A sign marks that a house is still available for rent on East Fith street. Fifth Street Properties is one of the many property firms catered to Lehigh students who wish to live off campus. (Meihui Chen/ B&W Staff)

Choose wisely: off-campus leases signed two years in advance


In two years at Lehigh, students can change their majors, their friend groups and their career paths. They can’t, however, change the lease they signed for an off-campus house two years prior.

It has become customary at Lehigh for students to sign a lease for a senior year off-campus home up to two years in advance, sometimes even three depending on the circumstance. Students involved in Greek life typically find themselves signing leases in the fall of their sophomore year.

“I think Greek life is what started the push to sign a lease so early in college,” said Tao Zheng, ‘17. “There are certain houses with ideal basements and locations, and people race to get these homes so their (Greek) house has it for that year.”

The normal routine for a group of students looking to find an off-campus residence is to call as many landlords as possible and check availability on the campus websites. The next step is to visit the homes that are still available and determine which one is the best fit for the group.

“My roommates and I knew we wanted to live with each other from playing softball together, so that decision wasn’t hard,” said Christine Campbell, ‘17. “The hard part was finding an affordable house that worked for everyone, and something that was available.”

But there are potential disadvantages to signing a lease so far in advance. Students who signed the lease could transfer, or relationships could sever. Whatever it may be, if someone wants to opt out of the lease, it is his or her responsibility to help the other tenants find a new roommate.

“We each tried to take on a different responsibility while looking for a house,” Victoria Lattanzio, ’17, said. “You don’t really understand how much work gets put into it and how stressful it is until you go through the process.”

In some cases, the house hunting process is all about who you know. Some students get a lease passed down from upperclassmen friends or other connections that were made through Lehigh. For example, the football team has a house that has been passed down for more than 10 years.

“I was pretty lucky when I was searching for my lease because my girlfriend was already done with the process, so I asked her for her landlord’s contact information,” Gabe Herrera, ’17, said. “We did switch out one of our roommates on the lease, but fortunately we were able to help out one of our freshman hallmates that still needed a place to live.”

Like students involved in Greek life, student athletes have older teammates who either pass down a home or offer advice regarding where to look. That advice may include questions to ask the landlord, such as concerns about the utilities.

“It’s weird because when we signed the lease sophomore year, I was so pumped up,” Herrera said. “But now the excitement has kind of faded away.”

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