The Housing Situation in Gainesville
Students and faculty are responsible for securing their own housing arrangements at the University of Florida. The ISS staff can offer advice about choosing living accommodations, but does not accept responsibility for housing arrangements. Gainesville offers many more housing facilities than there are people; this situation relieves pressure on international students and faculty who are also looking for a place to live. New students and scholars should consider location, budget, preferences, habits, and safety when choosing living accommodations and the area in which they will live. Many international students and scholars choose to live in one of the neighborhoods around campus, because they do not own automobiles or have to deal with parking problems on campus. Because utility costs are part of the monthly expenses, these should be estimated and considered when deciding how much you are willing to pay for rent each month. Students live both on campus (in dwellings owned and operated by the University of Florida) and off campus (in dwellings owned by private companies and individuals). Most new international students and scholars live off campus in accommodations that are near school, and walk or ride their bicycles or take the bus to campus. The University has a severe parking problem. There are not enough parking spaces for the number of students, staff, and faculty who need to park their cars. Most new international students live off campus at first, because housing on campus is normally not available when they arrive. Sometimes arrangements can be made for freshmen and for students with families, but only if the student has contacted the housing office and has made arrangements prior to beginning school by contacting the University Housing Office (392-2173) at Museum Road and SW 13th Street. There is no University housing for scholars, who must, therefore find their own off campus housing. The information contained in this section will assist scholars in locating accommodations.
The UF Housing Office prints an Off Campus Housing Package, which contains a list of the different apartment areas in Gainesville. The list compares prices, locations, and policies on children and pets and other information on renting apartments in Gainesville. You may obtain this list from the Housing Office. Bulletin boards located in the UF Housing Office and the ISS also have vacancies posted, where persons looking for roommates may advertise. Sometimes people know that they would like to live in a particular apartment area. These people can call the office of that apartment complex to ask whether present residents need roommates or vacant apartments are available.
Gator Rental Finders (1702 W. University Avenue, 336-9349) and other such rental agencies offer roommate-finding services for a fee. People are a valuable resource for finding a place to live; often friends of friends need roommates or know about someone needing a roommate. This is an advantage because the friend is a reference for the roommate.
The ISS staff can give you telephone numbers of Nationality Club members who can assist you. Do not hesitate to contact any friends of nationals from your country who are here already. Students can also ask about roommates in their departments.
Real Estate Agencies
These agencies list houses which are vacant. They may charge a fee for their services. Real estate agents are listed in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the section entitled "Real Estate." An alternative method to find a place to live is to walk along the streets near campus to look for "For Rent" signs posted outside of houses. These sources should yield some housing options for new international students' families and visitors.
You can learn about off campus housing vacancies in the "classified advertising" sections in the back of the city newspaper, the Gainesville Sun, and in the classified advertising section of the school newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, which provide listings of off campus rental units. The following abbreviations are used in classified advertisements. If you do not understand what an advertisement means, you should ask the landlord to explain it. "BR" means bedroom; "bath" means bathroom; "A/C" means air conditioning; "furn" means furnished; "unfurn" means unfurnished.
Types of Dwellings
On Campus Housing
The University of Florida maintains living areas for single and married students. These include dormitory rooms, co-ops, and apartments. There is a waiting list for any on campus housing, and it may take six weeks to a year before you receive the housing for which you have applied. If you are interested in living on campus, you should go to the Housing Office immediately and complete an application. You need to pay an application fee
Residence halls, also called "dormitories," or "dorms," are buildings which contain many student rooms. Students share a room with one or more students or live in a room alone. Students on a floor or on a section of a floor share a bathroom that has several showers and toilets. Coin-operated laundry machines for washing and drying clothes are available in the building. Some residence halls also have cafeterias. Residence halls are in great demand by students because they are located right on campus. A typical residence hall room is furnished with beds, chairs, desks, and a closet. The student supplies his/her own sheets and towels. Residence halls afford excellent opportunities to interact with American students. Residence hall life is normally filled with activities, such as weekend movies, ping pong tournaments, and parties which are organized by the housing area student government. Students do not have much privacy in dorms.. International students should consider that most residence hall occupants are 18 or 19-year old Americans who might not be as serious about their studies as international students usually are.
On Campus Co-ops
"Co-ops" or "cooperative living organizations" are similar to residence halls, but are less expensive. Students share cleaning and maintenance chores, which reduces the cost of the room. These rooms may not be air-conditioned. The University of Florida maintains three Co-op buildings; Reid Hall, Buckman Hall, and North Hall. The student applies for a room in the Housing Office and in the Co-ops. The residents of the Co-op vote to admit the new members.
