Q: My roommates and I are headed out of town for winter break. What are some things we can do to keep our place — and stuff — safe while we are gone?

A: While you are away celebrating your winter holiday of choice, there are plenty of folks out there ready to take advantage of careless renters in Isla Vista! First and foremost, lock all your doors and windows. It is your right as a tenant to have windows and doors that lock, so try them now and let your property manager or landlord know ASAP if there are any problems. If you have blinds or curtains, close them. Second, take your valuables (computers, iPods, etc.) home with you or hide them in a closet. And don’t forget your bike! Store it inside your place rather than on the bike rack outside.

If you plan to leave your car in I.V. during the break, make sure you also take your expensive gadgets out of your car and put them in your suitcase or, at the very least, hide them in your trunk or glove box. Many thefts occur when burglars can clearly see what is available to take and wait for an opportune moment to break in. Don’t let yourself become a statistic!

Q: I heard that if we don’t find a house in January, we will be stuck living in one of the worst places in Isla Vista. Is this true?

A: Community Housing Office wants you to wait before you sign a lease. There is always housing in I.V., and even the really nice places stay open for a couple months. Waiting a few weeks or even months will make very little difference and will allow you more time to choose your roommates and figure out what you can afford. Many students, in a moment of desperation, sign legally binding year-long contracts with people they barely know (or even like!) for rental amounts they know they cannot afford. When you take the time to research housing options, you will end up with a place you love, a landlord that you respect, rent you can afford and roommates you can successfully live with. You can check out our Survival Guide online on the CHO Web site at www.housing.ucsb.edu. Make sure you educate your parents about the leasing process now, so you can avoid last-minute chaos. Come to our office and pick up a Parent Survival Guide to help the conversation.

If you are new to renting (and even if you aren’t), make sure to check out our rental workshops in the residence halls during the first and second week of Winter Quarter — all students are welcome! Jan. 6: Santa Catalina; Jan. 7: San Miguel; Jan. 11: Santa Rosa; Jan. 12: Loma Pelona; Jan. 14: Anacapa. Become a Facebook fan of UCSB Community Housing Office for more details about the rental workshop times and specific locations.

Don’t forget the CHO Rental Faire on Jan. 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Arbor. The Rental Faire event is a great opportunity for students to see what many property management companies and owners have available for rent. Meet property managers, see what units they have for rent in I.V. and pick up some applications.

CHO can also help you find an apartment or room outside of I.V. that fits your needs. Simply stop by our office or check out our online rental listings one or two months before you need to move into your new place.

Have questions for CHO? E-mail us at ucsbcho@housing.ucsb.edu, come to our office on the third floor of the University Center, call us at (805) 893-4371 or become a Facebook fan of UCSB Community Housing Office.