Off-campus legal resource tells you how to avoid hellish housing situations
It was around five a.m. when my roommate came to say goodbye, giving me a half-hearted wave before vanishing forever into the snowy February morning. The furniture was sold and out of sight, the fridge emptied, and his affairs wrapped up in a neat two-week whirl, giving me barely enough time to process that he was leaving before I found myself alone in the apartment with no roommate and no sofa to flop exasperatedly onto. My personal horror story ended that pre-dawn morning, with nothing but dumb luck protecting me from having to pay the $900 rent on my own.
Don’t end up in my shoes. Concordia’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) is a free legal information (not advice) treasure trove wrapped up in brightly-coloured brochures and presented by friendly students.
Moving in with roommates for the first time? Do you know what hours they like getting freaky, how often they believe in cleaning the toilet, or who they’re down with crashing on your couch? You will soon enough, so HOJO has a list of everything that causes major conflicts between students living with one another and recommends sitting down with your new roomie and discussing the items on that list.
“You definitely see a lot of people live together that would never meet if it wasn’t for Craigslist,” said Leanne Ashworth, HOJO coordinator. Talking to one another about boundaries, limitations, and sharing is always best before tensions rise—in my case over who kept stealing my food and refusing to pitch in for toilet paper.
Roomies can write a roommate agreement, which is a legally binding document. The agreement will come under the rule of the Rental Board of Quebec, a small court that can sort your housing issues for only $70.
Headaches over leases, subleases, joint tenancy, and occupancy agreements can be cured by HOJO’s handy fact sheets (powerpoint diagrams included) or by their friendly assistants.
Even if, like me during first year, you thought you knew it all and didn’t need HOJO’s advice, I still recommend dropping by a HOJO workshop for the free pizza (sometimes) and the handy advice (always) held throughout the year.
I learned from HOJO that my landlord asked for a key deposit, forbade me to paint, and renovated my bathroom (using the Esso across the street to pee at three a.m. for three nights in a row) without offering any compensation—all illegally. And that was before the pizza even arrived.
If you are new to living on your own or just never bothered to read some legal textbooks to figure out your rights as a tenant (because who does, really?), then hit up HOJO for some sweet free information, advice, and tips to make home where your heart is, and not where World War III breaks out daily.
Housing advice, student classifieds, and other useful links can be found at hojo.csu.qc.ca.