Fall Quarter is in full swing and the Community Housing Office hopes your living situation is still going smoothly. Unfortunately, some of your UCSB colleagues out there have had some troubles with their living situations already and have written to CHO’s advising intake Web site for advice from housing experts. Here are a few issues that we would like to share with you, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

Q:    I made a bad decision and I don’t like where I live. How do I get out?
A:    If you have signed a fixed-term contract, meaning the contract specifies that you will live there for a period of time (usually a year, especially in Isla Vista), you are typically required to find a replacement for yourself to fulfill the remaining time on your contract. Check your lease — often a property provider will charge a fee for reassignment of the lease to someone else. Your roommates need to approve of your replacement and are often required to sign a document that states they agree with the new person moving in. Typically, the replacement roommate will reimburse (minus any damages or cleaning) your security deposit and last month’s rent if that was required upon move-in. If you have signed a month-to-month agreement (rare in Isla Vista, more common in Goleta/Santa Barbara), you are required to give written notice of termination to your property provider and roommates. You can give notice of termination of tenancy at any time throughout the month, but are required to pay for 30 days from that date. Regarding the security deposit, it is up to you to work it out with the remaining roommates (or new roommate), since the property provider is only required to return or account for the security deposit when all tenants have vacated the rental.

Q:    I live with all new people and our lifestyles are just so different… how can I make this work?
A:  Living with other people, including friends, can be a very trying experience. You don’t have TIME for conflict because you have a social and academic life! Why can’t your roommates just live how YOU want to live and abide by all your rules, values and standards? Life, unfortunately, doesn’t work this way. The Community Housing Office has firsthand experience with this; the majority of students that come to our office with housing problems are facing roommate issues. Conflict with others is inevitable, but there are ways to help ease conflicts within your rental household (including residence halls and university apartments!) — brought to you by CHO:

Set up weekly/monthly/quarterly meetings to set standards that you all share and to talk about how things are going. Meetings should be safe, supportive spaces for roommates/housemates to voice their concerns. One idea is to make the meetings fun by cooking dinner together. CHO recommends that roommates fill out a Roommate Agreement Form (available on our Web site) with each other so there is something in writing about your agreements regarding topics such as parking spots, overnight guests, cleanliness, bills and anything else that is important to the household.  It isn’t too late to do this!

Create an environment of open communication. As many of you know, passive aggressive notes on whiteboards, IMing and texting do not work well when people are in conflict, and neither does holding in your annoyances and concerns. Those negative feelings will make you feel terrible and just end up exploding later. Simply put, talk to each other when you are noticing that things don’t feel right. Chances are your roommate(s) might feel the same way and may experience relief when you bring up the conflict early. If you are unsure of how to talk to your roommate(s) about things that are bothering you, feel free to stop by the office so that we can help you develop some strategies.

Don’t hesitate, mediate! CHO offers mediation services at no cost for all UCSB students, regardless of where you live. If efforts to resolve conflicts have not been successful and people need help communicating, our mediation services can help. The process is voluntary and confidential. Email us at mediation@housing.ucsb.edu for more information about our mediation program.

Q:    One of my roommates has been lying about paying rent and we received a 3-day notice to “pay or quit.” What does this mean and what should we do?
A:    Your dishonest roommate has definitely put you and the rest of your roommates in a bind. Your property provider expects to receive the entirety of rent per month, and when that doesn’t happen, they are able to give you a notice that asks you to either pay the amount due or leave the rental within 3 days. In order to avoid having your property provider go through eviction proceedings (which can be a nasty ding to your credit report, as well as that of your cosigner), you must pay what is due. Can’t find your roommate or he/she can’t come up with the money? Because of the “joint and several” clause in your lease, the remaining roommates are responsible for paying what is due and can later recover the extra rent money they were required to pay with small claims court.

Find yourself in a tough housing situation or have some questions about renting? CHO can help. Log on to www.housing.ucsb.edu/chohelp.htm, click “submit a request” and let us know what is going on.