Family Student Housing
There are five University-owned "villages" which serve married students with families. These are Corry Village, Diamond Village, Maguire Village, University Village South, and Tanglewood Village. With the exception of Tanglewood, which is located two miles out of campus on SW 13th Street, the housing villages are located on the perimeters of the campus. A campus bus drives to all the villages on weekdays. Family apartments are available with 1 or 2 bedrooms. Each apartment is equipped with a refrigerator, a stove, and kitchen cabinets.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished Dwellings
Living areas are available both with and without furniture, and new students and faculty must decide which choice they prefer. Dwellings with furniture usually cost more. Items that may be in furnished apartments include a bed, bureau, desk, table, and chairs. You are expected to purchase your own linens and utensils. Unfurnished dwellings do not include furniture, although the apartments will contain a stove, refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, and perhaps a dishwasher. These accommodations are usually less expensive. You then purchase any furniture that you may need, move it into the apartment, and when you leave, you can sell it. It is also possible to rent furniture on a monthly basis from furniture leasing companies. Look in the "Yellow Pages" of the phone book under the category "Furniture Renting and Leasing."
A room may be located in a rooming house or in a private home. Some rooms may be "suites" in an apartment complex where the student lives in one room and shares a bathroom, kitchen, and living room with occupants of three or four other rooms in the suite. "Kitchen privileges," or access to a kitchen and utensils may or may not be included in the cost of renting a room in a house. Students interested in renting a room should ask whether the room is furnished, whether the rent includes kitchen privileges, and the normal monthly cost of utilities.
Also called "studio apartments," efficiencies" are usually one large room which includes a kitchen area and bathroom. They are designed for one person or perhaps two people. Most efficiencies are furnished. The occupant is expected to pay for electricity and water. Efficiency apartments are sometimes found in houses.
Gainesville has hundreds of apartment houses. Apartments consist of living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and one or more bathrooms. They are larger than efficiencies. Apartments may be furnished or unfurnished; furnished apartments cost more. You pay the utilities, unless other arrangements are specified. A few apartments offer maid service for an extra charge.
Sometimes several students who want to live together choose to live in a house. While a few furnished houses are available, most rental houses are equipped only with stoves, refrigerators, and kitchen cabinets. The landlord is responsible for making repairs and caring for the yard unless the lease specifies otherwise. The occupant or "tenant" is responsible for keeping the house clean and paying for water, electricity, heating, and pest control bills unless other arrangements have been made with the landlord.
Mobile homes, also called "trailers," can be rented (usually furnished) or purchased on the same basis as a house. These dwellings are usually located in "mobile home parks" with other mobile homes. The owner of the trailer must pay "lot rent" to the owner of the land on which the trailer is located. The tenant may or may not be asked to assume this cost.
Off Campus Co-ops
An off-campus Co-op is similar to an on-campus Co-op in that everyone shares cleaning and maintenance duties. Off campus Co-ops are owned by non-profit organizations and are operated by the renters. Students joining a Co-op get a bed and other furniture in a room with one or two people, as well as meals. There is usually a waiting list for Co-ops, because they are inexpensive (and social places to live) as compared to other housing arrangements. There are two off campus Co-ops in Gainesville: Georgia Seagle Hall, 1002 West University Avenue (338-0045), and Collegiate Living Organization (CL0), 117 NW 15th Street (372-9322, 372-9328).
Fraternities and Sororities
Student members of fraternities and sororities are called "Greeks" because the names of their organizations are comprised of Greek letters (such as Sigma Nu). They live in off-campus private houses that they refer to as their "House." Fraternities have all-male membership, and sororities are for women only. They may refer to each other as "Brothers" and "Sisters." The members of a fraternity or a sorority, who are undergraduates, usually live together in the fraternity's or sorority's house, eat together, and participate in activities together. Fraternities and sororities can be expensive to join. These organizations are very selective in choosing new members, usually accepting students from the same social, economic, and ethnic background as the rest of the members. Fraternity and sorority life is an integral part of the University of Florida campus, and their activities include fund raising activities, parties, and athletic competitions. International students who are interested in joining a fraternity or sorority should contact the fraternity or sorority of their choice for further information.
What To Keep In Mind When Looking For Accommodations
You are not obliged to rent an apartment if you look at it!
