Guide to Off-Campus Living

Moving Off-Campus

For many students, the decision to move off-campus is a great way to learn to live more independently before graduating from college. Making a budget, cooking your own meals, paying bills, negotiating relationships with neighbors and housemates... These are all incredible skills to learn as you begin to prepare for the next steps in life after earning your degree.

The pages in this section of our website are intended to provide resources, information, and suggestions for ways you can navigate the off-campus experience with as little stress as possible. There will likely be unexpected things that come up along the way, so be sure to check back here often. You can also contact the Office of Community Standards in 119 Netzer Administration Building, or by calling 607-436-3353, for assistance.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you get started:

  1. If you signed a residence hall license to live on campus, the license is for the full year. This works the same as a lease for an off-campus apartment. If you decide to try to live off-campus in the Spring semester, you need to apply to be released from your on-campus housing assignment with an acceptable reason for doing so. The application form you must complete is available in the Residential Community Life Office in Wilsbach Hall. Completing the form does not guarantee you will be released from your on-campus housing assignment. You should wait until you find out if you are released before signing an off-campus lease.
  2. Your behavior off-campus also falls under the Code of Student Conduct! You represent SUNY Oneonta within the community. If you are arrested, or cited for a city ordinance violation, the City of Oneonta Police Department will send us the police report (in most cases).
  3. Each time you move to a different local address (off-campus), please make sure to update that information on MyOneonta Webservices. We need to know how to contact you, especially in the case that your cell-phone isn’t working. The College uses this information for College planning, community safety, emergency communication, and student outreach.
    *Your address is private, however, your mailbox information is available through Directory information. If your address is the same as your mailbox and you are concerned about this information being accessible on the College Directory, you can request that this information be made private through the Registrar’s office.

Community Relations: How to Be a Good Neighbor!

Moving off-campus is more than just finding an apartment with friends and enjoying the freedom of making all your own decisions. Living off-campus means you must share in the responsibility of living in a neighborhood which might include families with young children, senior citizens, and others who may go to bed earlier or rise earlier than you. Living amicably with such a variety of people can be challenging, yet rewarding.

A positive, cooperative effort by off-campus students can lead to eliminating any past negative feelings from problematic student houses. Your behavior will reflect not only on yourself but on the College as well. These simple good neighbor behaviors can help:

  1. Introduce yourself to the neighbors. Taking the first step to reach out and let them know about you may be all it takes to change any negative thoughts they may have about students living next door. Exchange phone numbers and encourage them to contact you if they have a question or complaint.
  2. Be courteous and considerate. Contact your neighbors ahead of time if you are having a social event. Make sure your guests know not to block driveways and where to park their cars. Don’t let them walk on your neighbors’ lawns or property.
  3. Keep noise to a minimum. Keep your windows shut so the music doesn’t bother anyone, or violate the city noise ordinance.
  4. Be discreet. Do not impose your private conduct on people who might not share your values.
  5. Keep your property (lawn, porch, etc.) free from garbage or debris. Lawn care and snow shoveling fit into this category. Check with your landlord to see who is responsible for these tasks. Did you know that Oneonta City sidewalks must be cleared by 9:00 am after a snowfall or a fine is imposed on the residents?
  6. Be understanding. Realize your daily schedule as a student may be the opposite of your neighbors. Try to understand and respect that difference.
  7. Be familiar with city ordinances and your legal responsibilities as a tenant and citizen.
  8. Make sure you know and follow the ordinances for pets. Make sure you follow licensing laws.
  9. If you witness/learn of dangerous or unlawful activities around your home, you should promptly report it to the authorities. Dial 911 for emergencies. To contact the Oneonta Police Department for non-emergencies, call (607) 432-1111.

Hosting Smart Parties

Not every student who lives off-campus wants to host big parties all the time. However, some students may want to have a few people over once in a while. There are ways to do this that will help you keep up a good relationship with your neighbors - and the Oneonta Police.

If I want to have a big party, is there a safe way to do it?

Risks can be reduced although not entirely eliminated. Here are some ways to make a party safer:

  • Ask the Oneonta Fire Department for information about safety practices and managing large gatherings.
  • Designate (in advance) someone who will refrain from alcohol or other substance use during the party and check for fire hazards: empty overflowing ashtrays; look out for cigarettes thrown into trash cans; make sure that smoke detectors are connected and aren’t covered up; make sure exits aren’t blocked.
  • If you are going to drink, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, pace yourself to one alcoholic drink an hour, eat before and during the party. If you’re drunk, you’re more likely to get hurt than if you have been drinking moderately.
  • When it’s time to leave, don’t let any of your guests ride with a driver who is drunk. Don’t offer to drive simply because you think you’ve had less to drink than your friends. An effective designated driver is someone who has refrained from alcohol or other drug use throughout the party.
  • Provide trash containers near the exits so those leaving your party may be encouraged to throw out their trash instead of taking it with them and littering on the street. Also, when the party is over, take a walk around outside the property and clean up any trash that has been left behind. A good, neighborly gesture is to go down a couple of houses in each direction and do some additional clean up.

