Tips and tricks: what you need to know before you rent

John Hamilton, Senior Staff Photographer

Average cost of an Oakland apartment:

Numbers from Pitt’s Office of Off-Campus Living.

  • The average one-bedroom or studio apartment in the Oakland area costs approximately $700 per month in rent.
  • The average two-bedroom apartment shared by two students is about $1,100 — or $550 per person.
  • Gas and electric can range from $40 to $150 per month each, depending on the size of the apartment and the tenant’s usage.

Resources for house hunting:

When you’re searching for a new apartment or house to rent, there are numerous places you can go to find postings from landlords and management companies. The Office of Off-Campus Living includes a tab for rental listings, which you can search through by neighborhood, cost, amenities and lease dates. Landlords and management companies also take out ads in the classifieds section of the print version of The Pitt News to advertise for available rental units and sublets. If you’re looking for a sublet — particularly useful for students studying abroad or interning away from the city for one of the two semesters —  students often post available rooms in the Free & For Sale Facebook group, which currently has over 10,000 members.

Resources for maintenance and repairs:

Oakland houses typically aren’t new, and are likely to need repairs throughout your time as a resident. The Student Guide to Campus Living from Pitt’s Community and Governmental Relations department said it’s important to note in your lease what repairs are your responsibility as a tenant and what the landlord is responsible for. According to the guide, the landlord is responsible for damage that is caused by weather as well as damage from wear and tear from age. If a landlord does not respond to a request for a repair in a reasonable amount of time, you should put the request in writing and keep a copy for your records. Most repairs can be taken care of through communication with your landlord, but if the repair involves building safety or code violations, call 311 or go to the city’s Permits, Licensing and Inspection website. If your house has a health safety violation, report it to the Allegheny County Department of Health.

Tenant and landlord’s Rights

When you sign a lease for a rental property, you are signing your name to a contract that both you and your landlord are legally obligated to maintain. As a tenant, if you break the contract, the landlord has the right to ask you to vacate the premises and take action against you. According to the Student Guide to Campus Living, landlords can restrict their tenants from having pets, putting holes in the wall, painting or wallpapering and making excessive noise.

The landlord is required to keep the house in habitable condition and cannot discriminate against tenants. According to the Student Guide, landlords are “legally required to show, sell, rent, sublease or otherwise make housing decisions regardless of a renter’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, familial status, marital status, age, gender identity, sexual orientation or receipt of public assistance.”

The landlord is also responsible for making sure the house is up to minimum standards, which include hot and cold running water, sewage and waste disposal, heating, windows, doors and smoke detectors.

Resources from Pitt’s Office of Off-Campus Living:

In addition to rental listings and rent estimates, the Office of Off-Campus Living also provides a roommate matching service for students looking for short- or long-term roommates or housemates. The Office also provides a rental checklist of questions to ask your potential landlord and things to watch out for when touring your potential apartment.

Questions to ask before signing a lease:

  • Is the heat gas or electric?
  • Does the rent include utilities: garbage, water and electric?
  • What internet service provider do people in this building/area typically use?
  • Is there on-site maintenance?
  • How do I get my security deposit back? Will I get it back in full?
  • In what form do you accept rent? Checks only or through an online portal, for example.
  • Do you own any other properties?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Are all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors working?
  • Do you allow subletting?
  • Where can I legally park, and do I have to pay?

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