How To Get an Apartment as a Student

Updated November 29, 2023
8 min read
How To Get an Apartment as a Student

Introduction

For many domestic and international students, having a residence off-campus is the preferred choice over dormitory living. Indeed, a lease agreement for students to rent out an apartment elsewhere offers multiple advantages, including more choices, higher quality residences, and better privacy.

Meanwhile, before getting into a lease agreement for students, there are many things to consider. Students willing to rent an apartment should check whether the school rules allow for living outside the campus and find out about the housing availability and rental prices in the area. Finding an apartment for rent requires researching the properties as well as checking the apartments in person.

Compared to securing on-campus housing, signing a lease agreement for students may take more time and effort but feel more rewarding in the long run. Below, we go into more details about what off-campus living has to offer, things to consider before renting, and essential steps of getting an apartment as a student.

Why Living Off-Campus Can Be a Smart Choice?

Because dormitory housing can be expensive and offer constrained living and social conditions, living off-campus is often seen as a smart choice. Signing a lease agreement for students wanting to rent an apartment offers a broader range of options and more freedoms unrestricted by dorm rules and policies.

In particular, many first-year and senior students seek off-campus residences for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Availability of wider housing choices off-campus compared to dormitory living;

  • Opportunity to have larger and higher quality residential space when renting off-campus;

  • Access to private facilities including kitchen, bathroom, storage space, etc.;

  • Having a quieter environment conducive to better learning outcomes;

  • Preferred for students accompanied by families;

  • No campus restrictions, such as visitation and guests staying on property,locking entrance at night, and similar dorm rules;

  • Better opportunities for shopping, dining out, entertainment, and nightlife.

For many younger learners, a lease agreement for students offers real-world experience of independent living. Searching for housing, paying rent, managing finances, maintaining the apartment in clean condition and good order, cooking or arranging for meals, and making responsible decisions are essential life skills that students can only develop when living independently in an off-campus environment.

Things To Consider Before Renting

Always think twice before you sign a lease agreement for students. Here’s a checklist of where to start and what to ask before getting an apartment as a student:

Check your on-campus living requirements

Many colleges and universities, including well-known schools like Stanford or Harvard, require their first-year full-time students to live in dormitories and do not allow living off campus. Some schools explain this requirement by their belief that living on campus helps students better connect with their peers and have easier access to school facilities. If your college or university has a similar requirement, a lease agreement for students would not be an option for you.

For this reason, you should always check if your school has any restrictions on students living off campus before searching for rental opportunities. You should only proceed with a lease agreement for students if your college or university doesn't have any similar requirements.

Determine your budget

You are likely to have significant education expenses as a student. That’s why it’s crucial to determine how much you can afford to pay monthly in rent, utilities, food, and supplies for an apartment. Also, calculate your budget for furnishing the place you rent. Then, include any upfront expenses such as security deposits, pet deposits, and advanced rent for the first and last month’s rent payments outlined in your lease agreement for students.

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How to choose a roommate

When choosing a roommate to sign a lease agreement for students with, select someone whose company you enjoy. But there are some other essential criteria, including the following:

  1. Does your potential roommate have a reliable income source? He or she will be obliged to pay a shared amount for the rent, utilities, and household expenses every month as written in your lease agreement for students.

  2. Is your new roommate a trustworthy person? You will share a lot of space together and you won’t be able to constantly hide your personal belongings. Sure, it doesn’t apply to valuable things like documents, keys, jewelry, money, etc. – always keep them in a safe place.

  3. Does your roommate respect personal boundaries? Be sure the person you choose is honest and reliable. Ask freely about his or her life, for example, pets, family, partner, or friends who may visit your residence frequently.

Think through all these issues before renting an apartment while in college with another person and signing a lease agreement for students.

How long of a lease should you sign

Don’t sign a lease for a longer period than you know you can commit to. Generally, a lease agreement for students may be for six months or one year. You can also sign a month-to-month rental agreement. In most cases, the longer a tenant rents a unit, the lower the monthly payment will be. You will also have a rental rate for your lease unless the contract explicitly provides monthly increases.

Location and access to transport

You will want to rent an apartment and sign a lease agreement for students close to your school and, if you have one, to your job. If you do not have a vehicle, you need to live within walking distance of school and work or ensure that you’re close enough to public transport.

Are utilities included?

Some landlords keep the utilities in their own name and include the cost of utilities when setting the rental fee. However, other landlords require all tenants to establish their own utility services. Utility companies often require a credit check and security deposit. Be sure you know what to expect before entering into a lease agreement for students.

Pet policies

If you have a pet or think you may have one soon, you should ask your landlord for permission and mention it in your lease agreement for students. If a landlord allows pets on the property, they usually require a pet deposit to cover the cost of cleaning the unit after the tenant leaves.

Specific landlord rules and restrictions

Check your lease agreement for students for any rules or restrictions your landlord may have. For example, if your landlord does not allow music or noise after a certain hour, you must decide whether to agree to that.

After doing this major research and carefully considering a lease agreement for students, you can submit an apartment application.

