By JACOB KELLY
Going to college can be a very difficult and trying time in a student’s life, but with the help of Niagara College and Brock University, at least finding a place to live off-campus can be an easy and stress-free process.
Niagara and Brock have teamed up to create the Off-Campus Living Program to provide resources for both landlords and students.
The purpose of the program is to educate landlords, students and residents of the Niagara Region about finding living accommodations, understanding landlord and tenant issues and managing neighbourhood relations.
Manager of Off Campus Living and Neighbourhood Relations Curtis Gadula said the most important thing when looking for a rental unit is to invest some time and get to know your potential landlord. You should try to get in touch with past tenants and learn something about the landlord, he advises.
“There should be no rush to acquire a rental property. Tenants should take their time and make sure you are getting the property you are looking for,” said Gadula.
Both Brock and Niagara offer an advertising service, where landlords can pay to post properties for rent and where students can pay to post accommodation needs, roommate requests and sublets. The advertisements are posted on the Niagara and Brock off-campus housing websites at housing.niagaracollege.ca/ocl or butler.brocku.ca/ocl., niagararents.ca and ontariostudentrentals.ca.
If a tenant is having an issue with a landlord, the first option for any resolution is to open the lines of communication.
“Communication is the most important thing between a landlord and tenant for the resolution of an issue” said Gadula.
If speaking with a landlord doesn’t work, the next step is to consult a legal clinic. Brock and Niagara have teamed up with Niagara North Community Legal Assistance, to assist tenants.
Paralegal Christopher Woodall at Niagara North said that it is important to make a reasonable effort to resolve the issue with the landlord through communication before taking legal action.
Woodall’s main aim is to inform tenants of their options and the steps available to pursue the resolution of a problem. Niagara North acts as a middle man to help the tenant build a case against the landlord. Woodall will coach the tenant on gathering the evidence required for taking the landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The Landlord and Tenant Board’s main aim is to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. There are two processes that can help solve the dispute — mediation and a hearing. Mediation is a confidential process where the landlord and tenant come together voluntarily with a neutral mediator in hopes of coming to a conclusion. If the mediation step is unsuccessful, then the dispute will be resolved at a hearing with a member of the Landlord and Tenant Board. The member bases the decision on landlord and tenant submissions and the law. This ruling is final and both parties must abide by the decision.
Brock and Niagara are also using the Off Campus Living Program to build community relations between residents and students. The program is involved in many community outreach events such as garbage clean ups, food drives and barbecues; this enables the students to make a meaningful impact on their new communities.
Gadula said Brock and Niagara are looking to build a positive and co-operative relationship between the students and members of the community.
“Through helping residents and creating better community relations, we feel this will improve the student experience,” said Gadula.
“Although a great deal of the student experience is in the classroom, the importance of the experience outside the classroom has just as much value. One of the fundamental learning outcomes we desire to accomplish is the production of healthy and responsible citizens,” said Gadula.
For more information, contact the Off Campus Living office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3721, or you can visit housing.niagaracollege.ca/ocl or butler.brocku.ca/ocl.
To contact Niagara North Community Legal Assistance, call 905-682-6635 and to contact the Landlord and Tenant Board, call 1-888-332-3234 or visit www.ltb.gov.on.ca.
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