Everything you need to know about off-campus housing in the US

US off-campus housingWhere should you live if you’re going to study in the US? Many schools require freshmen to live in the dormitories. However, not every college will offer on-campus housing, and those that do may have limited space available. As a result, many students choose to live off campus.

The US rental market includes private homes where the tenants directly communicate and sign a contract with the landlord, and apartments where there is a leasing office that is responsible for showing the property and managing contracts with tenants. Most private homes and apartments come unfurnished. In some cases, you can pay more to rent a fully furnished apartment.


To find an apartment, Google  “apartment near xxx university” to find popular apartment complex and housing service websites such as apartmentfinder.com that consolidate information about multiple apartment complexes. Some apartments will list the current rent, availability date, lease term, etc. While some apartments accept short-term leasing for 3 or 6 months, usually the lease term would be 12 months.
Apartments in college towns usually allow their future tenants to reserve an August or September move-in as early as March or April. However, if you are moving to a large city, you may not be that lucky. Those apartments usually are listed approximately 30 days before the available move-in date.

Private homes
The most popular website for renting private homes is Craigslist. You can also ask contacts at the university for recommendations of off-campus housing.

Researching the property
•    Ask the landlord or leasing office questions, such as:
•    Are utilities included in the rent?
•    How many parking spaces are there?
•    Is there any additional cost for parking?
•    How much is the deposit?
•    What documents do you require with the application?

Application and Contract

If possible, visit the apartment in person before committing to rent it. However, the leasing specialist may show you an empty unit or model unit if the one you’re interested in is still occupied.

Once you decide on an apartment, you will need to submit your application form with a photocopy of your passport, I-20, bank statement and possibly other documents. The application fee ($30-$50) is usually non-refundable. Sometimes the leasing office will ask you to find a co-signer, a person who has credit history in the US and is in close relation with you. The leasing office will review your application and notify you if it is approved.

Check In

Before moving in, you will need to sign a formal rental contract and pay a deposit at the leasing office. Typically they accept a cashier’s check or a personal check from a local bank. Some leasing offices will also require you to purchase rental insurance. You will also need to contact the local utility companies (electric, heat, cable, phone) to set up those services in your name.

Move in

When you first move in, check for any damages or issues throughout the apartment. Document them on the checklist provided by the leasing office. This way, you will not be held responsible for damages that occurred before you moved in. Also, find out from the leasing office who you should contact if something goes wrong (ex: a toilet leaking or oven breaking).

Remember to remove all your belongings and clean the apartment when you are ready to move out. This way you won’t incur additional cleaning fees.

[article courtesy of Moveha]