Off-Campus Living

The 3 Steps of Looking at an Off Campus Property

As a student who is considering making the leap to renting a house or apartment off campus, Off Campus Living would like to encourage you think about these three steps of looking at an off campus property and living off campus:

Conducting the Search

  1. Look everywhere for housing. Look in the newspaper classifieds, apartment hunter publications, our connected service and other online apartment/house rental sites.
  2. Consider how much you can afford to pay. Do not forget to factor in general expenses:  water, heat, electricity, food, garbage, cable/data, and/or gas to get to and from campus, a parking pass, etc.

Checking Out the Place 

  1. Inspect the property carefully.  Turn on the faucets in the bathroom, turn on all lights, ask questions about fire safety (are there fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, etc.), and ask questions such as:
    • How often have items been updated in the house? When was the last time the apartment was painted? How new are the appliances? How do you contact the landlord if there is a problem? How close is he/she/they to the apartment if you need them to respond to an emergency?
    • If there's damage in the apartment, ask for it to be fixed prior to moving in and make sure that this is recorded on the lease. If the items are not going to be fixed, make sure to record this information on an apartment condition report form. Take pictures or a video for your records! Remember to put everything in writing and send copies to your landlord!
  2. Check out common walls (walls shared with adjoining apartments). The more walls in common, the greater the chance of noise from next door. Also consider a common entrance in terms of how much privacy you may want. Does everyone have a key? How secure are the locks? Check out the properties next door-what do their yards look like?
  3. Ask about amenities such as off-street parking or a garage, a yard, storage, laundry facilities, pool, tennis, gym, etc.
  4. NEVER underestimate the importance of talking to the current tenants!  How much does the electric run?  How responsive is the landlord?  What items have they been happy with?  What items have they been frustrated with?

Negotiating the Contract

  1. If you find an apartment or house you love but is a stretch financially, ask if there are responsibilities you can take on to lower your rent, such as cutting the lawn, sweeping common areas or taking deliveries. Or, if you find a great apartment but it lacks services such as utilities, laundry facilities, cable TV and Internet access, ask the landlord to throw some in at no charge. Many newer buildings will. Or offer to sign a longer-term lease or give a higher security deposit in exchange for more services.
  2. Examine the lease in detail:  How much notice is required prior to moving out? How large of a deposit do you have to make? How much cleaning is required upon leaving to get your deposit back? Some agreements require first and last months' rent plus a security deposit--a significant chunk of change. Is the lease month to month? Or a 6- or 12-month period? Is your lease a 10 month lease or a 12 month lease? If it is a 12 month lease, can you have someone sublet for the summer months? If a roommate drops out of his or her lease, will you be responsible for the rent?
  3. Find out what kinds of cosmetic changes you can make, such as painting walls, or structural changes, such as adding shelving. Do not make any of these changes without permission from the landlord because you could lose your deposit at the end of your lease.
  4. Considering buying renter's insurance.  It is not the landlord's responsibility to cover the loss of your belongs in case of fire, water damage, theft, etc. You may also want to ask your parents/guardians if the property would be covered under their homeowner's policy.

    Living off campus can be a rewarding and exciting experience, provided you do your homework and plan ahead. If you have any questions about these steps or tips, or you would like to talk to someone about signing a lease to live off campus, please contact Matt Zalman in the Office of Residence Life at 513-745-3203 or by e-mail at