University of Wisconsin-La Crosse |

It Make$ Cents!

Expand page menu
Skip to page menu
  • Off campus housing

    Rent Smart
     Rent Smart Flyer 2016
    This is a six hour course that is designed to provide practical education to help potential renters to both acquire and keep decent housing. It helps individuals who are likely to have trouble getting rental housing due to lack of experience or poor rental history, including evictions. Some rental companies may require this course if the tenant has a poor credit or rental history. Participants will receive a workbook and a certificate upon completion. 



     Finding a place to live in a college town is difficult with the amount of turnover. Here are some great local sites to get your search started:

    Campus Resource for Finding an Apartment


    The university does not own any apartments so all off-campus housing involves a rental agreement with a landlord. There are many apartments around the campus area, many within walking distance from the campus. Currently students also have free access to the city bus with their student ID.
    The Office of Residence Life posts off campus housing at the website listed below: 

    You can call 608.785.8075 to get general information.

    Avoiding Rental Scams can be difficult. Unfortunately, scammers are always looking for a quick way to get money and college students seem to be among their favorite targets. Follow the link for some quick tips about how to avoid being a target.
    Renters Insurance is a great way to protect yourself, is relatively inexpensive, and is usually pretty cheap. UWL alum, Scott Bramwell, shares his story in Renters: Get insurance! and will explain why it is so important to have renters insurance. 


    Housing...And Managing to Pay For it!

    Housing Infographic

    Take a look at this graphic to see what kind of expenses you'll be facing in your new living space, as well as how to avoid some of those little things that cost a lot over time.Housing Infographic


    Renting an apartment

    Some tips before you rent

    Be sure you've read and understand the lease before signing. Here is a guide to some costly mistakes.

    Remember who you live with is as important as where you live, so be sure to ask potential roommates questions about lifestyle to find a suitable roommate.

    Make sure your finances is in order. Finances are the leading cause in roommate disagreements, bill discrepancies, eviction, and many other matters related to renting. Use this budget guide to help you organize your finances. Compare the costs involved with moving off campus by viewing our Off vs.On Campus Costs prezi. 

    Before you move into the apartment, do a thorough check-in including filling out a detailed inventory of the premises. Some landlords provide a form but if they don't, make sure you create your own rental Rental condition checklist.

    Rental Checklist

    View IMC!'s Rent Smart Prezi 

    Know Your Rights As a Tenant:


    These 10 items CANNOT be part of your renting agreement. If so, the lease is null and void.
    Ten Deadly Sins of a Lease

    Additional renting information, knowing your rights and filing complaints:
    Renting in La Crosse


     If you encounter problems or want someone to help you review your lease, the UWL Student Association has made arrangements for free legal consultation for students. Free legal advice is provided by attorneys sponsored and paid for by the UWL Student Association. Currently enrolled students may make 15 minute appointments by calling 608.785.8062 or by stopping in the Student Life Office, room 149, Graff Main Hall. An attorney will be on campus for a short time on each Tuesday and Wednesday that classes are in session during fall and spring semesters. They are available to meet with students occasionally during summer term. 


    Living with a roommate


    Set clear expectations

    It is important to have clear understanding of what financial obligations you are agreeing to when deciding to live with a roommate. Keep in mind that if your roommate cops out of a payment obligation, the responsibility will ultimately fall to you and any other roommates. So choose your roommates carefully. Make sure to make an agreement on each of your responsibilities. (Sample roommate agreement below).
    Roommate Agreement     dealing with roommates

    Hash out your finances

    Set clear expectations about who is paying what. Define things like gas, heat, water, cable, and internet. Make sure everyone know who's paying what, how much and when.

    Keep communication channels open

    Have regular meetings to discuss any issues you or your roommates may have with your current arrangement. Lack of communication can lead to anger and passive aggression.


    Frequently Asked Questions


    IMC! loogoo

    It Make$ Cents! Off Campus Housing FAQS

    Note: This guide is meant to serve as a resource when moving off campus—it is not meant to serve as legally binding decrees. All issues beyond this guide should be addressed to an attorney or real estate agent. Also, be aware that many issues with landlords, leasing, property, etc. can be handled with solid communication prior to the issue becoming too large to control.

