ALL ABOUT HOUSING
WSU Spokane students are responsible for finding their own housing. The region offers many apartment complexes within five miles of campus, with rent ranging from $350 to $600 for an unfurnished, one bedroom apartment. Most apartments supply an oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, and laundry facilities. Renters are usually responsible for their own monthly utilities.
HOUSING TIPS FROM WSU SPOKANE STUDENTS
Below are what some WSU Spokane students had to say:
Location, location, location
- I like living downtown. It's convenient—a 25 minute walk to school.
- Browne's Addition has a lot of apartments for rent and is close to everything.
- Living close to school is a big plus. Also, consider how close you are to other students and favorite shopping/eating places. Off-street parking is a good idea as well. If you are a runner, consider that as well.
- Drive around, go to the South Hill, look in the Apartment Guide.
- Most of my classmates live on the South Hill and love it.
- There is a plethora of inexpensive housing on the lower South Hill.
- There are a lot of options within a fifteen-minute radius of the WSU Spokane Campus.
- The Valley has nice apartments.
How and when to look
- Start at least two months early.
- A lot of housing is available in early summer.
- Check with real estate agencies to see if any sellers are interested in leasing long-term.
- Look in Apartment Blue Book and drive around.
- Ask for help from other students.
- Go to the Gonzaga and WSU Spokane campuses and look for flyers for housing or roommates needed.
- Don't sit on a listing if it sounds like something you might like.
- Give yourself more than one day to look.
- Look in person rather than calling places.
- Make sure the condition report is thorough.
- Take your time to look around. Don't commit to the first place you see.
- Find something with good insulation to keep heating and cooling bills low.
- Don't feel too rushed. There are many options in Spokane.
- If possible, ask to see a furnished apartment to see how space works.
Each spring, WSU Spokane students provide information about their rental housing.
ROOMATES: POSITIVES & NEGATIVES
Debating about living alone, living with friends, or living with new people? There is a lot to consider. You should have open discussions with anyone you're interested in living with. It is better to get any concerns out in the open before a lease is signed or an agreement is made.
A roommate relationship is more than a living arrangement. Roommates can have emotional as well as financial effects on each other's lives. There are many laws to define the tenant-landlord relationship, but none deal specifically with roommate relationships (though it is possible under some circumstances for one roommate to be the landlord of the other(s)).
It's important to choose a roommate wisely and to communicate, so you can work out problems that might occur. If you arrange to share an apartment with a roommate you don't know, you might ask the landlord to let you sign separate leases so each of you are responsible only for your share of rent and any damages you cause.
Also beware…your best friend may not be the best choice for a roommate. Living together could strain your friendship if you find you disagree about cleaning, parties, paying bills, or other issues that arise in a shared apartment. Negotiating a compromise, subletting, or sticking it out can become very difficult.
There are many pros and cons to both living with a roommate or by yourself. Living by yourself will give you the chance to enjoy solitude and release the potential burdens of living with others. Living with others may help you save money by sharing expenses, such as rent, utilities, and telephone.
Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate
- What is your class schedule?
- What are your study habits?
- What are your eating habits?
- What do you expect for housekeeping/ cleanliness?
- Are overnight guests okay?
- Are you okay with borrowing/sharing items? Which ones?
- Are you okay with smoking inside/outside?
- Are parties acceptable? When? How late?
- How will you handle paying bills?
- Are pets acceptable? What type? How many?
- How much study time do you need?
- What level of quiet do you like during study hours?
- What type of eating arrangements do you prefer (cooking at home, eating out)?
- Is cooking smelly foods a problem?
- Is use of alcohol in apartment okay? When?
- Is coming home drunk okay? When?
- Do you use drugs?
- How do you plan handle roommate confrontations?
- What is your expected level of privacy? (entering rooms, sharing rooms)
- Does the person with the bigger room need to compensate the others?
- Are you comfortable lending money?
- What are your usual desired bedtimes/wake-up times?
- While sleeping, what is your desired level of noise? Radio/TV on?
You and your roommate should discuss creating a roommate agreement or contract and determine your expectations before committing to living together. Here are suggestions of what to discuss with prospective roommates before you sign a lease:
- Cleaning: How often should the place be cleaned and how will the work be shared?
- Privacy: How much privacy does everyone want and where do they get it?
- Guests: Will overnight guests be allowed? When and how often can guests visit?
- Parties: Agree on how often, how many people and how late can parties run?
- Shared personal belongings: Will food, clothing, CD's, toothpaste and other belongings be shared?
- Bills: How will bills be divided among roommates and who will be responsible for payment?