Can I be arrested for having a party? What about the people who are at the party?

  • Yes – if you violate the City of Oneonta’s noise ordinance, Police may issue appearance tickets or arrest violators. Fines range up to $250 and/or 15 days in jail for serious or repeat offenders.
  • Yes– if you violate the New York State Alcohol Beverage Control Law or City of Oneonta Code for house parties:
    • If you or your guests are under the age of 21, you are prohibited from possessing any alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume the beverage. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $50 per offense plus 30 hours of community service and completion of an alcohol awareness program ($175-$300).
    • If you give/deliver an alcoholic beverage to any person/s under the age of 21. Violators may be jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $1000.
    • If you charge guests for alcoholic beverages without obtaining the appropriate license, you may be jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $1000. You may also be fined twice the amount of a license
    • If an organization is hosting a party (social host law of NYS), (e.g., fraternity, sorority, sports team), the responsibility is the same as if you give/deliver an alcoholic beverage to any person/s under the age of 21. Violators (per tenant) may be evicted, jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $1000.
    • In the City of Oneonta, "no person having control of any residence shall allow an open house party to take place at said residence if such person knows or has reason to know that any alcoholic beverage or drug is being unlawfully possessed, served to, or consumed by a minor as said residence." Violation of this code is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 15 days.

I heard that some students got evicted for having big parties in an apartment. What’s so bad about big parties?

  • The safety of the people who attend the parties is a very big concern. For instance, if a fire breaks out in a fourth-floor apartment that has only one door and there are 100 people inside, this is clearly a dangerous situation. If the police receive complaints about a party (e.g., noise) and find that fire codes have been violated, the owners of the apartment may be fined or arrested.
    • Other safety issues include having too many people on a balcony or porch which may collapse or cars blocking the street in case emergency vehicles need to respond in the area.
  • Neighborhood complaints are more likely to occur if party guests urinate on lawns, leave bottles and cans outside the apartment or house, or cars block neighbors’ driveways. This can generate a lot of ill will that may translate into calls to the police to shut down the party.
  • The tenants of the apartment or house will be held responsible for the problems that are caused by their guests – the bigger the party, the harder it is to know what guests are doing. The tenants will also be held accountable for violations of NYS Alcohol Beverage Control Laws.
  • If a party is very crowded and the weather is nice, guests may party outside. Guests who are standing on lawns or streets may violate the Open Container Law, which says that it’s illegal to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in a public place. Violators may receive fines that range from $150-$250 or be imprisoned for up to 15 days.

Finding the Perfect Roommate(s)

You’ve made the decision to move off campus, but with whom are you going to live? You really need to think about your roommates, because there is much more at stake, and no one (like RAs or RDs) to assist you when relationships falter.

Things to consider when looking for the ‘perfect roommate’:

  • Do you share similar interests and values?
  • Do you share similar budgets with which to work?
  • Do you share similar sleep/study habits?

General concerns:

  • What gender of student do you wish to live with? Does it matter if they are in a serious relationship?
  • How many students do you wish to live with?
  • Do you care if anyone has pet(s)? Who will take care of the pet during breaks and after you no longer live together? Are you considering pet expenses (food, vet bills) in your budget?
  • Does age matter? Do you wish to only live with other college students?
  • Do you care if the others smoke, use drugs, or have heavy party habits?
  • Do you agree to have parties at your apartment? How often?

Topics to discuss:

  • Rent and/or utility payments – whose name will these be under, who will make the payments each month, and how will this person collect from each of the residents each month? It is recommended that you split up the bills so everyone can work on building their credit scores.
  • Cleaning responsibilities- kitchen, bathroom, taking out garbage – who shares these responsibilities, how often?
  • Sharing food – do you shop only for yourself? Together? How do you pay for food?
  • Guests and significant others – set guidelines ahead of time – how frequently can someone stay?
  • Personal possessions – what kind of common use policy do you want to have?
  • Mail – where do you want this placed for everyone?
  • How will you handle conflicts and disagreements if they arise? You should seriously consider creating a written agreement ahead of time.
  • Will one person handle conversations with the landlord and then share all information with other tenants?
  • What will each tenant bring for furnishings?
  • If you purchase items for the apartment together, how will they be divided up when you no longer live together? Consider keeping receipts and labeling them with who paid for what or how the costs were divided.

Know Your Federal, State, and Local Rights

Fair Housing

The Federal Fair Housing Act (Title 8 of the 1988 Civil Rights Act) states that it is a policy of the United States to provide Fair Housing for its citizenry, within constitutional limitations. Discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of dwellings on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is specifically prohibited under this law. Similarly, New York State’s Human Rights and Real Property Laws prohibit discrimination based on disability, marital status, family composition (presence of children), sexual orientation, military status, creed, and age, as well as the above.