    I am having problems with my roommates. What can I do?
    Roommate conflicts are almost guaranteed to occur—no matter who you choose to live with. If your roommate signed the lease, there is not much you can do to have them evicted from the property. Also, if your name is on the lease, you are responsible for ensuring the landlord receives their full amount even if your roommates is unable to provide their portion. In order to prevent these types of issues from occurring, be very selective with your roommates. Live with people you trust and can count on. Don’t choose a roommate simply because they’re available and willing to move in together.

    Can a landlord put whatever they want in my lease?

    The short answer to this question is no. The longer answer is a bit more complicated as certain clauses are allowed, while others (like a fee or rent increase for a noise complaint) are not legally allowed. The best thing you can do is to carefully review your lease and bring up any concerns to your landlord before signing. Once the lease it is signed, it is imperative to follow it. Lease provisions are mandatory, not suggestions.
    What kind of clauses should I look for?

    Leases will contain lots of information. Everything from rent owed, security deposits, pet restrictions, and damages could be found in the lease. While it is impossible to list every nonstandard clause, here are some of the most common issues to look out for:
    Common Area Maintenance (CAMs)

    CAM clauses refer to maintenance of common areas in and around the property. These clauses could include things such as lawn maintenance or snow removal. If you’re living in a property where there are multiple units (such as a duplex) it is important to understand who is responsible for managing these tasks, especially snow removal. Failure to maintain proper lawn care or snow removal could result in fines that are passed directly onto the tenants.
    Non-Standard Clauses

    Most landlords are good, decent property owners and have their tenants’ best interests in mind. Sometimes, however, a landlord will try to sneak in clauses that are illegal and will often threaten tenants if these abnormal requests are not met. One of the most frequent requires that a tenant pay a fee or be subjected to a rent increase if a noise complaint or police response is required at the residence. This is a non-standard and, according to Wisconsin law, illegal clause. Be sure to keep an eye out for these clauses and discuss with a landlord prior to move in
    Carpet Shampooing!

    Quite often a landlord will ask that tenants shampoo their carpet prior to moving out. While it is not illegal for a landlord to require that a tenant shampoo the carpet, they can only do so if there is damage beyond normal wear and tear. For example, if you have a dog and there are pet stains you could be liable to a carpet cleaning. Similarly, if you were to host a party and a friend were to stain the carpet you could be liable for carpet cleaning. You are not responsible for replacing or cleaning an aging carpet if your behavior was not abnormal or cause any stains.
    How do I get my security deposit back?

    A security deposit is money collected by your landlord at the start of your lease to help offset any costs for possible damages to the property. Landlords will return any unused portion of your security deposit at the end of your lease. The best way to ensure your money is returned to you is to conduct a damage walk through prior to moving in. Be sure that your landlord is present during this walkthrough so you can document, photograph, and be aware of any existing damages or needed repairs. After the conclusion of your lease, complete an exit walkthrough with your landlord to compare the state of the property as you move out. Keep your copy of the original damage walkthrough handy so you can ensure that you are not charged for an issue that existed prior to your move in. Ask the landlord to also write you a check following the conclusion of the damage walk through upon move out.
    My landlord isn’t responding to my request to complete a repair. What should I do?!

    If your landlord isn’t being diligent or responsive to your request for a repair, you need to examine the severity of the repair. If the repair is necessary to your safety (a hole in the ceiling during winter, doors/windows unable to lock) then call the La Crosse City inspector and they can provide assistance. Landlords must respond promptly if the repair has an impact on the safety of you in your home. If the repair does not impose an immediate threat to your safety (hole in wall, broken tile, etc.), then a landlord may move more slowly but they are still responsible for repairing the property. In this case, the best action to take is to keep in touch with your landlord and document all communication surrounding the issue. Use email for electronic record keeping, keep a phone call log with date/time/outcome, and send a certified letter if you must. If the landlord still refuses to move on the issue, you can begin to explore your legal options, but this should be done only as a last resort option and with proper documentation of previous contact attempts.
    Moving off campus is an exciting first step to your total independence and development as a young adult. You need to be aware of the unintended costs of moving into a off campus house (heating, internet, food, etc.). Additionally, you need to review the lease carefully and ensure that you are moving in with trustworthy roommates. The best advice is to be diligent, intentional, and thorough with this process. Taking extra time and effort could be the difference between saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run.