Choosing to live off campus is a major decision that is often met with a combination of excitement, confusion and trepidation. For many students, it is their first opportunity to live on their own. Signing a lease agreement can be a difficult and intimidating process if you are not familiar with the pitfalls.
In an effort to help students understand the parameters of safe and legal housing and how it should be represented in a contract, the Stony Brook Office of Commuter Students Services and Off-Campus Living recently held a workshop titled “Leases, Landlords and You.” More than 80 graduate and undergraduate students packed room 302 of the Student Activities Center for an hour and a half to hear Attorney Phil Solages outline the elements of a fair housing lease.
“We definitely hit a nerve for a lot of students who really needed this information. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this many students attend a voluntary evening workshop,” said the event organizer and sponsor, Emily Resnick, assistant director for Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living. Other sponsors were the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and University Community Relations.
Solages, currently serving as the legal counsel for the GSO members, noted that 50 percent of his campus cases deal with off-campus housing. He strongly encouraged the students to have their agreements in writing. “The faintest ink is always better than the best memory,” he told the audience.
The comprehensive presentation covered topics ranging from conditions and details of a lease to tips for tenants on utilities and safety. The audience was provided a handout — “Helpful Information for Tenants and Renters” — to use as a quick reference guide. After the presentation, many students took advantage of the opportunity to ask about specific issues they were having with housing. A few commented on feeling a little more confident in looking for housing in the community. “Now I have some awareness of how to go about things,” said Victor Mouradian, a grad student in psychology.
Given the success of the event, it will likely be repeated again next fall. For more information, visit stonybrook.edu/offcampusliving.