Landlords may not refuse to rent and/or renew rental agreements or otherwise discriminate against any person or group of persons because of the factors cited above. The only exceptions are rentals in a building of two dwelling units and the owner lives in one of them or the rental of a rooms(s) by the occupant of a house or an apartment. There is no law forbidding discrimination against students due to their status, but all other elements do apply.

Sexual Harassment

Under New York State Human Rights Law all individuals are protected from sexual harassment by their landlord.

Tenant’s Rights

New York State law provides a Warranty of Habitability which states that in every rental agreement there is an implied guarantee that the house or apartment is safe and livable.

“…the premises so leased or rented and all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants and or residents are fit for human habitation and for uses reasonable intended by the parties and the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous, or detrimental to their life, health, or safety.” (NYS Real Property law, 235-b)

The City of Oneonta has a Code Enforcement Office, which works to ensure safe and decent living conditions for tenants. If you have a question or concern over the habitability of your unit, please call the Code Enforcement Office at 607-433-3435.
View more information on the Code Enforcement Office website.

When I moved out of my apartment, I didn’t get any of my security deposit back. Can my landlord do that?

According to the “Tenant’s Rights Guide” a landlord may use the security deposit: (a) as reimbursement for the reasonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the tenant damages the apartment; or (b) as reimbursement for any unpaid rent.

You can pick up a copy of the “Tenant’s Rights Guide” at the State Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or download it.

The stove in my apartment doesn’t work and the landlord won’t fix it. Do I have to have it fixed or does he?

Landlords are required to keep appliances such as refrigerators and stoves in good and safe working order. You can call the City of Oneonta Code Enforcement Office at 607-433-3435 to report unsafe conditions and code violations.

My apartment needed painting and the landlord wouldn’t do it. I painted it and she doesn’t like it. She says she’s going to make me pay for damaging the apartment. Can she do that?

First, read your lease to see if it says anything about painting. If not, you can contact the Office of the State Attorney General (Albany: 518-474-7330; Binghamton: 607-251-2770) to clarify your rights. The Student Association lawyer is available for consultation at 3:00 every Tuesday at Hunt Union when classes are in session.

Staying Safe Off-Campus

Be sure to check these items for your safety:

  • Does your new apartment have working smoke detectors on every floor? Near every bedroom? In every bedroom?
  • Did you know it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the smoke detectors are operational at all times? When batteries are beginning to fade they will “chirp.” Replace the batteries, don’t just remove them.
  • If smoke detectors are not present, the landlord is required to install them by current NYS Fire Code.
  • Does your unit have a carbon monoxide detector? If your new apartment is an older one, the landlord might not be required to provide one. However, ask him/her anyway. If they will not, consider installing one yourself. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and can come from a malfunctioning furnace.
  • Are your windows painted shut? Especially if you live above the first floor, make sure you have easy access to fire escapes.
  • Are the locks on all doors and window fully functioning? If not, let your landlord know so they can be repaired.
  • Do you share a common basement with occupants in other units in the same building? If so, ensure the locks to the doors leading to/from the basement work.

Get Renter’s Insurance.

Protect your belongings from fire, water, theft, and more. Purchasing renter’s insurance is a sound decision if you are moving off-campus, especially if you have expensive electronic equipment such as laptops, tablets, televisions, gaming equipment, and more.

Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive. Most renter’s think the owner of the property is responsible for any losses they suffer. This is not true. Owners are responsible for losses due to the owners’ negligence, but renters are responsible for the financial burden of losses created by their own negligence. For example, if you should start a grease fire in your own kitchen, you are responsible for the losses to the apartment, as well as any damage to units next to yours.

You should discuss this with your family. If they currently have renter's or home owner's insurance, your off-campus apartment may be able to be added at a discounted rate. You may also be able to "bundle" it with car insurance.

The “Jointly and Severally” Clause.

Most landlords want the money generated by their investment property. They do not necessarily care who is living in the apartment as long as the residents pay their bills, are considerate of their neighbors, and don’t cause damage to the facility. The jointly/severally clause protects the landlords and can often cause difficulties for the students.

A jointly/severally clause often reads something as follows:

If in the event one or more of the below signed tenants does not fulfill the obligations outlined in this lease, then the remaining tenants jointly and severally agree to find replacements or pay any outstanding balances owed the landlord.

This statement is legal and binding, and one of the main reasons students seek legal advice during the year. It essentially means that if the landlord rents to 5 people on a lease, and 2 do not return to the apartment the second semester, then the remaining 3 tenants are responsible for the amount the 5 would have paid the landlord. This can be thousands of dollars!

Helpful Information


Community Standards
119 Netzer Admin. Building
Phone 607.436.3353
Fax 607.436.2283

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