be no one around to play Mario Kart with.

Solving problems

After picking a place and a few roommates it’s time to move in, but first go through the property and make sure that it’s clean. If your new place is dirty, contact your landlord. Most landlords and rental companies will pay to have the place cleaned or will offer to reimburse you for doing it yourself.

Sometimes repairs need to be made on the property. Contacting your landlord will usually solve the problem. If your landlord refuses to fix the problem you can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Their Online Landlord Tenant Complaint Form can be found on the agency’s website.

Another option when dealing with a reluctant landlord is to lawyer up. This past August, Stout senior Chloe Fetter, suffered a broken ankle after a brick on her front step came loose. She contacted her landlord and asked if they would pay her medical bills but they refused. Fetter’s next step was to ask a lawyer friend if he would be willing to represent her.

She then contacted her landlord again, this time saying, “Just so you know I have a lawyer who is representing me. If you don’t pay my medical bills I will be bringing you to court.” That was all it took. “They called me back and were like, ‘Okay, here’s the insurance number. Give them a call and they’ll take care of the bills’” Fetter explained.

Going forward

Renting your first place is a milestone in your college career. The new responsibilities will prepare you for life after graduation. It will surely be a fulfilling accomplishment as you learn to live within your means and create lasting friendships with your roomies. No matter what problems arise you will learn that they are solvable and that you can deal with anything.

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