Housing and apartment trends in the neighborhoods around the University of Nevada, Reno
Student housing leases can be confusing. There are several hidden tactics you should be aware of. With the many new off-campus student housing apartments available around the University of Nevada, Reno, there are plenty of choices when it comes to location, and amenities.
However, there are certain terms and customs that students who are considering living there should be know about:
Advertised number of bedrooms - Many student housing apartments, advertise on the internet an apartment by the number of bedrooms in it. For example, they may say "4 bedrooms, $700 a month" or "3b x 3 ba, $850 a month". This is quite confusing. It leads some prospective residents to reasonably think it is an entire 4 bedroom apartment for only $700 a month. Quickly do the math and that is less than $200 a bedroom per month for "luxury living"! Yet, it is simply the type and size of the apartment (how many people you share the common area with). The advertised price is the amount you pay for your individually leased bedroom.
You may ask, why do they do that? It is honestly, a cheap sales tactic, that catches eyes, to generate leads in their marketing computer program, but often leads some people confused, especially if you are an international student who is not familiar with the customs of advertising and contracts here.
Utilities - Most of the newer student housing facilities are unclear how utilities work out from the beginning. Do not be fooled into thinking that the price includes all utilities. Often, they may include wifi internet, and sewer and water. But increasingly, the electric/gas portion of utilities are paid for through an outside service company, who adds up all the utility bills in each shared apartment, and bills each resident for the total divided by the number of residents. While this simplifies the issue of paying each other, they often charge an extra fee for it.
If there is no utility billing company, often, the student housing management leaves it up to the residents in each apartment to appoint one person to carry and hold the power bill. It is up to everyone in the apartment to pay that one person their share of the bill. You can see what problems could arise from this. What if the utility bill holder doesn't pay the utility company, and power is shut off? Or, what if you are the holder, and some fellow roommates never pay, or always pay late? It makes for potential conflict or awkward living. So be aware of this up front, so you can expect it.
Extra charges - So often, hidden in the lease contract, are extra charges, sometimes out of your control. For example, some student housing communities assign you to a certain room class, that may have "premium" charges beyond your stated rental rate. Do you want to be on the top floor with a view? There is an extra charge for that. Is your room 20 square feet larger than similar bedrooms? There is an extra charge for that. What if you are next to the swimming pool? There is an extra charge for that. Often, these premium charges and automatically placed on your account, after you signed and agreed to a certain rate, as they will assign you to a specific room location later. But buried in the contract is a clause that allows the management to place these charges, especially if you are newly moving in.
In addition to room and location premiums, you should know that it is common that "green fees", renewal charges, parking fees, required tenant insurance and required trash doorstep pickup service likely are all above and beyond your rent.
Room location - typically, when signing up for a new bedroom, you are choosing a "room class" and not a specific room location or number. That means, if you want to live in a 4x4 (an apartment with 4 bedrooms, so there are four total people in the apartment), then you get that room class with its associated price. Your actual assigned room location or unit number, are assigned later. And, if you don't have preferred roommates with you at sign-up, you may be randomly assigned roommates, who may, or may not be suitable for your lifestyle. (like that party guy with the loud music in the room next to you. Or the strange quiet guy that never says a word, but is a little awkward)
Maintenance - Don't think that your rent includes all maintenance and repairs. Typically, if there is a broken appliance, dead light bulb, or cracked window blinds within the common area, the management will have it fixed, but will then bill all roommates in the apartment, regardless of who is suspected to be at fault. While it is convenient to be able to contact the office, and they can repair quickly, there is a cost to those repairs, and it is above and beyond your rent
Leasing Period and Total Aggregate amount - This is a common missconception by many first-time renters. Typically, by contract, in student housing, 12-month (1-year) leases are the standard. You are responsible for full rent, regardless if you go back home for the summer. That means you must pay all your rent, every month. And actually, the way the contract is written, you owe your rent price X 12 as a full payment, for the right to use your bedroom and all common areas and amenities. They are giving you the convenience to pay in 12 equal installments (called monthly rent).
Move-in month gap - this is little known, but common practice that you should be aware of so that you are not surprised. For new residents, many student housing facilities force you to move in after a certain date in the middle of the first month (typically around August 20th), AND you have to still pay for a full months rent that first month. You may ask, why do they do that? It gives the management time to turnover the room from the previous resident (cleaning, repairs, preparation). But if you renew and stay a 2nd year, you simply stay. So don't expect to pay prorated partial rent on your first month. You still have to pay in full, and move in late.
Breaking a lease and moving out early - Check the contract, often there is a relet fee, even if you find someone to take over your lease. These extra charges are designed to cover the costs of doing another room turn and move in (and provide extra income for the management company as well). And what if you don't find someone to take over your lease? All future rents for the remainder of the term are "accelerated" and charged to you shortly after move out. It becomes a debt you have to pay. And, on top of that, the management has the right to re-rent your room on their own, thereby making double rent for themselves. So, be careful what you sign and agree to. Make sure you have the ability to fulfill your leasing term.
Move-out charges - Beware, that nearly every cost it takes the management to rerent your room after you leave, such as new paint, carpet stains, mildew in the bathtub will all be billed to you after you move-out. And if you don't pay, it is sent to collections and can hurt your credit if you avoid it. So be prepared to pay, often times several hundred dollars, above and beyond your security deposit. In fact, it is common that many tenants never receive their security deposit back, but rather, a bill for extra charges.
A blog critiquing and reporting on student housing in Reno Nevada
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Mike Cutler is a volunteer with the Reno International House and blogger of the local real estate housing development market in Reno. He likes to give advice for newly arriving students and immigrants, and report on the latest construction and housing needs around the University of Nevada, Reno.