Off-Campus Housing

Where to Start

Before deciding to move off campus, check out these resources to learn more about the apartment search process, including what to look for in an apartment.

There are many things to keep in mind when you are looking to rent an apartment for the first time. Here are some questions to consider before starting your search:

  • What is your monthly budget?

    Knowing your budget early on will help you determine the price range you should stick to when searching for apartments. You may also find that you will need to live with roommates or look for a part-time job to live in certain apartments.

  • Who will you live with?

    You can choose to live by yourself, with friends, or look to rent a room in an apartment that is renting other rooms to other tenants. It’s important to decide this ahead of time so that you can narrow down your search criteria.

    When deciding how many roommates to have, keep in mind that no more than 4 full-time undergraduate students may live in the same apartment in the city of Boston.

  • How many bedrooms do you need?

    Once you know who you’re going to live with, it’s important to determine if everyone is looking for their own room or if some friends are willing to share a space. For those looking to live alone, are you interested in a studio apartment (where your rooms are connected and there usually isn't a defined living space) or a 1-bedroom apartment (where there is a defined bedroom and another defined living area)?

  • What kind of neighborhood would you like to live in?

    This will help you determine the cost of rent and if you need to look into how you will travel to campus if it isn’t close by.

  • Do you need parking or access to a T station?

    It’s important to decide if you’ll have a car that you’ll need to park or if you’re going to take public transportation to campus. Keep in mind that not all neighborhoods have street parking, and some apartments charge a fee to rent a parking space. Be sure to budget gas, T-passes, and parking into your expenses.

  • Will you have a co-signer?

    A co-signer is someone who also signs a lease, becoming legally obligated to pay your rent and fees if you become unable to do so. Landlords will ask for someone to have a co-signer if that person either has a bad credit score or limited credit history. It’s important to ask a potential co-signer about how much they’re willing to sign for, as that will affect your rent price range.

  • Other Things to Consider
    • Where you will live and store your belongings until your lease starts.
    • Standard leases usually start on September 1 and go through August 31. If you know you can’t make this full commitment, it’s important to speak with your landlord and make alternative arrangements before signing your lease.
    • Where you will get furniture (most apartments come unfurnished).
    • How much you will need to budget to cover the upfront expenses.
    • Renter’s insurance.

Apartment Search

There are 3 main ways that you can search for an apartment: completely on your own, use a realtor, or a combination of both. There is no right or wrong way to search. It’s really just a matter of preference, with the self-guided search taking time and organization, and a realtor usually having a cost involved.

  • The Self-Guided Search
    • The Residence Life Office's listings binder: Stop by the Residence Life Office (9 Mellen Street) and look through listings posted by members of Lesley and the greater Cambridge community.
    • Word of mouth: Ask friends who have moved off campus about their experiences and if they know of any openings.
    • Apartment search websites, such as:
  • Hiring a Realtor
    • Qualities to look for in a realtor:
      • Up-to-date real estate license
      • Listens and answers questions
      • Explains fees upfront
      • Written list of services/due dates/fees
      • Shows available properties
      • Good reputation and reviews
      • Has a physical office location
    • Local realtors and resources:


    Most realtors charge a Broker Fee, which is usually one month's rent; it can be negotiable, so be sure to speak about it before signing a contract. A realtor must be licensed to charge a Broker Fee.

  • Beware of Scams
    • Never rent an apartment you can’t view in advance.
    • Never wire funds via Western Union or MoneyGram.
    • Never give out personal information (bank account numbers, credit card information, etc.) through email.

What to look for in an apartment

When you’re looking for an apartment, be sure to think of all of the everyday things that you do and use in your current living space.

  • Checklist of Things to Look for:
    • Structural elements
      • Everything should be in good repair, such as walls, floors, ceilings, etc.
      • Staircases must have hand rails
         
    • Electricity and wiring
      • Check to make sure you have enough outlets in each room
         
    • Ventilation
      • Each room should have either a window or a mechanical vent
         
    • Kitchen equipment
      • It’s not required that a kitchen must have a refrigerator
         
    • Water Pressure
       
    • Safety
      • Are there safety exits?
      • Does the apartment have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
      • Do all the doors and windows have locks?
      • Is there good lighting in the building and outside?
      • Is there roof/ally access?
      • How far is the walking route to the T and campus?
         
    • Transportation
      • Where is the closest T station or bus stop?
      • Is there parking?
      • What are the local parking laws?
         
    • Utilities
      • What utilities (heat, electricity, gas, etc.) are included in the rent, if any?
      • Can I control my own heat?
      • Does the apartment come furnished?
         
    • Resources
      • Is there a washer and dryer provided in the apartment or building?
      • How close are the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, and/or laundromat?
      • Is there enough space for storage?

Rental application

A rental application is used by landlords to determine if a potential tenant has a good credit history before offering to draft a lease for a rental property. By completing a rental application, you’re allowing a credit background check for you and any of your co-signers.

