Metro, News

Resources available for off-campus housing

First-wave of off-campus applications open through Oct. 30, ResLife provides guide, tips for students

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Deciding to live off-campus — whether through University-owned auxiliary housing or renting property from a third-party landlord — can seem daunting. There are leases to sign, off-campus lotteries to enter and kitchen appliances to buy.

The first wave of applications for off-campus housing opened Sept. 25. For students trying to navigate the process of moving off-campus, there are tips and resources that can help to ease the transition.

The Office of Residential Life’s website has a “quite robust” volume of information to make sure students are well-versed in their rights and responsibilities, according to Richard Hilton, associate director for operations of ResLife. Students who intend to move off-campus are required to review a set of slides on housing codes, Hilton said.

Auxiliary Housing Office also has information on its website, including a “Guide to Living Off-Campus,” which includes information on the responsibilities and rights of both tenants and landlords as well as fire and street safety.    

In the past, ResLife and the Auxiliary Housing Office have held information sessions before the off-campus lottery started, but Hilton said they were often “poorly attended,” so the University decided to allocate resources elsewhere.

The Auxiliary Housing Office website also hosts private listings. The properties listed must comply with codes and city standards or risk being taken off the list, according to Tracy Mansour, director of auxiliary housing. For a 60-day-long advertisement, Auxiliary Housing charges $125.

“We have had situations where we’ve considered taking listings down,” Mansour said, referencing cases where the listing is a scam or when property is advertised by someone other than its owner. The office does issue a disclaimer that both landlords and potential renters are the responsible parties in the transaction and that the University can’t be held liable for any claims.

“I have seen students that have been taken advantage of when looking for off-campus housing,” wrote Campus Police Officer Kelly Mitchell, adding that students should work through reputable companies and owners and never pay money without actually seeing the housing. “I understand it is probably your first off-campus or away-from-home apartment. Don’t settle,” Mitchell wrote.

If students choose to rent auxiliary housing from the University, they have the option of paying rent through Banner. The Department of Facilities Management is also responsible for the maintenance of auxiliary housing, Mansour said.

Providence housing stock in the city is older than housing stock in other parts of the country, The Herald previously reported. Older housing stock can mean the presence of fewer renovations and more lead.

Providence Water, the source of on-and off-campus water, has tested high lead levels in 2016 and 2017, The Herald previously reported.

According to Stephen Morin, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the University is testing water in its buildings this year. After testing for lead in 2007 and 2008, the University “provided signs indicating the issue and Facilities Management provided five-gallon bottles of water for building occupants” in buildings that tested above the EPA action levels for lead, Morin wrote in an email to The Herald.

For auxiliary housing that tested positive for high levels of lead, tenants were informed of the risk and water filters were provided to students. “The bottled water and water filters continue to be provided in these buildings,” Morin wrote.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety also provides fire safety evaluations for Residential Security Vulnerability Assessments, which are available to students living off-campus in private housing on request. Assessments check for safe smoke and CO2 detectors as well as fire escape, electrical and heating safety.

To request a vulnerability assessment, students need to fill out a short questionnaire on the Brown Department of Public Safety’s website. A DPS officer will then contact the student for scheduling.

The vulnerability assessment program began in July 2016 and aims to enhance housing security by assessing entrance points, locks, lighting and surrounding neighborhood features such as street signs, paving and fencing, according to Mitchell. The “walk-through” assesses risks and makes recommendations, but it is up to students to act on suggestions, Mitchell wrote in email to The Herald. Common mistakes Mitchell sees students make include not locking common doors, first floor windows and basement access.

The first wave of applications for off-campus housing ends Oct. 30.

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