Whether you are a student contemplating your first off-campus living search, an international student or faculty new to the rental market, or just looking for more tips on living off-campus, here are a few things you should know about taking the first steps in your off-campus housing search.
It’s a regular practice for leasing an apartment in the U.S. to pay for an “Application Fee”. It usually ranges from 25 to 60 dollars. In the application form, you fill out information about yourself and the characteristics of the apartment that you would like to rent.
It’s not unusual that realtors and communities charge you for:
- A co-signer fee, if you don’t meet the income guidelines.
- An administration fee (this is usually a once-a-year fee).
- Pet fee.
- Security deposit (refundable at the end of the contract).
2) Credit History
To be approved for renting an apartment, often you need a credit record or credit history. Realtors and communities will verify this information through your social security number. One of the best ways to build a credit history is to get a low-limit or secured credit card or two. Use it a couple times and pay off the balance immediately. This will put you on the credit map.
If you are an international student or have no credit history, it is very difficult to fulfill this requirement. You will either need a co-signer (a parent) or a document that proves you work for an employer and lists your monthly wage. Apartments may also request information about your savings.
3) Appliances and Furniture
Usually all apartments and houses are rented with these appliances: refrigerator, microwave oven and cooking stoves. Make sure that on your visit, you TURN ON and TEST all the appliances: shower, toilet, faucets, oven, stove, lights, AC/Heat, etc. Make sure everything works!
Some communities and houses can rent you their places with some furniture like: dining table, chairs, sofa, lamps and beds. Always ask and verify what comes with the rental property.
Water is often included in your monthly payment. You may need to call the power and/or gas company to connect the electricity. As moving season can be busy, try calling at least a week in advance to schedule it for the day before you move in; that way you won’t be setting up your room in the dark, heat or cold! Note that many utility companies require a $50-150 deposit, refundable when you disconnect service.
Almost all apartments and houses have ready connections for telephone and cable, and usually this won’t take longer than a week to have them connected if you pay for the service. Lately some communities are offering DSL or cable Internet service for free.