The Advance-Titan

Sign or be homeless, the choice is yours

graphic-915Tyler Hahn | The Advance-Titan

Not only does the first week of the year bring new classes and classmates, but also the crippling fear of being homeless the following school year.
Student housing may not be everyone’s first thought during that first week back on campus but once they get the reminder email stating, “Sign in the next three days or your house will be on the market next week,” the panic sets in pretty quickly.
How is someone supposed to know if this house they’ve been living in for a whopping 12 hours is where they want to live a year from now?
There could be an uncontrollable spider infestation in their basement that they won’t become aware of for another 72 hours, which would probably deter them from wanting to live there again.
Or maybe their shower will turn off after exactly three and half minutes of being on, resulting in a never ending game of shower on, shower off.
They cannot possibly know what events are going to unfold in the next 9 months of school, so why are they expected to sign a contract holding them to that exact location a year from now?
Each year it seems as though the push from housing companies to re-sign leases creeps up sooner and sooner.
Current renters receive email after email urging them to re-sign because showings have already started.
Before they know it, tours of people will be shown their house before they can even finish moving in.
In a recent email from Discovery Properties, they write, “If your unit has not renewed, we will begin to show your unit to new residents,” and state that showings have already been booked.
Companies not only push this signing time onto current occupants, but also to those going from on-campus housing to off-campus.
In an email sent out by Water City properties on Monday Sept. 12, it states, “These houses won’t last long!” and urges students not to wait to sign. This email has a list of 20 addresses that are supposedly available for next year, but 18 of them have “RENTED!!” in bold red letters next them.
Underclassmen, or anyone else who plan to live on the UWO campus for another year, don’t have to start looking for on-campus housing until the spring, so the sudden pressure to go out and rent the first house they see can come as quite a shock.
“If they aren’t aware of [the early signing] then they don’t have a house for next year,” UWO senior Katie Salzmann said.
Salzmann experienced this firsthand. Last year she ended up having to live on campus again because once she became aware of how early signing started it was already too late.
“We didn’t start looking until October and all of the houses were gone,” Salzmann said. “We didn’t [find] anything that we liked.”
Salzmann said she wouldn’t call finding housing difficult, but it comes with a lot of stress.
When originally looking at the house she now lives in, the landlord told her that if they didn’t sign right away the house would be signed to someone else.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Salzmann said.
That’s the thing when it comes to finding student housing. Not only is it overwhelmingly stressful, but these companies also stack on the pressure even more by scaring you into signing because they convince you that they have a list of people interested in renting that exact property.
When asked what her theory was about why students are forced into signing contracts within the first week of school, UWO senior Sam Walvort said, “Maybe so that it’s one less thing students have to worry about before they get into the real rigor of the academic year.”
This could be the case. Maybe housing companies are just looking out for the best interest of students.
Perhaps they don’t want to add finding housing to students long list of upcoming obligations.
Walvort also added another theory: maybe companies want to beat out the possibility of students signing up for another year of on-campus housing.
“If you waited until spring you might have more students that would opt to sign for a dorm,” Walvort said. “When you sign for a house, that’s just it.”
There is forgiveness when you sign up for on-campus housing. If you run into roommate issues, or have problems where you live, it is fairly easy to get moved and find a different hall to live in.
Off-campus housing comes with contracts and documents binding you to where you are unless you can find someone to take your place.
Salzmann shared an issue her and her fellow roommates ran into a few months after signing their 4-bedroom lease last September.
“We had a falling out with one of our [Horizon] roommates,” Salzmann said. “If we would have waited to sign the lease we could’ve just gotten a three-person house instead of struggling to find a subleaser.”
Housing companies need to take into consideration how stressful it can be for students to be pushed into finding housing before the semester has even started.
Students need time to figure out whether or not this is where they want to live for not only the current year, but also the next.
Students may be used to making decisions under pressure, but in some cases it can result in poor choices.
Housing companies need to extend the renewal period for current leases and hold off on showing units to potential leasers until a month or two into the school year.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Sign or be homeless, the choice is yours