  • A Standard Rental Application Includes:
    • Employment
    • Income
    • Credit reference
    • Social security
    • Past evictions
    • Bank accounts
    • Personal references
  • Place of Residence Reference

    Some rental applications also ask for a Place of Residence Reference. This reference comes from either a current landlord (if you are already renting an apartment off campus) or from the Residence Life Office (if you are living in a residence hall).

    To obtain a Place of Residence Reference from the Residence Life Office, contact us at reslife@lesley.edu with "Place of Residence Reference" in the subject line and allow at least 5 days for a response.

    The message should include:

    • Your full name
    • Your current hall
    • Your realtor (if you used one)
    • Contact information for the reference recipient

Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is usually a one-year legally binding contract stating that you are allowed to live in a rental property owned by a landlord, and promise to pay rent and follow any rules set forth by the landlord. While the lease agreement is written by the landlord and is to ensure that all of his/her terms are met, it is also a place for you to see up front what those terms are and ask for any clarification before signing.

  • Before Signing a Lease Agreement
    • Weigh all of your options
      • Once you sign a lease agreement, it is legally binding for the dates listed
         
    • Ask to see the apartment one more time with the landlord
      • Take photographs and note any damage
         
    • Read everything carefully
      • Be sure to check all dates, costs, and clauses in the addendum
      • If you don't understand something, ask before signing
         
    • Have all promises about changes or repairs in writing
  • Components of a Lease
    • Name of all tenants and landlords
      • It’s important to have tenants listed on the lease to ensure that all roommates equally share responsibilities for what is on the lease (including paying rent).
         
    • Contact information for repairs
      • It’s important to know ahead of time who you should contact in case your rental unit needs repairs.
         
    • Description of apartment, appliances, and amenities
      • Be sure this section is as detailed as possible. It should include how many rooms are in your rental unit, if you share any amenities with other tenants, which appliances are in the rooms (and the condition of each), and any defining features of the rental unit.
      • It’s suggested that before you move in, that you take photos and give a copy to the landlord when turning in the lease agreement.
         
    • Rent, due dates, and late fees
      • It’s important that rent, due dates, and late fees are well documented before signing a lease. This way, you know ahead of time when your rent is due each month and what the consequences are if you are unable to pay your rent by that time.
      • It’s important that this is also documented, so that the rates don't change without any prior notice.
         
    • All "promises" about changes or repairs
      • If you did a walk-through of the property with your landlord before signing a lease agreement (which is highly recommended), and noticed that a few things needed to be modified or repaired, be sure to have those promises for repairs marked on the lease agreement.
      • It’s important to not only note the promise for repairs, but also have a firm due date by which all repairs must be fixed.
         
    • Addendum
      • An addendum to a lease agreement is a section for any special terms, rules or agreements.
      • Be sure to read these carefully. Many times there are clauses relating to high levels of noise, where trash needs to be taken, and times when the landlord can enter your rental unit.
  • Security Deposit

    A security deposit is usually also covered when going over a lease agreement. It is usually due before move-in and covers any damages that occur after move-in and if a tenant leaves an apartment owing rent.

    A security deposit cannot, by law, exceed one month's rent. When paying your security deposit, be sure to get a receipt that includes the amount you paid, the date, the bank name of where it is going, and the account number.

    At move-out, you, as the tenant, are owed your full deposit plus interest, if no damage occurred, within 30 days of the end of the lease agreement.

Move-in Day

September 1 is a very busy day in Cambridge and the surrounding areas due to swarms of college students moving back to the area and into their apartments for the upcoming academic year.

  • Tips for a Smooth Transition into Your New Apartment
    • If your travel plans are flexible, ask your landlord if you can move in either the day before or the day after September 1.
       
    • Be sure to make any moving truck/mover arrangements as early as possible.
      • Since many students are moving at the same time, some moving companies are unable to take any more requests months before September 1.
      • Some prices also go up as it gets close to September 1, so booking early might save you some money.
         
    • Make arrangements for utility and service set-up.
      • For your utilities (gas, electric, heat), you’ll have to speak with your landlord to determine if he/she will take care of utilities for the whole property or if you’ll need to call on the behalf of your rental unit.
      • For cable or internet service, call ahead as there is usually an initial set-up that needs to be scheduled, where someone will come into the apartment to install the service equipment when you are present.

Disclaimer:

Lesley University and the Office of Residence Life are not responsible or liable for the consequences of any off-campus student housing arrangement, and the university assumes no responsibility for contracts/leases between individuals. Furthermore, the University does not go out and inspect said premises.

Inclusion of any property, rental unit, or third-party website in this presentation does not constitute, and shall not be construed or reported as (1) an endorsement or approval by Lesley University of the landlord, its properties, or its business practices, or (2) a warranty or representation by Lesley University as to the quality, safety or other features of such property and/or its owners or management agent(s).

We are simply supplying information to help students with their transition to moving off campus.

All prospective tenants are encouraged to exercise their own good judgment and contact their attorney or advisor when evaluating a prospective rental unit or landlord.