When looking for accommodations, the prospective tenant should remember that he/she is a customer searching for the right choice for him/her. If you are not satisfied with one dwelling and want to look at others, this is perfectly acceptable. You may tell the landlord that you wish to look around more. You should not feel pressured to accept a dwelling that you do not like. You should always inspect the apartment that you will rent before signing the lease. Get everything in writing before you sign a lease! All expenses of repair, painting, etc. should be written into the lease agreement before you sign it.
Security Deposits and First and Last Months' Rent
A landlord will probably ask you for money before you move into an apartment. This may be in the form of a security deposit and first and last months' rent, and can amount to more than $1,000 dollars. A "security deposit" is an amount of money that is supposed to guarantee that the tenant will care for the dwelling. If the tenant does not care for the property or clean it before leaving, the landlord has a legal right to keep the security deposit. Otherwise, the landlord must return the security deposit within a month after the tenant leaves. You should have the agreement about the security deposit in writing included in the lease. Landlords will often ask for the sum of the first and last months' rent before the tenant moves into the apartment. This is to protect the landlord in case the tenant leaves early without paying the rent for the agreed upon lease term. Each landlord has particular requirements for deposits. You should ask the landlord about his particular requirements.
Signing a lease
In most cases, the landlord will require the tenant to sign a lease. A lease is a written agreement between a tenant and a landlord that describes the responsibilities of each party. This is a binding legal document that commits the student to a specific period of residency in the unit. Most landlords in Gainesville want the tenant to sign a one-year lease. This presents a problem if the student leaves for the summer, because you must find someone to assume responsibility for the lease. If you know that you will not be in Gainesville for the entire year, you should not sign a year's lease. Shorter leases are available, or you can "sublease" from someone who has a present lease.
Unless someone is already living in the dwelling, the new tenant must start utility services, such as telephone, electricity, and gas. The tenant may need to assume the cost of water, garbage and pest control (a service where a company exterminates insects on a monthly basis), and may want to pay for cable television connection. Prospective tenants should ask the landlord about which services the landlord will provide and which services the tenant must arrange. This is important because utilities require deposits that may be expensive. For more information about utilities, please refer to the "Establishing Utilities Services" section of this handbook.
Duration of the Lease
A prospective tenant should not sign a lease for a time period longer than he anticipates needing the housing. Some landlords will agree to leases of 6-, 9-, or 12-month duration with the option of renewing each additional month. The renter should ask whether he/she can "break" the lease (terminate occupancy early) if he/she gives a one or two month notice to the landlord. If not, the renter will be required to pay rent until the end of the period covered by the lease even if he/she moves out and lives elsewhere. Many unpleasant disputes arise between landlords who want to keep their property rented and student renters who, after signing a lease, decide for some reason that they wish to live elsewhere. The lease should specify whether "subleasing" is permitted. "Subleasing" is a lease arrangement whereby another person replaces the initial tenant with responsibility for the lease.
The lease may contain restrictions, such as not permitting animals or children in the dwelling. Ask the landlord about his/her particular requirements. If you do not obey the restrictions on the lease, the landlord can ask you to leave.
Student Legal Services
The University of Florida offers a legal service for students which is called Student Legal Services. Attorneys are hired by the University to advise students in legal matters. If you have any questions about leases, contact their office which is located in Room 369 in the J. Wayne Reitz Union. Their phone number is 392-2196.
Choosing a Roommate
New students should consider budget, preferences, habits and safety when choosing living arrangements. Many international students choose to live with a roommate (or roommates) because they wish to save on monthly expenses. Because utility costs are part of the monthly expenses, these should be estimated and considered when deciding how much you and your roommate are willing to pay for rent each month. Finding the right roommate can help to make your experience here more pleasant. Here are some considerations when looking for a roommate: Does that person smoke? If you smoke, will this bother the other person? Because some names are used by both men and women, it is important to ask whether that person male or female? Will the roommate have any pets? Is the person quiet? Does he/she study a lot? Does he/she play the stereo loudly? Does he/she invite friends over regularly? Is the person a neat or messy housekeeper? Will you share expenses for food, or will each person buy his/her own food? Will you share expenses for utilities such as telephone, electricity, cable television, and gas? Whose name will be on the contract? Will anyone else be spending the night regularly? Is the person religious? Does the person talk about religion a lot or keep religious beliefs to himself/herself? Is the person independent? Does he/she want to share time and interests, or does he/she prefer to be left alone? These questions are important to ask, as are any other issues that may be important to you. Students may experience pressures during the school year from both academic and personal life. An unpleasant "roommate situation" would increase this pressure. Students may have many social pressures during the year that may be augmented by a bad roommate experience at home. Some students choose a living situation for only one semester until they are more familiar with Gainesville and have made some friends with whom they can live. This is possible, as a few landlords rent apartments for a semester. Ask the ISS for help if you feel you need extra assistance.
