By Ginger Abbot
Living on campus might seem great when you’re still learning your way around as a freshman. After your first or second semester, you could feel ready to move off-campus and live more independently. This guide explains what to know when renting a student apartment in college, since many young people find themselves surprised by certain steps in the process.
Don’t jump into a lease just because it’s the first one you find. Compare rental communities and use these tips to prepare everything you need before your housing arrangement ends.
1. Prepare your first month’s rent
When you moved into your on-campus dorm room or apartment, you didn’t have to put down your first month’s rent. Most universities require the semester’s housing payment in full or divided into two deadlines. Off-campus leasing managers will need your first month’s rent when you move in or a prorated rent payment to finish your first month.
You could have to pay a few hundred dollars or the full rent, which gets expensive in pricier communities. Once you have a few apartments in mind that you’d like to rent, talk with the leasing managers about how much you’d have to pay upfront on your move-in day.
2. Look into pet deposits
Fish and gerbils that live in tanks or cages may not require a pet deposit. They won’t run around on the carpet or scratch permanent fixtures. Anyone who owns other animals like cats and dogs will have to pay a pet deposit. It covers damage caused by your pet when you move out, but it differs from pet fees and monthly rent.
Your pet deposit could be $250, but you might have to pay a $50 fee to bring your animal with you. Additionally, you may pay $20-$50 with your rent every month to keep your pet in your home. It’s a complicated part of renting a student apartment in college that many young people don’t expect.
3. Research renter’s insurance
When people talk about what to know when renting a student apartment, they may forget about renter’s insurance. It will replace your belongings, grant liability if someone gets injured, and cover your living expenses if repairs force you to move out. It’s another monthly bill you’ll need to pay, although many companies offer student discounts.
Some students get this through their parents’ names, but that won’t give you complete coverage. If someone steals your stuff, insurance won’t replace it unless you start a policy in your name. Discuss the details with insurance companies to find the right plan for your needs. Activate your insurance after finalizing your move-in date and send a copy to your leasing manager for their records.
4. Save your security deposit
Saving up for your security deposit is one of the most helpful student apartment tips. These deposits often cost another couple hundred dollars and take new renters by surprise. Leasing managers will consult you about how much their security deposit costs so you can save it weeks or months before it’s due.
You might get your security deposit back when you move out, but that’s not guaranteed. Landlords set it aside to cover damage repairs and carpet replacements between tenants.
5. Budget for utilities
Utilities are a big part of renting a student apartment in college and after graduation. Some communities include your water bill in the rent, but others will make you pay the utility companies directly.
After you know when you’ll move into your new apartment, contact the local electricity and water company to activate both on that date. Note their monthly due dates and write them into your budget so you never miss a bill after paying rent.
Read your lease carefully
As you discover what to know when renting a student apartment, don’t forget to read your lease carefully. There are some significant differences between on-campus and off-campus housing arrangements.
University housing offices offer move-out periods every few weeks so students can switch buildings if their roommates are terrible or the arrangement isn’t what they wanted. When you sign a lease, you have to stay there for the agreed period — typically six months, one year, or 13 months.
You may be able to move out halfway through in some situations, but you’ll also have to pay a hefty fee for breaking your lease.
You also won’t have the luxury of multiple deadlines to pay for your housing. Rent will come due on the same date every month. Missing it will cost penalty fees or possibly eviction, whereas a university might work with you to update your payment schedule.
Renting a student apartment in college can be easy
These are just a few things to know about renting a student apartment in college. Take notes and remember to research everything while comparing available units. When you have enough time to save for your initial payments and understand what you’re signing, living off-campus will be a great experience.
Ginger Abbot is a lifestyle, learning and career writer with a passion for studying abroad. Read more of her work on Classrooms.com.