UCSB students living off campus who need to fight for their rights as tenants now have a new resource right at their fingertips, thanks to the Community Housing Office (CHO).

CHO launched the Off-Campus Resource Center — aimed specifically at helping students who rent homes off campus — on Oct. 1, CHO Assistant Manager Elizabeth Yossem-Guy said. The new online resource, which is a part of CHO’s main website, aims to help students have an easier rental experience by providing them with information about their rights as tenants, she said.

“Sometimes students aren’t aware of laws that protect them,” Yossem-Guy said. “[The site] will hopefully provide more accurate information.”

She also said that the online resource center has been in the works for over two years.

Prior to the website’s launch, students would often come into the CHO office with questions and false impressions about their legal rights as renters, Yossem-Guy said. She said this motivated CHO to create a medium that would enable the office to answer all of the students’ questions at once.

“The site grew out of a need to more effectively help students,” Yossem-Guy said.

Kara Nostrand, director of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative (SBSHC), said she thinks the new website will be beneficial to students. She said SBSHC aims to provide low-rent housing for UCSB students, staff and faculty, and SBSHC often works with CHO to ensure renters’ rights are respected.

“We think they have really good values and we love working with them,” Nostrand said. “It’s a shame that students often get the short end of the stick, and this will be a great resource for them.”

The new website has many areas students will find useful, Yossem-Guy said. A “My Request” section allows students to e-mail legal questions to CHO and receive responses within 24 hours. Another part of the site offers downloadable versions of legal documents, like roommate agreements, as well as a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. There is also a section offering general legal advice for off-campus leasers.

Fourth-year anthropology major Kascie Miller said she thinks the site is a valuable resource for students who live off campus and who want to be able to stand up for their rights as tenants.

“It’s an empowering thing to have knowledge at your fingertips, especially in Santa Barbara, where rent is so high,” Miller said. “If something goes wrong, it’s good to feel independent and not like a victim.”

Natalie Brechtel, a fourth-year physical anthropology major, said she is unsure as to whether most students will take advantage of the new website, despite its potential utility.

“If people took the time to look at [the site], it would be really helpful,” Brechtel said. “But I question if people will do that.”

According to a CHO press release, the office assisted more than 350 students last year with problems related to off-campus housing.

“We hope to reach out to more people by providing our services online,” CHO Manager Roane Akchurin said in the press release. “This system will allow them access 24-7 from anywhere. By posting questions from our own students, specifically about housing in Santa Barbara, we hope to clarify areas of confusion and dispel myths.”

To access the Off-Campus Resource Center, visit https://supportcenteronline.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=1663.