We Bet No One Told You These Things About Renting Off-Campus Apartments

We Bet No One Told You These Things about Renting Off-Campus Apartments

According to a 2018 survey, off-campus apartments can cost up to $10,965 per year, and that’s just the rent.

When you pay so much for renting apartments, you can’t afford other financial pitfalls and accommodation mishaps; especially as an international student navigating the ways of a foreign country. That’s why we are here to alert you. 

We will give you 10 little-known facts about off-campus apartments.

1. If you don’t inspect properly, you may regret it

They tell you about all the comforts and freedom of living alone in college. What they conveniently hide are the nuisances that students face when they move into off-campus apartments without inspecting it thoroughly first.

You don’t want to settle into your new student apartment only to discover you’re sharing a wall with an obnoxiously loud neighbor. Maybe you have to sleep with bedbugs as well.

That’s why inspection is necessary!

Before you move in to off-campus apartments, check for the following:

  • Damp areas and mold
  • Pest infestations (like mice, slugs, fruit flies, pigeons, cockroaches, and rats)
  • Distance from the university
  • Safety of the neighborhood and building security
  • Convenience (proximity to hospitals, supermarkets, metro stations, etc.)
  • Condition of the electric appliances and plug sockets
  • Water supply problems (water pressure, water quality, and leaks)
  • Adequate furnishings and fittings
  • Heat, insulation, and air conditioning
  • Nearby tenants and neighbors (ask around, or talk to them directly)

These issues can make renting off-campus apartments a horrible experience for international students. If you find one or more issues, it’s best to move on to a different apartment.

If you cannot afford that, try to reach an agreement with the landlord or leasing agent. Bargain for lower rent, or get an assurance to have them fix the problems before you move in. You can also get it added to the tenancy agreement.

2. Leasing or subletting—it’s essential to choose the right option for you

There is a reason students choose to stay in dorms. Renting off-campus apartments in the U.S. is not a piece of cake.

Unless you’re employed, can provide proof of income, and have a high credit score, traditional methods of renting won’t be available to you. Here are some alternatives to consider:

If you lack the necessary income requirements, you have to get a co-signer (they share rental liabilities with you), or a guarantor (they take liability if you fail to pay the rent).You won’t need to provide any income proof, or arrange a co-signer or guarantor when you sublet an apartment.
Leases can be short-term or long-term. The former is more expensive while the latter is cheaper. Choose according to the duration you plan to stay. If you are unsure, go with a shorter lease. It’s better than breaking a long-term lease and ending up in legal trouble.You are essentially renting from a tenant who has leased the apartment on your behalf. So you don’t have to deal with the landlord directly. You establish a rental agreement and only deal with the tenant, who is the primarily liable party. This can be more expensive than a direct lease agreement. Not to mention, it is difficult to come by, since most landlords forbid it.

3. The intricacies of the security deposit and rent

Here are some financial caveats that will help in renting off-campus apartments:

  • Your security deposit might be non-refundable or only partially refundable. It is set aside to replace carpets and repair any damage between tenants. So, take great care of your apartment, or don’t expect to get your deposit back in full when you eventually move out.
  • Prepare the first month’s rent in advance. Off-campus leasing managers often demand it, or at least a portion of it, before you move in.
  • Have the last month’s rent ready even if you are moving out on the 5th. Although some apartments allow for a pro-rated rent amount for a partial month, some places require the full month’s rent as long as the apartment is occupied after a new month has started.

4. Roommates can be a blessing or a curse

Sharing off-campus apartments can halve your living cost. The more the merrier, actually. But that is only if your housemates are ethical and well-behaved, which is a rare combination to come by.

