Are you a student having problems related to off campus living? Are you experiencing any of the following concerns:
-Difficulties with maintenance concerns or other complaints about your housing?
-Difficulty contacting or talking with your landlord about concerns?
-Conflict with roommates that is making your living arrangement uncomfortable?
-Difficulty understanding terms of your lease agreement and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant?
-Difficulty finding off campus housing or roommates?
-Difficulty with any other area of the transition process to off campus living (i.e. budgeting, cooking, accessing transportation to campus, etc.)?Then please contact our office to see what we can do to help. You can contact us by phone, email, or stopping by to see us any time our office is open. You can also complete a Comments form on this website with your concerns and someone from our office will get back in contact with you within 1 business day.
If you are having issues with your landlord, the Landlord Tenant Act may be of help for your situation: Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (PDF)
We would also love to meet with you one on one to discuss further options such as on and off campus mediation, documenting situations, taking things to court, etc. Stop by our office, give us a call, or send us an email to set up a meeting.
If you are having issues with your roommates, the best thing you can do is to talk with them. If you have already tried that and still need more help, come and see us. We can offer solutions such as: helping you to document situations in your apartment, on and off campus mediation between you and your roommates, or refer you to the Varner House. Stop by our office, give us a call, or send us an email to set up a meeting.
If you’re studying abroad, graduating early, or just looking for someone to take over your room for a time period, subleasing may be your best option. Check out our Guide to subleasing (PDF) for basic information.
Many property managers and landlords have specific forms you will need to fill out if you’re planning on subleasing, but if they do not have these forms available check out Subleasing Agreement Form (PDF). If you have any other questions, let us know. We will be glad to help!
When you sign a lease, you are entering into a legal contract, so make sure you read the document and know what you are signing.
Beware because the terms and provisions of your lease legally bind you. By signing the lease, you are legally stating that you know what it says and are willing to abide by all the rules in it.
- Carefully examine the lease
- Ask for a copy so you and/or your family can review it more thoroughly
- Some leases are very restrictive. Be aware because you are responsible for knowing exactly what the lease says and means.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the landlord about clauses and terms that you don’t understand. You can also consult with someone at OCL.
- Agree on any changes, additions, or provisions with your landlord and make sure these are stated in the lease before signing on the dotted line.
- If it includes a provision or clause you want to remove, it’s okay to ask the landlord about it.
- Make sure it is all in writing and all parties involved sign, date, and keep a copy.
A lease is a legal document. No matter how your situation may change, you are financially responsible the minute you sign the lease. Make sure you understand the type of lease you’re signing. Below is a description of some common lease types.
An individual lease is when you sign for a single room, meaning you are individually responsible for paying rent and any damages to that room. You also sign for a share of the living area/ other common spaces.
Pro: If a roommate moves out, you are not responsible for his/her rent or damages.
Con: The landlord can put anybody (male, female, non-student) in the empty bedroom without your approval.
A group lease is a lease signed by all occupants, making the entire group responsible for damages and paying the full rent.
Pro: Your group has control of who may move into an empty bedroom.
Con: If a roommate backs out, the rest of the group must make up the difference in cost.
Always ask questions and make sure you fully understand the entire document. Off-Campus Life is more than willing to go over any leases with students and help them to better understand what they are signing.
Leaving half-way through the semester and need to find a person to take over your lease? Learn more about subleasing.
Even when you prepare and plan, living off-campus isn’t always going to be perfect. You may run into problems getting along with roommates, talking with your landlord about concerns, or upholding the terms of your lease. If you’re running into issues with your landlord, your roommates, or you need to sublease your apartment, then this section is for you.
Our office sees many problems each year related to students not reading or understanding their lease, signing a lease prematurely, or not knowing what type of lease they are signing and how this impacts their responsibilities as a tenant. Here are some helpful tips when it comes to having problems related to leasing:
- Read your entire lease and make sure you understand it before signing.
- If your landlord has made any promises related to your housing (i.e. a certain type of flooring or furniture package, that a new appliance will be installed, that a pet is allowed), make sure this is clearly written into the lease prior to signing.
- Know whether or not the lease you are signing is individual, joint, or some combination of the two. Depending on which type of lease you sign, there are different responsibilities in relation to responsibility for monthly rental payments and how roommates can be assigned or not assigned.
- Do not sign your lease until you are absolutely sure that you can meet the terms and conditions of your lease. Once you sign a lease, you have signed a legal, binding agreement with another party. There are very few if any clauses for release once you sign, and not abiding by this agreement could cause some extreme financial consequences.
- Have someone, besides your landlord, read through your lease with you before you sign it. You can get assistance with this by bringing a copy of your lease to Off-Campus Life and having a staff member assist you in reading through it.
For more assistance with understanding leasing or the lease signing process, Off-Campus Life offers a Leasing 101 Workshop each fall. Check the Events section of this website for more information.
Another common problem that occurs when living off campus is conflict with roommates. Conflict is inevitable in any close relationship, but it can often be hard to know how to navigate, and it can certainly make a living situation uncomfortable.
If you are having conflict with roommates, you can contact the office or meet individual with the Coordinator of Off-Campus Life to discuss your concerns. After meeting with you and discussing the situation, the Coordinator will help you identify resources that could assist such as roommate mediation or restorative justice through the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices at JMU.
Feel free to call, email, or stop by the office in person for assistance.
Off campus living can, at times, involve conflict with a landlord. These conflicts can be related to misunderstanding terms and conditions of a lease, maintenance issues, safety concerns, or disagreements related to payments or responsibilities.
Off-Campus Life can provide you with some assistance related to navigating these conflicts and knowing what steps to take should your landlord actually be in violation of the lease. For help with these concerns, please contact our office by phone, email, or in person. You can also check out these helpful links below that can assist in providing you more information to address the conflict.
Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
Tenant’s Assertion and Complaint Form
City of Harrisonburg Building Inspector’s Office