In the first few weeks of classes, many students in the Class of 2017 have followed the same path that sophomores at Boston College have followed for years—contacting realtors, touring houses, and signing a lease. For students with three years of housing, this beginning-of-the-year rush is a highly stressful period that includes significant pressure from realtors and fellow students to sign a lease quickly.
One of the main problems facing BC students looking to live off campus lies in the information asymmetry between prospective tenants, realtors, and landlords. Many realtors use this imbalance to pressure students to sign leases quickly, claiming that there are other student groups ready to sign on the house. Students rely on realtors for information throughout the process and do not ask the questions that could clarify the it. Most relevant information is available through the Office of Residential Life, but students often choose not to seek it out or do not know where to look. ResLife’s new assistant director for off-campus housing, Peter Kwiatek, has hosted more comprehensive information sessions earlier in the semester this year than in previous years. Although this is a step in the right direction, the University should be even more proactive, as some students sign leases right after the school year begins. It would behoove BC to send out information over the summer or before freshmen leave campus, so that all students have the necessary information to make responsible decisions.
Nonetheless, college is a time to transition into adulthood, and students living off campus must take responsibility for their actions. Students should seek out information about off-campus housing, and acknowledge the risks of entering into a lease without full knowledge of the property and their rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
The fact that students feel rushed to sign a lease can leave them without the time to find important information. Although some of this pressure comes from realtors, some stems from from other students and the idea that all of the “good” properties will be taken within a limited time. BC tries to communicate that there should not be a rush to sign because off-campus housing remains available into the second semester of sophomore year. This information will not, however, slow the stampede for the most popular houses, as the competition stems from deeply ingrained perceptions of off-campus housing that are passed along year to year.
Transfer students face a particularly acute form of this problem, as they are only granted one year of housing. This heightens the anxiety inherent in seeking off-campus housing because they are often unfamiliar both with the surrounding neighborhoods and with their prospective roommates. To offset this added pressure, ResLife should make a greater effort to provide transfer students with more information and offer more guidance in the search for off-campus housing.
The problems endemic to BC’s off-campus housing situation do not have easy solutions, but the University is making progress to help students through the process. There is, however, much more that can be done, and both students and BC’s administration have a role to play in improving the situation.