AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has launched a new online training program for students who are moving into off-campus housing to help them become more responsible and successful tenants. The program emphasizes personal finances, rental rules and regulations, and information about responsible behavior and how to be good neighbors.
The Moving Off Campus OWL (Online Web-based Learning) training began operation April 5 and is available to UMass Amherst students and local landlords. Students who finish the program earn a certificate of completion that is recorded on the university’s Housing and Community Resources website. Landlords can log onto the site at www.umocss.orgto see if potential tenants have completed the training.
David Vallaincourt, associate dean of students, said, “We have been conducting workshops on this subject, but this online program will allow us to reach many more students. First-year undergraduates are required to live on campus, and if they decide in later years not to renew their housing contracts they will be personally informed about OWL. Over time, we expect completion of this training will become part of a landlord’s evaluation of an application for a rental.”
The training is a joint effort involving local landlords and apartment managers, the Dean of Students Office, Off Campus Housing Services, Student Legal Services, the Office of Information Technology and the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking.
The OWL is divided into eight sections that address a variety of issues including how to find rental units, searching for housemates and the legal issues involved in signing a lease. It also covers town and state landlord-tenant laws. Sections deal with applications for leases, security deposits, tenant responsibilities regarding utilities and living in neighborhoods that contain a mix of students, non-students and families.
Other areas that are included in the training are sections on personal safety and fire safety, preparing for emergencies and local rules regarding parking. Another section includes suggestions on how to be a good neighbor. Steps range from introducing yourself to neighbors and understanding the landlord’s rules on parking and guests.
A section focused on state and local laws reminds students that infractions, including driving under the influence of alcohol, being a minor in possession of alcohol, being an underage driver transporting alcohol and selling or providing alcohol to minors are violations of state law that can lead to arrest, carry fines, and can lead to potential loss of a driver’s license and possible jail time.
In addition to the state laws, there are also specific local bylaws in Amherst and Hadley regarding noise, possession of kegs, open containers of alcohol and nuisance houses. Violations of the bylaws carry fines of $300 and are considered violations of the campus Code of Student Conduct.