Off-Campus Housing

What is off-campus Housing?

Off-campus housing typically refers to housing that is not owned, operated, and provided by the university, not served by university staff, and not within the area owned by the university. Most off-campus housing is located immediately outside of the campus area, usually within the range of several miles. Off-campus housing may be residences owned by private individuals or those owned by a property leasing company.

What types of housing are found off-campus?

Housing may come in the form of homes, apartments, or single rooms in a currently occupied home. Depending on the location of the university, the actual shapes of the houses available may vary. Urban campuses located in the middle of large cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston may not have any single houses available close to campus, but have plenty of apartments and rooms for rent due to the tight urban surroundings. Campuses in less crowded cities may have a mix of apartments, rooms and entire homes for rent. Rural campuses, like those normally found in the Midwestern states, may have a few homes available, with most students staying on-campus in university housing instead.

Can I live off-campus anytime I want during my period of study?

Most universities do not allow students below the age of 18 and those within their first year of study to live off-campus. Universities do this for legal reasons, as well as for the purpose of introducing students to campus life in a more structured environment. It is best to consult the specific university’s policy regarding these limitations.

Most students move out to off-campus housing by their third year. By this time, students are generally in their major’s upper level classes and are also more mature.

Can I stay with friends off-campus?

Students may choose to live alone or with roommates off-campus, depending on the type of housing the student stays in. Most students choose to stay with roommates to help cut rental costs, for companionship, and for safety. Some students get their friends or relatives to live with them, while others seek roommates through the campus housing office.

Is it better to live off-campus?

Living off-campus has its pros and cons.  It is up to the student to decide which type of housing fits them best.

The pros of living off-campus would be having a more private living space and freedom from dorm rules and regulations. Living off-campus also does not subject the student to specific dorm move-out dates, and in most cases, students are able to cook in their own kitchen.

However, living off-campus may mean a longer travel time to classes, as off-campus housing is not immediately within the university’s compound. Some students are lucky enough to be within walking distance, while some may require taking public transportation or using a bicycle or even a car to get to campus. Living off-campus may also be lonelier for some students used to living in dorms, where entire buildings are a community by themselves and floormates are almost like family. Although this may vary by university, most off-campus residents are not eligible for any campus meal plans, meaning that students must take time to prepare their own meals.

How do I find off-campus housing?

The process for getting off-campus housing starts with a property search. The best way to get information is through the university housing office, which usually has resources, if not a separate division, for off-campus housing. University off-campus housing offices are not the real estate agents or property managers for off-campus housing, so they cannot show actual properties to students. However, they should have information on the university area real estate agents and property management companies that are actually in charge of the properties. Some universities even have online listings of available properties and points of contact; others hold off-campus housing fairs to connect students with property owners. All this information can be obtained by asking the housing office.

What do I do after I have picked a place to stay?

Once the student has decided on a property to rent, these steps should follow:

