Alex Bacon/The AS Review

Most people, at one point or another in their lives, will look for an apartment or house to rent.  Some find places as soon as they start college, others find places after their freshman or sophomore year and still others don’t look for places until after they graduate.  But no matter when a person looks for a place to live, the process and things to keep in mind are similar.

When junior Benjamin Corey decided he wanted to find a place to live in Bellingham, he searched for rentals on Craigslist, he said. Then he called all the numbers on his list and made as many appointments as possible. Later, Corey spoke with an apartment manager.

“They don’t expect you to have much for credit or rental history, so you better have a smile and an honest appreciation for the possibility of being able to rent,” Corey said.

Choosing roommates is one major decision that needs to be made before moving into an apartment or house.  Sophomore Emily Leonard learned the importance of this decision after one of her roommates moved out due to personal differences.

“Make sure you choose your roommates wisely,” Leonard said.

While looking for an apartment or house, students should consider distance to campus, grocery stores, laundromats and other practical places.

“How you’re going to get around gets much more important when you live off campus,” AS Alternative Transportation Coordinator A.J. Garcia said. “Try and find one that’s along a WTA GO Line, especially the Blue Line. It’ll make your life much easier if you can get to and from campus every 15 minutes without having to worry about parking or waiting around for a bus.”

Garcia also recommended places along routes 14, 105, 108, 107 and by Lincoln Creek because these bus routes regularly service campus throughout fall, winter and spring quarters.

Once a student has narrowed down their options from all available dwellings to the ones they would like to live in, there are a few things they should take into consideration.

They should look for places without a large lawn and landscaping that needs maintenance, said Rick Campbell, a property manager at Chuckanut Property Management.  Students should also look for newer houses because they are usually better insulated.

Campbell also suggested looking for places that include some if not all utilities in the monthly rent.

Places closer to campus will cost more, Campbell said. According to Campbell, in Bellingham the average cost per room is between $350 and $400 a month.

The next step is to apply for renting.  The process for Chuckanut, which rents to about 1,000 students, is to fill out an application and a co-signer form and then sign the lease.

Students should be prepared to have a co-signer.  Many property management companies, Chuckanut included, will require a co-signer with good credit on the lease.  Campbell said co-signers are usually parents.

“The quicker they get us the paperwork, the quicker they get approval,” Campbell said.  “Paperwork could be done in a matter of days.”

Paperwork signed by renters, such as a lease, is very important to both the landlord and the tenant.

“It’s all about the lease.  It’s what both sides are bound to,” Chris Chatburn, coordinator of the AS Legal Information Center (LIC) said.  “Read the lease thoroughly and make sure you understand every part of it.”

Renters should be aware that landlords may try to put illegal or non-binding clauses into lease agreements or try to get renters to give up rights, Chatburn said.  Renters should keep copies of their lease and all documents they sign with them.  Verbal agreements that contradict the lease will not be valid; any verbal agreements should be written down, Chatburn said.

Chatburn suggested that students talk to current tenants of places they are considering living in about the landlord, atmosphere and overall experience.  He said places tend to attract the same kinds of people year after year so loud places that are prone to parties tend to stay that way and the same goes for places that tend to be quieter.

Looking at the physical appearance of an apartment or house can also be indicative of a good or bad landlord, Chatburn said.  He advised examing the cleanliness of the perimeter and checking window and door seals for disrepair.

For more information, the LIC has a brochure about renter’s rights and responsibilities.