Solving Minor Problems
Common problems are personality and lifestyle clashes. The best way to deal with these is to negotiate one on one with your roommate. Identify the problems, what causes them, and what each roommate can do to solve them. Put any agreement you reach in writing and post it prominently-such as on the refrigerator. If necessary, seek mediation.
Another solution is subletting, which is when you move out and find someone else to live in the apartment and pay your lease. But subletting can be difficult, especially if roommates won't cooperate in finding a sublessee. In addition you usually need the landlord's permission to sublet your apartment or house.
Solving Serious Problems
Serious roommate problems are those that threaten your health, safety or substantially deprive you of full use of your apartment. The first step to solving such problems is to ask roommates to stop the problem behavior. Offer to negotiate and work out a solution. If they ignore you or negotiation does not work, take a more formal approach:
- Document the problem.
- Keep a complete record of roommate conflicts in your rental log.
- Include specific dates and notes on what was said or what happened.
- Use friends as witnesses.
- An important step is to write a letter to your roommate. It should be an account of problems that have occurred and steps you have taken to resolve them. Demand an end to unacceptable behavior and threaten further action if such behavior continues. Present the letter in person and keep a copy. Writing a letter to someone you live with may seem ridiculously formal or embarrassing, but it may be the best way to communicate your viewpoint.
BEFORE YOU MOVE IN
You may legally be held responsible for any damage you, your roommates, and guests do to the premises while you live there. However, you are not responsible for normal "wear and tear." To protect yourself, insist that the landlord inspect the premises with you before you move in.
Write down any damage or problems on a sheet of paper that both you and the landlord sign, along with an acknowledgment that these damages or problems existed before you moved in and you are not responsible for them. If the premises aren't clean when you move in, and you have to clean them, ask the landlord to make an adjustment to your first month's rent, change the lease to indicate that you do not have to clean before you move out, or give you some other concession for having to take possession of a dirty residence.
Remember, by not cleaning the premises before you moved in, the landlord has saved money or time or both. Keep a copy of the move-in inspection.
Moving in Costs and Budgets
The first month will be the most expensive. Take time to estimate your budget before you move, making special considerations for the first month.
Your costs will be less if you have a roommate to share expenses with! Be sure to include the following when working on your budget for that first month:
- rent (some landlords may require first and last months' rent)
- security deposit
- cable hook-up and first month of service
- electricity deposit
- moving service or truck rental
- boxes and other moving supplies
- telephone hook-up & long distance deposit
- food & supplies (condiments, cleaning, etc.)
- tuition & fees
- WSU parking pass (if applicable)
- car insurance & fuel (if applicable)
- books & supplies
- other bills (credit cards, loans, etc.)
Don't forget to create a budget for after you have moved in!
When you rent a house or apartment, it is wise to and inexpensive insure your personal belongings. Most people are not covered by their landlord's insurance so it is in your best interest to invest in your own.
If your parents claim you as a dependent, first check to see if you might be covered under their policy. Usually, students are covered up to ten percent of their parents' insurance. Even if you are paying instate tuition and your parents live out-of-state, you may still qualify on your parents' policy, so check with your family's agent first.
Renter's insurance policies typically cover:
- Direct loss to personal property.
- Additional living expense and liability claims.
- The limit for additional living expense is usually 20% of the coverage. Personal or comprehensive liability covers premises and medical payments depending upon policy limits.
Who Should Have It: Anyone who rents and is not covered by a parent's policy. Under most circumstances the landlord's policy will not pay for losses to tenants' personal property or damages caused by the tenant. Property losses are usually unexpected. Insurance is a means of protection in case such losses should occur.
What is Normally Covered: Fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, vehicles, sudden or accidental damage from smoke, and theft. But discuss the specifics with your insurance agent to understand your own policy.
How Do I Know What Policy is Best For Me: It is highly recommended to take a household inventory to determine the amount of coverage needed. Most insurance companies have household inventory sheets available to aid in calculating how much coverage is needed.
How to File a Claim: To make a claim for a theft contact your insurance company for forms and instruction must be accompanied by a police report. It is also a good idea to have a list or pictures of belongings.
Keep an updated inventory of your valuables by writing down serial numbers with descriptions of each item. Photographs should be taken of everything, but especially items that cannot be marked. Keep a list of your valuables in a safe deposit box or another secure place. You can also give a list to your insurance agent.
WSU Housing Commission hears many hard-luck stories when certain precautions are not taken. That's why we recommend good record keeping for renters. Lack of knowledge regarding leases or other rental agreements can cause a variety of problems. By keeping records of rental repair requests, security deposit disputes, and other important issues related to rental agreements, you can alleviate many of these types of problems.
