It is wise if, after several years at UT you find yourself stultified, to look for off-campus housing.
However, this being America, where capital trumps personality, your youthful naivete might be the prey of local profiteers. I've heard enough nasty stories about the way local apartment buildings are run — ranging from stories concerning embezzlement to outright racist entry procedures — and you ought to avoid it yourself.
Living off campus is great; it's a fine way to acclimate yourself to adult-style living before the pressures of real life fully fall upon you.
Here are some pointers for potential seekers of housing:
1) Cost is important. It might be the most important factor. You shouldn't have the highest-maintenance lifestyle yet (living on student loans?) and should be content with the bare essentials. Fees are omnipresent, too: pet fees can range into several hundred dollars, security deposits might not be returned, overages come in abundance. Pay close attention to the bottom line. If you screw things up with your apartment and don't have enough money to foot the bill and can't find a sub-leaser, your credit might take a beating before you even really get to start using it.
2) Realize the local apartments count on unwitting students coming in every year. They are businesses, after all, and they often expect you to be naive enough not to read the fine print. Do so.
3) Watch for damages. Don't be so excited to move in that you overlook any existing damages your apartment might have. This includes mold. It's criminal to rent out moldy apartments to people, but that doesn't mean the apartment complex cares about that. If need be, you might be able to use it to your advantage. But your health isn't worth compromising for the sake of getting out of a lease.
4) You have the leverage, not the apartment complex. Your money keeps them afloat. Rude staff, late maintenance or other annoyances are not just pet peeves, they're lapses in service.
5) If you have trouble coming up with the rent, you ought to fix that foremost. But these things happen. If your complex threatens to evict you, you should note they've had to adopt these policies to scare tenants into paying on time. Still, if they actually start eviction proceedings, you can talk yourself into a lot of leeway. Remember they're people, too, despite that, to them, you are an instrument for profit.
These pointers are common sense, but I've had several friends run into problems with housing. Sometimes the staff will room you with unsuitable roommates they know have caused problems for the complex before. Or they move a violent, multiple-DUI bigot your friend-circle knows and despises into the apartment above you, even after you warned them not to let that person rent a room anywhere near you because you saw them drag a girl off into the darkness during a drunken rampage.
Or they let your toilet sit broken for a week.
Life is weird enough without running into problems with your basic living situation, especially if they're caused by rent-seeking profiteers eager to turn your disposable income into their private coffers.
Remember, you'll have to sign a contract if you move into an apartment, but that contract works both ways. It's for your protection as much as theirs.
Jeremy Brunger is a senior in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.