  1. Fill out an application, which provides the landlord some information about the student. Usually, there is a small fee that accompanies this. Some locations require applicants under 23 to have a cosigner, usually a parent or guardian.
  2. If the application is approved, then the student is asked to sign a lease. A lease lists out the terms and conditions for staying in the residence. Leases are agreements between the landlord and the student, and are negotiable but must be read very carefully before signing. At this point, it is strongly recommended that students take a copy of the lease to the housing office and have someone there review it. Most universities have a housing legal clinic where advisors will review students’ leases for free or a small fee. At this point, students should also go through the property with the owners and have its condition documented.
  3. If the lease is clear, then the student and cosigner will sign the lease. Students should keep a copy of the lease as a very important document of their stay at the residence.
  4. Most landlords will also ask that students pay a security deposit, which will be refunded when the students vacate the property if the property is returned in the same condition that it was first rented. Some property owners may also ask for the first month’s rent upfront, so students should be ready by having some money available for this. Students should also know what are the penalties for late payment of rent.
What are things I should consider about the property?
  1. Furnishings: Some properties come furnished with some appliances and furniture; some are not. If it is furnished, students should take note of the condition of the furnishings and understand the terms of the lease regarding their use during their stay.
  2. Parking: Some properties include parking space; others do not. The lease may cover parking and may state how many parking spaces each property comes with. Students should also know what are the parking regulations in their area should parking not be included in the property.
  3. Carpet: If the property is carpeted, students should check if they are to be cleaned before moving in, and cleaned again before moving out.
  4. Pets: If students wish to have pets, they should check the terms of the lease first as some properties strictly do not allow pets.
  5. Utilities: Utilities, such as water, electricity, and gas, are sometimes included in the monthly rent. Students should check on what utilities they are responsible for. Students have the right to request for copies of the bills from the landlord.
  6. Repairs: Not all properties are perfect. Students should check if repairs are to be done before moving in. Students should also check the landlord’s terms for damages that happen while the student is staying in the property.
  7. Locks: Students should check if locks will be changed prior to moving in, and whether they can request for changes if landlords do not already change the locks for new tenants.
  8. Roommates and Subleases: Some landlords require everyone staying in the residence to sign the lease and be held responsible for it. Some landlords also have conditions regarding subleasing. Students should always verify the conditions with the landlord before renting out any part of the residence to anyone else.
  9. Safety: In most cases, landlords and real estate agents cannot officially state how safe the area is, or tell what kind of people live there. It is up to the student to check on this information beforehand. Statistics are usually available from the local government.
  10. What you see is what you get: Students should ensure that they are getting the residence they actually viewed, not something else. Students should also ensure that they know where and how to get the keys.
What if I get into a conflict with my landlord or roommate?

Students should consult the university housing office immediately. Most universities today through the Housing Office offer Housing Legal Clinics that can provide advice on how to settle disagreements or even arrange for a mediation session. Students should also consult the housing office if they feel that they are being discriminated against in any way, such as race, religion, national origin, or gender. Students should note that moving out before a lease expires might carry a penalty as it violates the lease terms. However, if a dangerous situation arises, then students should call the police immediately instead.

In most cases, the landlord must give at least a 24-hour notice before entering the property in a non-emergency situation. Students should notify the campus housing office if there is a problem with the landlord entering without notice in non-emergency cases.

If there is a problem with the residence and the landlord refuses to repair it, the student should immediately notify the housing office and local authorities. Some problems are a direct threat to health, safety, and well being of the student and should not have repairs postponed or ignored.

Landlords sometimes evict students, depending on the terms and conditions. Students should immediately notify the university housing office if this occurs so the students may get advice on their rights and responsibilities. Also, there are cases where the residence is sold while the student is living there. Students are not necessarily evicted, but will usually get a new landlord and some changes in the lease. The current lease should remain valid. If students have any doubts, they should seek the advice of the housing office.

What about my neighbors?

Students should note that although their neighborhood is close to campus, not all their neighbors are students or have ties to the university. This is particularly true in urban campuses. Some of the students’ neighbors may be fellow students, while others may be professionals, people with families, or longtime residents of the area. Living off-campus is sometimes the best way to learn to be a good neighbor and get to know the names and faces of those outside the university community. Neighbors generally welcome the campus crowd, especially if they have lived in the area for a long time.

But students should also know and learn on how to be a good neighbor in return:

  • Keep clean: This means keeping the property free of trash, long grass and weeds, and items that do not belong outside such as indoor furniture.
  • Keep quiet: Students are welcome to have parties, but should also keep the noise down and visitors inside. Too much noise can invite a noise violation complaint from the local authorities. In most universities, the Student Code of Conduct applies regardless of whether the student is on off-campus. Students should be on their best behavior and be in control of those who come to visit them.
  • Keep in touch: Get to know the neighbors, and swap contact information so there may be communication between everyone.
What now?

Are you are interested to stay off-campus? Are you ready to take on the commitment and responsibility of staying off-campus? For more information on the specific university’s off-campus housing options, students should contact their university housing office. This could be done even prior to your departure to the respective universities.

  • Disclaimer: The information provided in this document is only meant as a general guide. Students should consult their respective university housing offices for more detailed information on off-campus housing.
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