Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

High Rents Invoke Creative Remedies

As rent continues to climb in Georgetown, so does the creativity of students trying to save a few bucks.

Both on and off campus, a number of students have broken local zoning regulations, which prohibit more than six unrelated people to live together, in order to cut down on rent.

Katie Woliver (COL ’06), who lived in Burleith last academic year, lived with six other people to cut each resident’s rent from nearly $1,000 to around $700 a month.

She said that before she and her housemates signed their lease, her landlord told them that seven people could live in the house but that only six people could sign the lease since only six were legally allowed to live there.

“He did make it clear to us that when an inspector came to check out the house, we needed to move the bed and stuff from the seventh bedroom into a different part of the house, and make sure not to tell the inspector about the seventh person,” Woliver said in an e-mail.

Woliver said that the financial considerations were the biggest impetus for her and her roommates to add a seventh resident. “We didn’t know the guy we brought in to live in the seventh room, so if possible, we definitely would not have done that,” she said. “Financially, it made sense to have a seventh because otherwise the rent was really high.

But Woliver and her roommates were not alone in their violation of city zoning regulations. Robert O’Rourke (COL ’07) said that in one of the off-campus houses that he was considering renting for this year, six people have signed the lease and two additional people sublet from them. He explained that with the eight people, the rent was less than $700 per month per person.

While rental market prices have leveled off in other areas of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, Margie Bryant, associate vice president for auxiliary services, said that they have steadily risen in Georgetown in recent years.

“I have been so disappointed that [rent] just keeps going up,” said Bryant, who also has a real estate license. “We’re the anomaly.”

Charles VanSant, the university’s director of Off Campus Student Life, said that he was not aware of many students circumventing local zoning regulations. He said that, aside from a case last semester in which a group of nine students lived in a townhouse on 35th Street after filing as a religious organization, he had not heard of any other cases this year. The students, who called themselves the Apostles of Peace and Unity, were found in violation of zoning codes in November.

“The community keeps a close eye for student houses that do not abide by the zoning law,” VanSant said.

James Mula, a Georgetown area landlord, said that the rent that local landlords charge is generally on par with on-campus university housing. According to the university’s Housing Web site, a student pays around $900 per month on average for an on-campus apartment.

Bryant said, however, that students living off-campus could pay well over $1000 each for housing, as rents average from $6,000 to $7,000 a month.

“They are making hand-over-fist,” Bryant said of Georgetown landlords. “We try to arm the students in knowing what to look for.” Bryant explained that her office is attempting to inform students of suggestions on how to handle off-campus housing negotiations, including having them ask for walk-throughs, not giving money in advance, signing leases later in the academic year and going to the Palisades, where landlords are willing to negotiate.

Skirting the law to save on rent is not limited to off-campus housing.

John Burke (SFS ’08) found four roommates already in his four-person apartment in Village B when he arrived this semester; one was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. Burke said that only three of the roommates were registered for the apartment through the university, while the fourth roommate had been registered originally, but when he decided to become a part-time student, he lost his housing eligibility and should have vacated the apartment.

“The Housing Office receives notification of dismissals and withdrawals from the Registrar’s Office and works with Residence Life staff to assure that the student has moved out and returned the key to the room or apartment,” Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing, said. Resident advisors should know who belong on their floors and will intervene if someone is out of place, and Housing inspects the townhouses to make sure there are not more occupants in the residence than there should be, she added.

Frank said that there have been one or two incidents on campus in the past 20 years where staff had to intervene with friends who visited so long that it constituted living. “We have also dealt with the students who were no longer enrolled and had to be nudged to move out,” she said.

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