The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

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Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Students, SGB share tips for finding housing in Oakland

Residential+buildings+on+Joe+Hammer+Square+in+South+Oakland.+
Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer
Residential buildings on Joe Hammer Square in South Oakland.

For many students, November is a month filled with touring potential apartments and signing leases. Kara Sampson described the process as “challenging.”

“It is difficult and time-consuming to find a place that meets what you’re looking for, especially if you want to live close to campus,” Sampson, a sophomore molecular biology major, said. 

Apartment searching in Oakland presents many challenges, including units that lack air conditioning, old buildings or an over twenty-minute walk to class. Student Government Board member and Chair of the Renters First ad hoc committee Katie Emmert feels that there is insufficient good quality housing in Oakland.

“I think it’s challenging because there seems to be an abundance of housing available,” Emmert said. “I think most students are looking for affordable and quality housing in Oakland, but the reality is that there is really shitty housing in Oakland.” 

The Renters First committee and Off-Campus Student Services have resources for students looking to rent in Oakland. Anna Mackinnon, associate director in the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, encourages students to visit the office with any questions.

“We can review leases and point out any clauses that may be red flags,” Mackinnon said. “This is not legal advice, but we can suggest things you might want to bring up to your property manager to ask for edits or clarification. We can also provide a list of questions to ask and things to look out for on tours. We also partner with Rent College Pads, which is an apartment rental marketplace specifically tailored to students.”

A student apartment is decorated with a TV, Christmas lights and a hanging plant. (Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer)

Sampson is currently searching for an off-campus apartment and feels the most important attributes are cleanliness and location.

“I definitely want to live somewhere that’s well maintained,” Sampson said. “I don’t want to worry about things breaking or being gross. Also, I want to live close to campus to save time and go back to my apartment in between classes.” 

Mackinnon wants students to look for property managers that are open and responsive.

“Students should look for property managers that are responsive and open to questions about their rental process and properties,” Mackinnon said “They should look for properties that are well maintained and seem safe and secure. Property managers should be upfront about all fees and costs involved in the rental application and once renting.”

Emmert encourages people to look over their lease very carefully before moving forward.

“I would say for people who are renting 100% look over the lease and visit the place in person,” Emmert said. “Do not pay the security deposit unless you look at their lease. Also you should absolutely not pay your rent in cash. That probably means there’s some sort of tax evasion going on. You can pay in Venmo or anything that requires a portal as long as there’s confirmation and receipt of rent. That is a good sign. 

Mackinnon said that students should “keep an eye out” for properties that have more than three bedrooms. 

“Students should keep an eye out for properties that list over three beds, as Pittsburgh zoning regulations do not allow more than three unrelated individuals to rent a single unit,” Mackinnon said. “They should also be sure that they do not sign leases unless they have toured the specific unit that they will be renting.”

Mackinnon believes that students should not rush the apartment hunting process and consider what is most important to them in an apartment.

“Start your search early, so that you have plenty of time to tour a variety of places and compare your options,” Mackinnon said. “Take your time to find a place that fits all your needs and ask lots of questions before you sign a lease. Talk to your peers about their experiences and consider all the factors that will play into your own experience.”

About the Contributor
Adrienne Cahillane, Senior Staff Writer