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  • Guide for Living Off-Campus

    If you are interested in finding housing off-campus, the Office of Residence Life would like to offer you the following guide to help you in your search. The housing market in La Crosse can be hard to navigate, and we hope that our pointers prove helpful. Know that the Office of Residence Life is not affiliated with local area rental businesses or providers.

    Things to Consider

    Distance to campus

    Fortunately, a great deal of rental units are within walking or biking distance of campus. However, depending upon what you are looking for in style of living, the distance of your rental to campus will have to be factored in. Will you be able to walk to campus, bike, or will you be required to drive? If you need to drive, you will need to factor in gasoline expenses into your budget. Make sure to check the Bus schedule and locations because students ride for free!

    Payment of Utilities and Other Expenditures

    Some rental units lump your utilities into one large payment. Others do not. Make sure to check your rental agreement/contract for your utility payment information. Common utilities are: Electric (heat and otherwise), Gas (heat), and Water. For instance, the pricing for centralized air conditioning vs. window mounted AC units will be different. Heating costs in the winter vs. the summer will also differ and the costs of electricity vs. gas will factor into the price as well. Other expenses you need to think about include: cable, internet, phone, parking, storage, and trash removal.

    Rental Unit Price Comparisons

    Comparing the rental costs for different units (also factoring in utilities) is a tough task. What is livable for some, is not livable for others. You need to decide on what style of living you want, and, more importantly, what style of living you can afford. With rentals, you often pay for what you get, but is a unit with drywall more important than having an extra $100.00 a month for your student bills or other expenses? Make sure to check online reviews when comparing units.


    Many students enter into agreements with multiple people to drive down their individual rent and utilities costs. While this logic makes sense, realize that a harmonious roommate experience rarely happens without hard work and some awkward moments. Please keep the following in mind when signing leases with your roommates:

    • Find reliable people to live with: If your roommates’ spending habits and reliability is questionable, DO NOT enter into an agreement with them. Make sure that you have made your expectations known to anybody who might consider you a potential roommate.
    • Find a place that suits ALL of you: Many times, one person will make decisions on rental units for four (or more) other people. Make sure that your group makes decisions together, because as fast as agreements can be made, they can also dissolve, and you can find yourself stuck.
    • There is no RA to save you: Arguments between people who live together are inevitable. No matter how small, or big, you will need to solve these disputes on your own. Make sure to find roommates who you respect, respect you, and with whom you can argue appropriately. Sometimes, close friends are NOT the people who you can live with.

    Contract Details

    Make sure to read the fine print on every agreement you consider. If you need to know something that is NOT detailed in your contract, ask the landlord or housing agent about it. Some things you want to look for and get into your contract are: 

    Most leases contain statements about "joint and several liability for rent and damages", which means the landlord can hold all or any one tenant responsible for unpaid rent, utilities and damage to the property. The following site will help you understand your rights as a tenant, landlord-tenant laws, and what is required of your landlord: It is important to review and understand these - most importantly pages 54-59.  

    • Specific move in and move out dates: some landlords will push you around and not commit to a date, do not let them and get these dates into your agreement.
    • Sub-leasing rules: Many contracts are year round in length, and renters will sub-lease their spaces for the summer months. Check to see if you can do this.
    • Billing Schedules: Make sure to confirm when you bills need to be paid and in what format (check, credit card, etc.). 

    Repair and Maintenance

    Many rentals will require you to pay a damage deposit (security deposit) for common damages to your apartment that will be refunded after your lease is up, if you have no damages. But what happens when your pipes burst or toilet breaks? Ask about who will maintain your rental, and how fast you can expect their help. Additionally, find out if you have to mow, shovel snow, or maintain any other part of your rental. 


    Cooking and cleaning up after yourself will be a daily task. Make sure to factor in the cost of food, eating out, distance to grocery store and food cost comparisons, your health and food choices, and prep/cleaning time into your budget and daily schedule.

    Landlord Relationships

    A rental experience can be made or broken by a landlord/rental agency. Make sure to do your homework and read reviews about rental services in the area, and make sure to meet and discuss your rental with your landlord/agency in person. If you get a weird vibe, shop elsewhere!  

    If you encounter problems or want someone to help you review your lease, The UW-L Student Association has made arrangements for free legal consultation for students. Currently, this service is available on Tuesdays 1:00am to 2:30pm and Wednesdays from 11:30pm to 1:00pm in the Office of Student Life, 149 Graff Main Hall, (608) 785-8062. Call ahead to schedule a 15 minute appointment.