Housing 101 If You Won't Be On-Campus Spring Semester

By Danielle Wirsansky on November 24, 2019

Finding adequate housing to fit your needs can be a tough gig, for anyone and everyone at any stage of life. But housing can be particularly difficult for college students, which is why so many of them choose to live on campus.

Living on campus is often the most convenient choice. The school provides it and regulates it, students pay their “rent” for the whole semester. It is short term, just for the time a student needs it when class is in session. Students are (usually) directly on campus, which cuts out a lot of travel time, the need to have a car, having to wake up early to get to campus or class, or having to find a parking spot (which is usually a nightmare at every university).

And for so many college students who have never lived away from home before, on-campus housing provides them with a Resident Assistant to watch over and guide them, and the campus rules help ensure that students cannot get too rowdy or too deep into trouble with things like alcohol or drugs. Campus police are usually on standby, ready to go in case of any emergency. And the dining halls, while they may not have the most delicious or nutritious food, help students who are overwhelmed with classes and who may not necessarily know how to cook (especially portions for one!) and give them easy access to the food as well.

It is easy to see why so many students choose to live on campus while they are in college—but what happens if you can’t?

Many dorms or other forms on-campus housing require students to stay in their dorm the entire academic year—from fall to spring. It can be really hard to gauge how much housing the school has to offer other students as well as move students around (and students rarely enjoy being moved mid-year if they do not have to) if they allowed students the option of only deciding to live on campus one semester at a time.

So what happens if a student cannot live on campus for an entire academic year? This could be because the student is planning to study abroad for one semester of the year or perhaps they are graduating in winter rather than at the end of the spring. The student will not or cannot be there for the spring semester, which means that they can’t live on campus, even for the first half of the academic year that they will be present for.

What options does this leave a student with? Where else can they live for that first half of the academic year, August, September, October, November, December? It may seem like your options are limited when you only need housing for such a small span of time. But there are still several options to check into if you know where to look. Read on to learn some housing 101 tips if you are unable to live on campus for your spring semester!

Sublease An Apartment

The easiest solution you can find to the dilemma of being unable to live on campus and needing housing for one semester only is to simply sublease an apartment.

What exactly is subleasing? What is the difference between subletting and subleasing? And why would you sublease over sublet? The phrases and terminology around housing can be confusing. Let’s breakdown the vocabulary and demystify the process so that you can make the best, most informed choice possible!

According to FindLaw, subletting a property, or “reletting,” refers to when “…a landlord relets a property by having a new tenant sign an entirely new lease, thus voiding the original lease (and releasing the original tenant from his or her obligations). Thus, the relet to another tenant constitutes an entirely new contractual relationship….”

This is different from subleasing, which is “… when a tenant whose name is on the lease rents a room, a portion of the property, or all of the property to another, it is referred to as subleasing (or subletting). The subtenant must pay rent and comply with the lease terms, but the principal tenant remains ultimately responsible for the lease. So, if the subtenant owes back rent, the landlord has the option of suing the original tenant.”

In this kind of situation, it is usually better to sublease a property rather than sublet it so that you are off the hook for paying the rent or any fees associated with breaking a lease when you leave for the spring. You sublease the property for the amount of time you need and no more, only paying for what you need and not being forced to pay for a property that you will not be present to occupy. You can name the terms of your stay and pay for exactly how long you are staying, rather than joining or signing an ironclad lease. You can even arrange or negotiate how much you are going to pay in rent for the property when you sublease it.

The person subleasing the property to you is responsible for either paying the rest of the rent themselves or finding someone new to sublease the apartment after you leave instead of you having to find someone to take over, which can be a lot more convenient as it can be difficult to find someone to take an apartment for only the second half of an academic year.

However, make sure that you are still respectful to the space and do not trash it because you will not be the one on the hook for it—the person you are subleasing from will be. They are already doing you a pretty solid favor by allowing you to stay in reasonable housing for just the amount of time you need and helping you to avoid having to rent and pay for an apartment that you will not be able to use for the full term of the lease. Do not abuse their kindness by damaging the property.