Here are some problems students face when sharing off-campus apartments with one or more other people. Beware of housemates who:

  • Make late payments
  • Don’t pay rent or contribute towards other bills after moving in
  • Let their friends or partners move in without discussing or equally dividing the costs
  • Leave without notice, making you responsible for their portion of the rent
  • Force you to search for a replacement on short notice, so you end up sharing the apartment with a total stranger
  • Make lifestyle choices that disrupt your peace (frequent partying, loud noises or music, and inappropriate behavior)
  • Are unreasonable, won’t alter their conduct, and refuse to move
  • Don’t take equal part in household chores like cleaning and cooking
  • Break the lease and get all other roommates evicted

5. Challenges of commuting

Unless you are staying right next to your university, you might have a tough time commuting back and forth every day. Here are some adversities you might face:

  • Reaching classes/exam halls on-time
  • Transportation costs
  • Navigating the streets of an unfamiliar city
  • Accessing public transport and finding your way around
  • Getting stuck in traffic
  • Time lost in commute, resulting in a lack of time for study, sleep, and other activities
  • Traveling during rain and snow
  • Physical exhaustion

When looking for an apartment, be sure to note how long it takes to get to and from campus. Also, if you do not have your own car or other means of transport, make sure that there is adequate public transportation near you.

6. You’ll be taken aback by the utility bills

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • TV/cable
  • Internet
  • Phone
  • Maintenance
  • Water
  • Garbage
  • Sewer

These would be included in the monthly bill you’ll have to pay. So, depending on what utilities are included, and how much electricity you consume, factor in another $500-1000.

7. A gazillion chores await you

When you live in a dorm, everything is provided for you. You have a place to eat (dining hall/cafeteria), a laundry room, and just a smaller space to deal with in general. But, that’s not the case in an apartment.

While living in off-campus apartments, expect to do everything from grocery shopping to vacuuming floors. Don’t forget about the laundry and cooking. Yes, you’ll have more privacy and comfort than in a college dorm, but it takes work to maintain an apartment.

8. Wicked landlords and unexpected expenses

A good landlord is a godsend. In all likelihood, you are going to encounter proprietors who blame you for previous damages to the apartment that you had nothing to do with, or create a ruckus every time you invite your friends over.

The bad news is, it’s really difficult to tell how the owner is going to behave before you have moved in. Landlords sometimes sneak in hidden charges and penalties, or create a fuss over the following:

  • Parking
  • On-site maintenance
  • Property security
  • Deposits for setting up utilities
  • Mail and inbound packages
  • Customization (painting the walls, hammering nails for hanging stuff, etc.)
  • Damage to furniture, carpet, and appliances
  • Guest restrictions
  • Quiet hours
  • Pet deposits

Always read your agreement to the last detail before signing it. Ask your landlord in advance for these specific details if it isn’t already mentioned in the agreement.

Enquire into the experiences of other tenants to get an idea of what to expect. Learn your tenant rights to avoid getting caught unaware in the grip of a bad agreement.

9. International student insurance

Renting off-campus apartments is expensive as it is. When you factor in the additional costs of utilities, commute, hidden charges, and penalties, you’ll hardly be left with a penny. 

Now, imagine you get into a road accident on your way to school, or you have to suddenly rush back home due to an emergency.  

To put it in short, you’ll be under terrible financial duress. No one tells you about these kinds of crises before you are already in the middle of one in a foreign country. So, what should you do?

Thankfully, as an international student, you have one way out—international student insurance! It can help take care of your unexpected medical bills, so you aren’t buried in debt if you experience a medical mishap.

10. It’s easy to get scammed

You are desperately looking for off-campus apartments, when you come across an online listing. Imagine the following scenarios:

  • The price is simply too good to be true. It’s way cheaper than market rates, or even other similar properties in the same area.
  • There are unreasonable upfront costs, like booking fees, showing fees, advance security deposits, and advance rent.
  • Nice pictures of the apartment, but elaborate excuses as to why it cannot be shown in person. For instance, “owner is traveling or sick.”
  • They want payment or detailed personal information before the meeting.
  • No proper leasing office location, contact number, or professional online presence.
  • There are multiple grammatical mistakes, and the listing seems suspicious in general.

If you spot any of these signs, look elsewhere.  Scammers target inexperienced renters, aka college students, to either extort money or steal identities.

Verify every legal detail minutely before making payments or giving away any sensitive information.

Don’t lose heart

All of this might sound burdensome and intimidating. You have every right to feel uneasy, but it shouldn’t falter your resolve. Renting off-campus apartments is a massive step in adult life. If you take that step carefully and follow these tips, you can avoid being put in unfortunate situations.

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