Thanks for the suggestions. I'm about ready to commit to an apartment that I found, about a 20 minute walk from the political science department at Woodburn Hall. Even though it seems like the apartment is a good deal, two things are worrying me: its on the ground floor and I'm concerned about burglary; and also that I haven't actually seen it in person. I know that Bloomington is a relatively crime free town but I've never lived on my own before. And for obvious reasons, signing a 12 month lease for a place one hasn't seen in person isn't the best idea. But traveling to Bloomington just to see the place is not the best choice financially. To top everything off, I haven't been able to find any ratings or comments about this real estate company online. So I really feel like I'm in the dark...
Are there any native Hoosiers who can perhaps give a suggestion?
Hey, if you need to find out about a company, here's two things I'd recommend:
1. HAND is the Housing and Neighborhood Development office in Bloomington and they keep records of all rental units (complaints, violations, etc.). You can request up to 50 pages of records on a specific address for free. Unfortunately, they are not on the ball (it took me a month to get my results, by then I had just rented, BUT I was able to see the place). If you explain your situation maybe they will expedite things for you. Just have all the information (rental agency, address, your contact info) ready to go and see what they can do for you.
2. The student legal aid at IU does look over leases for students. You could contact them and send the lease. They may have experience with the person you're renting from and can tell you both if there have been any issues and if your lease is kosher. That isn't to say you won't have problems, but at least with a legally sound lease you would have recourse if something went wrong.
Finally, on the whole ground floor thing. As a single woman, I tried avoid ground floor places, but sometimes you can't. From what I've heard about Bloomington the non-violent crimes (aka theft, burglary, etc.) tend to occur in places that were not locked. A lot of undergrads living alone for the first time (especially those living with multiple people) will leave windows and doors unlocked at night or when they're gone during the day for "convenience"...which just means it's convenient to walk in and take stuff. I think, overall, if you play it smart, you'll be OK.