Establishing Utility Services
Gainesville Regional Utilities
The City of Gainesville provides water, gas and electricity, and trash pick-up service, for a charge. "Gainesville Regional Utilities," or "GRU," is the name of the public agency that handles electricity, gas, water, and trash pick-up utility services for the city. Students should go to the Gainesville Regional Utilities office located at 301 S.E. 4th Avenue (334-3434), during normal working hours, and complete an application for services. A picture I.D. is required. People beginning service with GRU must pay a $150 security deposit for electricity and a $50 deposit for water. There is no security deposit for refuse pick-up. GRU will charge service charges for connecting water and electricity. This charge is $10 each, and $20 if service is begun that day. GRU will bill the customer monthly. For gas service, customers pay a $30 deposit and $25 service charge to begin service. They must complete an application and make an appointment for service to be started. Propane gas and other bottled gas or fuel oil is provided by other companies, which may be found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book under the specific headings. Tenants should ask landlords which company serves their particular house or apartment.
Southern Bell, and American Telephone and Telegraph (ATT) Company provide local and long-distance telephone service in Gainesville. Examples of other long distance phone service companies are MCI and Sprint. Customers must arrange for telephone service as well as purchase of a telephone. In order to receive telephone service, a customer must contact, Southern Bell office,(780-2355). Customers are billed monthly for local and long distance service. Students who expect to make many long distance calls should also consider service with other long distance companies, such as: U.S. Sprint (1-800-366-4700); MCI (1-800-TALK-MCI); and ATT (1-800-222-0300). Gainesville has three local television stations (Channel 20, Channel 51, and Channel 5) which can be watched without cable services. Cable television provides many more channels to watch, but the customer must pay monthly to receive the service.
Located at 6020 NW 43 street t (377-2123), Cox Cable Co. can install the cable so that the customer can view extra channels. The customer must provide his own television. In order to establish service, the customer must call to make an appointment to discuss when you wish to begin service. Cox Cable bills customers monthly.
Florida residents often find insects troublesome. Cockroaches, ants, and fleas are commonly known as "pests." Several companies in the area will spray monthly to exterminate these insects. Tenants should ask whether the landlord provides pest control, or whether they need to arrange for this service themselves. The companies that offer this service may be found in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone book. (NOTE: All prices quoted for utility and other deposits, and other requirements are subject to change. You should call each company to verify the information provided in this handbook.)
Some international students and scholars who come to the United States have never had the need to do their own shopping, cooking, and housecleaning. If these activities are new to you, you will need to understand that in the United States it is completely acceptable for persons who are not servants or women to shop for groceries, cook, wash dishes and clothes, clean house, and to take care of children. Most Americans, and American landlords, believe it is important for living quarters to be kept reasonably clean. This concern for cleanliness is evident in the supermarket, where many cleaning products are sold. (Caution: Read labels of cleaning supplies carefully, noting precautions for use of these products. All Cleaning supplies should be kept out of the reach of children.)
Kitchen Stoves and Ovens
Kitchen stoves may be either electric or gas. It is important to keep the burners and oven of an electric range clean so that they may operate safely and efficiently. Tenants should clean electric stove burners after each use to prevent food from hardening on them. The electric oven should also be cleaned periodically with an oven-cleaning product unless it is a "self-cleaning" oven, for which you should follow directions carefully. If a gas oven does not light automatically, you should always light the match first, and then slowly turn on the gas and light the pilot light. If the gas burners do not light automatically when turned on, the pilot light beneath them may have gone out. Carefully re light the pilot light in this case. It is dangerous for the pilot light to be out for long periods of time because dangerous levels of gas may escape. Call the utility department if you suspect a problem. If you smell a strong odor of gas, do not light a match or other flame. Call the utility company or fire department or the emergency number (911) immediately! Leave your dwelling immediately, and evacuate all persons inside, while waiting for assistance to arrive. (CAUTION: If a grease fire starts, throw baking soda on it. Do not use water! The best thing to use is an "ABC multi-purpose extinguisher" on this type of fire; these may be purchased in hardware or building supply stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.)