The most frustrating problems occur when tenants cannot document their grievances. To prevent this, start a rental file as soon as you sign the lease and add to it throughout your lease term. A rental file is easy to keep, considering the money you may recover through rental modification or qualifying for full return on your security deposit. If a rental problem arises, it is easier to negotiate a solution with the landlord when you have written records that show the extent of the problem, what you asked the landlord to do about it and how the landlord responded.
Your rental file should hold:
- Lease and all other related paperwork: Keep a copy of everything you signed.
- A rental log: Use a simple notebook to write all dates and times you contacted or tried to contact your landlord; make a note of any discussion. Logs are a useful permanent record of how the landlord did or did not respond to problems.
- Check-in and Check-out Checklist: This is proof of the condition of the apartment when you move in and out. Keep copies and send the originals to the landlord by certified mail with return receipt.
- Letters to or from the landlord: Make any complaints or serious communications in writing and keep copies on file. All verbal requests should be followed up in writing with copies in your file.
- Reports: Keep copies of building inspection reports, police reports and reports from other government agencies.
- Photographs: Photos may be the evidence you need to document a repair or security and always have it signed by a witness.
Before you Move Out
Ask the landlord to inspect the premises after you have cleaned and moved out your belongings. During the inspection, write down all of the damages that you will be held responsible for and the additional cleaning the landlord wants you to do, if any.
If you dispute any of the damage items, discuss it with the landlord at that time. Be sure to have the inventory checklist you used when you moved in with you to resolve any disputes about damage that was done before you moved in. By completing an inspection prior to moving out, you should be able to rectify some of the problems that may cause you to lose your security deposit. If you and the landlord can agree on the damaged and cleaning items, sign the list and get the landlord to do the same, indicating which items you will repair or clean before turning the premises back over to the landlord.
At the time you turn the keys over to the landlord, give him or her a letter asking for the return of your security deposit within 14 days and give an address where it can be mailed or delivered.
After you Move Out
Under Washington State law, your landlord has 14 days (excluding weekends and holidays) after the tenancy terminates and you "deliver possession" of the premises, to do one of two things:
- Return your security deposit in full; or
- Deliver to you an itemized written notice of the damages or unpaid rent to which the deposit has been applied, along with any remaining amount of the security deposit.
If the landlord does not comply with these requirements, you may file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court and recover the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld monies. (If you have caused damage to the premises or have not paid all the rent due, the landlord can still hold you responsible by filing a counter-suit against you for the cost of repairs, unpaid rent, and other damages.)
If you have not received your security deposit or an itemized explanation of the items to which it has been applied within 14 days, write the landlord a letter. Explain that you are aware of your rights under Washington State's landlord tenant laws and demand the return of your security deposit (or the portion to which you are entitled) within a specified period of time.
Let the landlord know that if your deposit is not returned within that time, you are prepared to file suit in Small Claims Court to enforce your rights. Note that "Delivery of possession" means returning the keys to the landlord and vacating the premises.
Apartment and Home Security
Life in a house or apartment includes taking personal responsibility for one's safety and well being. This includes everything from understanding the appliances and heating system, and how to shut them off if they malfunction, to locking your doors and windows. You are entitled to locks that work and need to contact your landlord immediately to repair broken locks.
There are other things you can do to protect yourself, your home, and your possessions. Make sure smoke detectors are properly installed and functioning at all times. If you have sliding doors or windows you might choose to have lengths of wood made to lay in the tracks of the doors/ windows to keep them from being opened. There are other commercial devices to provide extra security or warnings if your home is being entered. Check with your landlord before doing anything that would be permanently installed in the house or apartment.
Security of the apartment building you live in is only as effective as you make it. Don't leave it all to the management and the police. By following these suggestions, you can make your building a safer place in which to live.
- Unknown or suspicious persons seeking entrance to the building should be referred to the management. Notify the management when your apartment will be vacant.
- Make arrangements with a neighbor or the management to receive deliveries.
- DO NOT identify yourself on the mailbox as a female living alone.
- Ask to install a wide-angle door viewer.
- Do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk by opening the door to strangers.
- Secure sliding balcony doors with a charlie bar or place a length of wood in the bottom track, making sure it fits snugly.
- When in the elevator, stand near the floor button panel. In a difficult situation, push as many buttons as possible, particularly the Emergency button.
- Do not enter an elevator if you are suspicious of the occupant(s); wait for the next one.
- Be alert to vehicles or persons following you into the garage or parking lot.
- Drive out of the area if you encounter suspicious circumstances and report them immediately to the management or the police.
- Lock your vehicle; and remove high value items.