The Community Housing Office (CHO) wants to welcome you back to UCSB! It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or a graduate student, the start of the school year can be a lot to take in, especially with most of you in new housing situations: either in a new rental, with a new roommate or both.

[media-credit id=20177 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]We want you to know that CHO is here to help you through the transition. Throughout the year we will cover various topics in this column to help you through what we affectionately call the “housing cycle,” the different themes and issues that come up throughout the year related to your rental housing situation. Our goal is to be timely in our advice and information that we provide you with so that you always have a place to turn to and know what to expect in this crazy housing world.

Starting with the 2010-11 school year, CHO is shifting our outlook about what it is to be a renter in the community. Up until now our publication was called “Rental Survival Guide.” We’ve decided to take a more proactive approach to helping renters and have thus changed the name to “Rental Success Guide” because we want to help people succeed and thrive in their rental community rather than just simply survive.

To start off the school year and rental year successfully, CHO has pulled together a couple tips for you to ponder as you settle into your home for the next year:

-Set expectations, ground rules and boundaries with your new roommates  early in the year so that everyone is on the same page regarding utilities, rental payments, overnight guests, cleaning, food purchasing and sharing, parking spots and anything else that needs to be discussed. CHO has developed a useful form called the “Roommate Agreement” available online and in our office that makes the process easy and relatively painless. Set up a house meeting, cook some dinner together and talk about the tough issues early to get things out in the open.

-Communicate! Living with others can be a challenge, especially with all the other things you have going on in your life — school, jobs, relationships, family, etc. CHO has found that when you keep an open line of communication with your roommates (don’t forget those “I” statements!), as well as your property provider and neighbors, and deal with things as they happen (rather than letting issues simmer and eventually reach a boiling point), “roommateships” are saved, there are fewer moves mid school-year and students are happier and more comfortable where they live. Sure, it sounds simple — talk about things when they bother you — but face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art in a world where text messaging and Facebook statuses have replaced real conversations.

-Take care of your rental unit. You are required to leave your rental unit in the same condition in which you received it from the property provider. If you take reasonable care in cleaning and alerting your property provider of needed repairs as the year goes on, CHO can promise that move-out will be a much smoother, less time-consuming and cheaper process than those who don’t take care of their home. Are you living with a lot of people and finding it tough to keep up with a cleaning schedule? Hire a cleaning company to come by once or twice a month —  you won’t regret it!

-Keep your rental a safe place to live. Make sure your door is locked at all times and your windows are locked when you aren’t home. If you have inoperable window and door locks, you must request that your property provider fix them ASAP. If you have people over, make sure that your guests are only people that you and your roommates know and trust. When you do have people over, keep your valuables in a safe place hidden from plain view. Get to know your neighbors, as they are the ones to often notice suspicious activity before you do and can call 9-1-1. Do the same for them.

Cheers to making the 2010-11 rental year the most successful you’ve had yet, with CHO as your guide. The Community Housing Office (CHO) is located on the 3rd floor of the UCen above Jamba Juice. We are open M-F, 8-12 and 1-5 to help you with all your off-campus housing needs, such as finding housing and roommates in the community, security deposit videotaping service, landlord/ tenant law and advising and mediation/ conflict resolution. Call us at 805-893-4371, email us at or check us out online at