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COLUMN: How to smartly rent in Bloomington



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The Monroe County Courthouse is located in the middle of downtown Bloomington. IDS file photo Buy Photos

Renting in college towns sucks sometimes. From skeezy landlords to leaky ceilings and roommate drama, I’ve lived through it all. In order to persevere, here are some of my tips for making renting as painless as possible.

First, look up reviews for rental companies around town. A lot of realtors can put on a good face for the people who are coming to look at their properties, but you should never blindly trust someone selling you something. Make sure the reviews you’re reading are genuine.

Take pictures of everything when you move in and when you move out. If you want your security deposit back, make sure you document the state the property was in before your move-in inspection and the state you left it in.

Brush up on landlord-tenant law in your state. Tenant rights vary from state to state — in Indiana, for example, you can sue your landlord for up to $6,000 — but there are some universal rights. Hold your landlord to his or her end of the bargain, and make sure you’re living in a healthy environment. Student Legal Services can help you understand the law — check out their tips for renting before you sign your lease.

Consider renting somewhere with complimentary 24/7 maintenance. You may not think it’s necessary, but on the off chance your pipes burst in the middle of the night, you’ll wish you had one less headache to deal with and that the bill was already taken care of.

A longer commute means cheaper rent in some circumstances. If you’re OK with biking or learning how the city buses work, you can find some cheap places to rent. Generally speaking, the further off campus you get, the cheaper it is to find housing, unless you live in one of Bloomington’s luxury apartments.

Luxury apartments are their own beasts. The changes in cost of living due to luxury apartments damage the neighborhood around them when they don’t bring more than just living spaces. Renting small means your money goes to local companies rather than multi-city conglomerates that hurt the communities they land in.

Living with roommates comes with its own drama. To help, make a roommate agreement and follow it. Bed times, guests and cleanliness may seem like non-issues when you’re living with other adults, but it’s better to have written documentation to come back to if problems arise. Make sure all roommates agree to the terms, and refer to it when you need to enforce rules.

Save yourself stress by setting a budget and following it. Prioritize rent, groceries, tuition and other expenses, then put aside fun money. Tracking every expense may seem tedious, but keeping your finances in order makes life less stressful in the long run. Don’t be that guy who always racks up late fees for missing rent payments.

Living on your own in college can be stressful, especially with all the rental horror stories out there. As long as you know what you want in an apartment, what you can afford and what your rights are, you’ll be able to make it through. Don’t settle, though — you wouldn’t want to be living in a mold-infested dorm or anything.   

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