On the other hand, you also need to make sure that you remain protected. Double-check and make sure that the person you are planning to sublease a property from is actually allowed to sublease to you. Find Law explains that “Most landlords prohibit tenants from subleasing unless they have given prior written consent, which means subleasing without permission can be considered a breach of contract in many cases.” This can often be a legal gray area and you do not want to get into any trouble because the person you are subleasing from is engaging in some shady practices. You do not want to be evicted for illegally subleasing a property and end up with nowhere to stay partway into the middle of a semester nor do you want to be on the hook for paying any more than you were supposed to have in your initial agreement.

The best you can do is stay proactive in your search—it can be hard to find someone looking to sublease the property for only the first semester and not both semesters. The earlier you begin looking, the more likely you will be to find one. And be sure to make sure that both your behavior and practices as well as those of the person subleasing their property to you are completely above board.

Find Properties With Short Term Leases

If you do not feel comfortable subleasing an apartment or you are unable to find a viable housing option to sublease, the next best strategy to employ is to find properties that have the option for short term leases.

Generally, a leasing term is for 12 months (one year) at a time. Many properties frown upon or discourage leases for shorter periods of time. However, some properties know that students often do not need a lease that spans an entire year and they will offer leases with different terms.

Some will offer nine-month leases, which is geared towards students that stay for the academic year but then leave their college town for the summer. Some will offer six-month leases, which can be a great fit for students who will only be in town and in need of housing for one semester. Each semester is about five months, which makes the six-month lease a great fit that gives you enough wiggle room to have time to both move into the property as well as move out of it without any rush or interferences with either the beginning of the semester or finals week at the end of it.

Photo by John Tekeridis from Pexels

Find Someone To Partner Up On Housing With

Another great option is to get a little bit crafty, do some sleuthing, and see if you can find a fellow student that only needs housing for the spring semester. If you can find one you trust and get along with, you guys could go in. You could lease the apartment originally and then have an automatic subleaser that you found in advance to take over the property while you are abroad.

It is important that you can trust this person because if you sublease it to them, then technically the apartment is still yours (since you would be creating the lease as the first person living in the apartment for the fall). If you move away to begin your life after graduation or are halfway across the world studying abroad, you cannot do anything if they misbehave and do not treat the property with the respect it deserves (or even refuse to pay you since you are the one on the hook for the rent!).

However, if you can find someone that you do trust ahead of time to hand the apartment off to, you will have your year and your place to stay while you are in town set, which is a lot of stress off of you.

Find Someone To Sublet Your Apartment

The final option you can really explore is that of subletting. FindLaw explained how it is when the person with the lease breaks their own lease with a property but is able to provide a new person to immediately take their spot in the property. This might seem like a better option than taking on the lease and subleasing it to someone else while you are gone.

However, whoever would be subletting your property would have to sign a whole new lease starting from when they want to move in. Most leasing terms require a whole twelve months. And most people, especially students, do not want to sign up for a whole 12-month lease that will start halfway through an academic year. Unless they already know that they will be graduating themselves in winter rather than spring or that they will be studying abroad in spring and are okay with their lease ending at the end of December, they will most likely be hesitant to sublet your apartment. Then they will be put in the awkward position of having to find another place to live as they finish out their academic year.

This is what makes finding a subletter so difficult. But just because something is difficult does not mean it is impossible! Keep an eye out for possible leads because who knows—you just might find the subletter of your dreams!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

You have many options to explore and only you can find or decide which option is the best fit for you. As long as you give yourself enough time to lay the groundwork and find yourself whatever that right fit is for you, you should be fine.

As mentioned before, stay proactive, always be on the lookout, start your search and decision-making process early, keep your practices above board, and only engage with others whose practices are also above board.

Good luck in your search and may luck find you as you begin a new journey and adventure, whether that be studying abroad or life after graduation!

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