OSU offers resources to navigate students through a dynamic housing market


Duane Knapp

A photo illustration Captured by Duane Knapp on Dece. 1st in their home. Both incoming and continuing students will likely be signing leases for apartments, homes, and other housing around Corvallis very soon.

Nino Paoli, News Contributor

It’s the start of Spring term and students living in the dorms are ramping up to move off-campus. Here are some things to keep in mind before moving. 

First and foremost, Noah Chamberlain, a staff attorney at Student Legal Services, urges students to read their lease agreements. 

“I can’t express how many students come in to ask about a housing issue… but it quickly becomes evident to me that they never read the lease,” Chamberlain said.

ASOSU Student Legal Services provides legal advice to OSU students at no extra cost. Chamberlain says that landlord-tenant issues that involve leases, housing, habitability or accounting issues are the number one type of cases that the office assists students with.

“Leases have grown, on average, from between four to six pages from when I started practice about 12 years ago, to now students are signing leases that are upwards of 50 to 60 pages sometimes,” Chamberlain said. ”Even if it’s a one-page lease or a 60-page lease, the number one thing that I would say is read your entire lease agreement.”

Leases are your housing syllabus, and will provide you with what to expect, what to know and what is expected of you.

Things to consider are: monthly rent, utilities, fees, deposits, pet rules, shared spaces, parking, furniture and maintenance requests.

Evaluate whether it is an individual or joint lease, and what you are responsible for in your lease agreements. Chamberlain encourages students to read through it all before signing. 

“It’s a challenging thing, because it is such a competitive rental market (in Corvallis),” Chamberlain said. “There is so much pressure to sign and enter leases quickly and it’s so competitive… Students, as soon as students look at a unit, if they don’t sign a lease that day, it may be rented to somebody the next.”

However, Chamberlain says the best thing you can do for yourself is to know your rights and responsibilities before signing an agreement, whether it be for a month or for a year. 

Chamberlain advises students to exercise prudence when confronting a housing issue as well. 

“Landlord-tenant issues should be resolved as much as possible in real time,” Chamberlain said. “So if you have a habitability issue… [and] if you come to talk to me nine months later… there may be very little I can do for you.”

Chamberlain also says that when addressing a lease or habitability issue with your landlord, it should all be documented in writing.

“Oregon law specifically requires that if you’re trying to send notice to your landlord, that that notice be in writing,” Chamberlain said. “A common scenario that we see is a tenant comes in and says, ‘I talked to the landlord twenty times on the phone’… A game that landlords can play very effectively is that if you haven’t put it in writing to them, the landlord can pretend as if those phone calls never occurred.”

SLS can help with coaching students on how to formally address their landlords in writing, or providing written letters to landlords on the student’s behalf, Chamberlain said. 

The Basic Needs Center at OSU has helped many students with various housing issues as well said Andrea Norris, peer-aid coordinator, and Meron Solomon, a student navigator at BNC.

“There’s a variety of ways that we have housing conversations,” Norris said. “Sometimes somebody is coming in because they have a gap in their housing, so they’re looking for something short-term. Sometimes it’s someone whose housing fell through for the school year and they’re at square one trying to find where they’re going to be now.”

Norris said that BNC is open to any OSU student to come and talk with other, knowledgeable students about various problems. 

“It’s pretty casual, we don’t want to stress anybody out,” Solomon said. “We just want to have them leave with a good plan or good idea of what their next step is going to be.”

The BNC resources span from providing emergency short-term housing at Dixon Lodge, helping students who are facing eviction and getting students in contact with local resources that may be able to assist them with security deposits, to preparing students for hard conversations with their roommates, Norris said. 

Services at OSU such as SLS and BNC are acutely aware of the pressure for housing in Corvallis, and are willing to work with students before or after signing a lease. 

Norris explained that BNC peer navigators’ goals when students come in with questions about housing is first assessing their specific needs, and then guiding them towards their next steps in their plans. 

Norris says that many students came into BNC in September and August, when many incoming students were denied on-campus housing because of high enrollment and not enough space.

“We are in a very tight housing market in Corvallis,” Norris said.

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