Refrigerators should be defrosted periodically, when ice or frost around the freezing unit becomes thick. To defrost a refrigerator, one should turn it off, empty it, and allow the water from the melting frost to drip into a pan or the tray beneath the freezer. This may take overnight, but can be done more rapidly if one puts a pan of hot water in the freezer. When the ice has melted, one should empty the tray of water into the sink. It is not a good idea to use sharp instruments to chip off the ice as they may damage the freezer and your eyes. A solution of baking soda and water can be used to clean the inside of the refrigerator. Some refrigerators automatically defrost themselves. The cooling grills on the back of a refrigerator should be vacuumed periodically to remove dust build-up, to enable the unit to refrigerate more efficiently. A refrigerator that works inefficiently will cost you more on your electric utility bill.
Disposal of Garbage
Because insects are such a problem in Florida, it is important for tenants to empty the trash in their house daily. The city will usually collect garbage at the curbs by houses or at the dumpster sites in apartment complexes. The landlord will inform the tenant about the way to dispose of garbage. Unless the dwelling has a garbage disposal in the sink, one should not put anything down the drain. If there is a garbage disposal in the sink, ask the landlord about what may be put into it. The city also has a recycling program called "Big Blue," and you can use the blue boxes provided to recycle your glass, tin cans, and newspaper. There are recycling centers in the city that may even pay you if you bring your recyclable items to them. You can look in the city phone book "Yellow Pages" under "Recycling".
American kitchens are more enclosed than kitchens in other countries. Grease and oil collect on cabinet and refrigerator tops and walls, especially if occupants fry foods often. These areas should be cleaned often in order to avoid unpleasant odors and fire hazards.
Sinks, showers, and tubs may be cleaned with one of the cleaning supplies listed at the end of this section. If a sink does not drain properly, ask the landlord or manager to look at it. Because some products damage drains, a plunger is recommended for them. Toilet bowls should be cleaned with a special cleaning solution designed for them. A plunger may also be used for toilets that do not flush properly. Do not put paper items other than toilet paper in the toilet.
Different types of floors will require different kinds of care. A landlord can recommend the way he/she prefers to have the floors cleaned. In apartments, the managers often maintain vacuum cleaners for tenant use. You can also buy vacuum cleaners at department stores. Upon leaving a dwelling, the occupant is usually expected to shampoo the carpet. The landlord can inform the tenant about proper cleaning procedures.
Grocery stores stock several products for cleaning. It is important to read labels carefully in order to understand proper uses and dangers of the products. Here are a few commonly used products: For ovens: Easy-Off, Oven-Off (self-cleaning ovens do not require any cleaner). For pots and pans: Scrubbing pads made of plastic should be used on teflon pans which are specially coated. Non-teflon pans can be cleaned with steel wool products such as Brillo pads or SOS pads, or with plastic pads such as Scotch-Brite. For washing dishes: If dishes are washed by hand, detergents such as Ivory Liquid, Joy, Dove, and Palmolive may be used. Dishwashers require special soap powder or liquid such as Cascade. -For sinks and tubs: Powder cleansers such as Bon-Ami, Comet or Ajax may be used, but these may scratch the surface of sinks and tubs. Other cleaners such as Mr. Clean, Tub and Tile Cleaner, Bathroom Bubbles, and Formula 409 can also clean surfaces and rid them of mildew. For toilet bowls: Products such as Vanish and Sani-Flush can be used with special brushes for the inside of bowls. For floors: Mr. Clean, Spic 'N Span, and other such products can be used with a mop to clean dirty floors. Waxes such as Future can shine floors. For washing clothes: Tide, Cheer, All, and other products in powder or liquid form will clean most clothes, although Woolite should be used to hand wash delicate items. Some products will bleach or soften clothes; read the directions carefully before using bleach, as it may ruin clothes! For windows and mirrors: Windex, ammonia and water, or vinegar. For dusting: Use a normal feather duster or towel, or one can use products such as Pledge or Endust to help collect dust. Many cleaning products may be found in "generic" form in stores. "Generic" products are not marked with a particular brand name, but they perform the same function as their commercial counterparts, and are usually less expensive. Natural cleaning products can also be used, such as baking soda, and vinegar. These are less caustic than strong chemical cleaners, and can be as efficient. Simple products such as chlorine bleach or ammonia can be used in place of expensive cleaners. (Warning: Keep all cleaning products out of reach of children and do not mix products!)