TDCI Shares Tips for Students Moving into Off-Campus Housing

Friday, August 04, 2017 | 08:16am

NASHVILLE – With the month of August underway, many Tennessee college students are preparing to move into rental apartments and houses—some for the first time. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) urges first-time renters to be aware of their rights as tenants and to practice fire safety in their off-campus home.                                                                                                    

“While college can and should be an exciting time, it’s important that first-time renters do their homework to understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We encourage students to inspect the property thoroughly before moving in and to discuss fire safety features and practices with the property’s owner.”

If you’re a first-time renter, consider these consumer tips provided by TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs:

  • Obtain renter’s insurance. Consider checking with your auto insurer to see if you can get a discount for bundling policies. 
  • Know your rights. Many counties are covered by the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Find out if your county is covered here.
  • Ask for a written rental agreement before moving in. This sets the expectations of both parties and can prevent future disputes about the duration of the lease, the amount and date rent is due.
  • Keep a copy of the signed rental agreement and make sure to document in writing any repairs or renovations with anticipated dates for completion.
  • Residential landlords requiring security deposits prior to occupancy are required to hold all security deposits in an account used only for that purpose. Landlords may not retain any portion of the security deposit if it has not been placed in such an account.
  • The Tenant Act states that tenants shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the premises for inspection, repairs, improvements, or to show the property to prospective purchasers. The landlord shall not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.
  • The landlord may enter the dwelling without consent in the event of an emergency.
  • A tenant shall not engage in any illegal activity on the premises.
  • A landlord shall comply with applicable building and house codes materially affecting the health and safety of the tenant.
  • The landlord is responsible for providing working smoke alarms for rental units.

For more consumer tips and information related to the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, visit

The State Fire Marshal’s Office, a division of TDCI, shares the following tips to help Tennessee students make fire safety a priority in their rented space:

  • If possible, select an apartment or house that has a fire sprinkler system installed. Fire sprinklers offer the best fire protection currently available.
  • Ensure that working smoke alarms are installed on every level of your home. Alarms 10 years old or older should be replaced as they may not function properly. The date of manufacture can be found on the back of the alarm.
  • Have a fire escape plan. Identify two ways out of every room in the space if possible. Establish an outside meeting place where all occupants and guests know to go in the event of a fire.
  • Check windows and doors to ensure they can be opened and used as an exit should an emergency arise. If the home has security bars, ensure that the bars have a quick release mechanism that allows them to be easily opened from the inside. Make sure that everyone staying in the home knows how to operate the release.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and fully extinguish cigarettes by dousing them with water or burying them in sand.
  • After a party, check under cushions for smoking materials—furniture burns fast.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.
  • Inquire if the home’s heating equipment has been inspected recently.
  • Do not overload extension cords, power strips, or electrical outlets.
  • Consider battery-operated candles as a safer alternative to real candles.
  • Ensure the home’s address is clearly posted to allow emergency services to find you quickly in the event of an emergency.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office urges students to take fire drills and evacuations seriously and to be aware that fire safety is important at home and on and off-campus.

For more information on campus fire safety, visit