5 Essential Steps of Getting an Apartment as a Student

Renting an apartment while you study can be challenging for many reasons and take a few extra steps. For example, most younger students have no or very little credit history and need to ensure they can prove their solvency to the landlord before looking for rental properties. 

Here we describe each step and the roadmap to follow before you can sign a lease agreement for students.

1. Prepare proof of solvency or reliable income

You need to show proof that you can afford to pay the rent each month. If you have a job, be ready to show paystubs or a W-2. If you are relying on a student loan, you need to provide the amount of loan proceeds you will receive each semester or year for financing your education and living expenses. If you don’t have sufficient income, you may ask someone with reliable income and good credit to co-sign the lease agreement for students.

2. Get advice from a local realtor or/and international student office

Realtors who service leased property and provide lease agreements for students can be a great source of information. They can tell you about various properties and their features. If you feel overwhelmed by the apartment hunt, consider speaking with a local realtor who handles leased properties for advice on how to apply for an apartment as a student and sign a lease agreement for students.

International students can refer to an international student office at their school and seek advice and guidance, often with links to local rental listings and best agents.

3. Find the best location for your needs

Choose a neighborhood where you want to live. Make sure your chosen place is safe, quiet, and well-located before you sign your lease agreement for students. 

If you do not have a car, research local public transport. Find the bus and rail access near your potential neighborhood to be sure it meets your needs.

Finally, have Google Maps and Street View always at hand. Find out what restaurants, student hotspots, and hangout spots are nearby, and decide whether it suits your needs and social life.

4. Pick a price that suits your financial planning

Always know your numbers. Determine how much money you should earn to pay for rent, utilities, food, and other expenses. You must know how much you can afford to pay before entering a lease agreement for students and incurring financial liability. If you feel overwhelmed when developing a budget, you may ask your college if they offer financial planner consultations.

So, what matters here is finding a balance between comfort and affordability. Although you can’t always decide to rent a property in a cheaper location because of accessibility to college, finding a reliable roommate to share the apartment with may be a great idea. If you opt for the latter, provide them with a lease agreement for students to sign.

5. Ensure your accommodation is furnished

International students must look for furnished accommodations or order furniture and appliances after they arrive at the place. However, this is not always an option because of the costs. Therefore, the furniture should be mentioned in a lease agreement for students. Always check whether amenities such as a washing machine and fridge are included in the apartment rent. Some housing options may even provide bedding for students from abroad.

Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Scammers

Securing a great-looking apartment for rent as a student and creating a solid lease agreement for students can be challenging but also rewarding in many respects, delivering exciting experiences and social interactions. Meanwhile, finding such an apartment is only half the challenge as you need to ensure that you rent from a trustworthy landlord.

When looking for rental properties, you should be cautious of scammers who try to defraud tenants with fake listings and false representations. Below are a few tips which can help you spot bad actors and stay on the safe side.

  1. Renting through a broker does not always protect against scam. If you decide to go the broker route, make sure you rent from reputable agents by checking their websites and reviews, giving them a call, and cross-checking the listing on other websites. 

  2. In the ideal scenario, it is always best to see the apartment in person before you sign the lease agreement for students. If you are absolutely unable to have a walk-in inspection before moving in, ask your landlord for a virtual tour. 

  3. Make sure you are renting from a legitimate landlord who is the owner of the apartment by searching the records for the address of the rental property. If you sublet an apartment from another tenant, ask for a copy of their lease agreement for students and make sure the landlord and the building policy allow for sublets.

  4. Never pay the rent or security deposit before you sign the lease agreement for students. While you may be required to pay the application fee in advance to cover the costs of processing your rental application and background checks, you should pay everything else only after you have signed the lease agreement for students. 

  5. Avoid all-cash deals and always request a receipt for any cash payments. It is always a good idea to avoid cash and pay with a cashier's check or money order which are risk-free for landlords.

  6. Be wary of other signs of potential fraud, such as when the landlord avoids a personal meeting, the absence of a tenant's background check, incomplete a lease agreement for students, asking for a bank wire overseas in exchange for the keys, inability to give you a virtual tour, or unwillingness to show the apartment in person before signing the lease agreement for a student. 

Final Remarks

Can a college student rent an apartment off-campus? Definitely, yes. To ensure this experience is positive, think twice and take care of “adult” things –– count your budget, research desirable neighborhoods, talk with landlords, decide about a roommate, and check a lease agreement for students multiple times before signing it. 

When it’s time to sign a lease agreement for students, don’t rush into it. Carefully read each section and ask the landlord questions regarding all fees, terms, and force majeure. When every point about the apartment and lease agreement for students is discussed, you can safely rent without disputes. Don’t forget to enjoy your college life, too, as it’s a great chance to make reliable and long-term relationships with people of diverse backgrounds.

Article by
Inna Chumachenko
Lawrina

Inna Chumachenko is the Content Lead at Lawrina. She is responsible for managing all the content found on the blog, guides, and other website pages. Inna has a degree in philology and a vast interest in law. In her role at Lawrina, Inna oversees the content team, establishes collaborations with writers, and curates content from various contributors.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the content for Lawrina, please feel free to contact Inna directly via email at i.chumachenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.