Looking for off-campus housing? We're here to help! Check out our YouTube Channel!
Looking for a sublet? Join our Canvas site to chat with your fellow classmates about spaces!
Join us Wednesday, November 16th at 6pm for our Off Campus Webinar with speakers from Residential Life and Financial Aid.
Students who are interested in living off-campus should review their budget and finances first to determine their price range. The typical rent per room in the surrounding areas is between $700 - $1000/month per person, not including utilities.
Wondering if your Financial Aid will cover the costs of off-campus housing? While Financial Aid is available for students living off campus, there are elements to consider such as the amount of aid you are eligible for, disbursement of funds, and up front costs for living off campus. You can find more information on Financial Aid regarding Off-Campus housing on our resources page as well as scheduling an appointment with your Financial Aid Officer.
Finding an Apartment
Ready to begin your off-campus search? You can start by visiting our Off-Campus Housing Website to look for current spaces available around campus.
How to Avoid Scams
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Educate yourself on common issues when renting. Read through our resources page for more information.
- Ask plenty of questions.
- Avoid paying any money upfront without seeing a location.
- Speak with the current tenants about their relationship with the landlord.
- Seek out assistance from the Office of Residential Life and Learning by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Understanding Town Zoning Ordinances
The cities of Medford, Somerville and Boston (in addition to other cities in the area) have local occupancy ordinances on apartments/houses with non-related persons. Each city has their own ordinance: in Medford, the limit is 3; in Somerville it is 4, in Boston it is 4, etc. On-campus housing owned by Tufts University can have more than 4 non-related persons living in them, because the university has obtained lodging house licenses for these residence halls. Failure to abide by these city ordinances could potentially result in fines and/or eviction.
To understand zoning ordinances, we suggest researching the local town website. You can also find more information on our resources page.
Need Help Navigating the Process?
Contact a staff member at email@example.com to set up an appointment, review a potential lease, or ask questions regarding your search.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I begin my apartment search?
Have you done your budgeting? If not, be sure to check out our Living Off-Campus Budget Worksheet, and start saving! Before viewing or signing a lease, be sure you are ready with the upfront expenses that may include first and last months rent, a security deposit and potentially a broker's fee.
Use this useful Off-Campus Housing Website to view and filter through housing options in the area or neighboring areas. If you're looking for some roommates, feel free to post your profile online and find other students in the area who may be looking for options as well.
- Make sure the costs for your space are in line with what you are comfortable and able to pay.
- Ask the landlord what utilities are included in the rent.
- If you have a car, ask if parking is included, or what the permit process may be in the area. Is the apartment close to "T" stops?
- Make sure that faucets work and that there don't seem to be any leaks.
- Are there means of egress in the apartment? Fire escapes?
- What's the neighborhood like? Nearby grocery stores? Are the streets well-lit at night?
- If you notice any issues in the apartment, bring them up. Is the landlord planning to fix those issues before you move in? Make sure that this information is noted in writing - whether in your lease or other means. Keep all documentation in a safe place.
Take one rule of thumb: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Some scams could include a price entirely too low for the neighborhood averages, photos that look very different from advertisements, or even requests to wire or send money before seeing the space. Ask friends, family, or a professional if you're not sure.
Be aware that many potential scammers are skilled at using some sites that you might consider to be a reputable source. Always be aware and ask many questions before handing over any money.
Common Red Flags to Help You Avoid Scams
- The landlord or property manager seems very eager to rent to you
- The apartment seems to have all the bells and whistles at an extremely low price
- Someone asks you to send money before having seen the apartment
- They do not require you to sign a lease
- The upfront fees are much higher than you expected (more than three times the monthly rent which would include first, last, and security deposit)
- Someone tells you not to contact the original person listed as the point of contact
*Educate yourselves on Tenant's Rights and Responsibilities in our Before You Move In handout and other resources on our site.
Not too early! Many students have begun looking for housing options well before they need to – many are signing leases up to a year in advance! Consider that things may change over the next year:
- What if you decide you want to live on campus after all?
- What if your friend group changes?
- What if your finances have changed?
- Did you decide you wanted to go abroad?
In addition, when you sign a lease a year in advance, you are agreeing to the state of the house or apartment at that particular time. If you choose to do this, be sure to carefully read your lease - some landlords include a clause that reads that you are taking the space "as is," but how could you really know how the space will look a year from now?
Myth: If I wait to look until March, I won't find anything!
Fact: There are many students who have started their housing search process some months prior and have found suitable spaces in the area. The other benefit of waiting is that the prices may drop!
A standard lease includes certain important information such as:
- Ensuring who is noted as the "parties" in the lease - you, your housemates, your landlord
- Location of the property and description
- Term of Occupancy (how long you will live there)
- Amount for rent and included utilities.
- Your lease will also note what utilities are the tenant's responsibility
- Security Deposits How to log maintenance requests
- Other Restrictions
Your lease may also include information about sublets. If it does not, it is a good idea to ask this question. If there are items in your lease that you are unsure of, do some research. Seek out assistance from ORLL with reviewing the terms of your lease.
If you do not have an already established credit history or are unable to fully commit to the cost of the rent for space, your landlord may ask you to seek out someone willing to co-sign for your apartment. This is to ensure that if you default on paying your rent, someone else will be held responsible for the past due charges. Be careful in who you select, and ensure that they are willing to co-sign for you. Co-signers will typically need to be included on the lease, as well as go through credit checks to prove that they are a responsible party.
I am going abroad. What should I do in this situation?
If you choose to live off campus during the year you are considering going abroad, you may run into a situation where you have signed a 12-month lease and will need to find a potential subletter. Ensure that your landlord is okay with sublet situations - usually, this will be listed in the lease and will require a separate application process that must go through the landlord. Before signing your lease, see if you have any friends who are also going abroad (in the opposite semester) to see if you might be able to swap spaces. If not, feel free to post your space here on the off-campus housing website offering a sublet space.
Students going abroad may consider (1) signing a lease for 12-months and seeking out a subletter for the remainder of their lease, (2) sublet a place themselves, or (3) apply for campus housing.
What costs are associated with living off campus?
Be prepared in knowing what costs are generally associated with signing your lease and agreeing to live in the space. Most landlords will require first and last month's rent, along with a security deposit (usually equivalent to one month's rent). If you are utilizing a broker, you may be required to pay a broker's fee, which is usually equivalent to one month's rent.
Ex. Rent is $900/month, Upfront Costs*: First + Last + Security ($900 x 3 = $2700).
*Add one month's rent if using a broker or seek negotiations with your landlord.
In many situations, you may be able to negotiate with your landlord. Talk to them about paying first and security, or perhaps just first and last. If you utilized a broker, see if your landlord would consider covering the broker's fee.
You should factor in such costs such as your monthly rent, utilities (that may include gas, electric, and in some situations water), Internet, food costs, and personal needs. Check out our Living Off-Campus Budget Worksheet to help consider your specific monthly costs.
Check with your individual savings institution for a more concrete answer to this question. However, generally, all associate college costs may be covered with a 529 College Savings Plan which may include rent, utilities, and meals.
What if I want to live on campus during my junior and senior years?
If you are interested in living on campus during your junior and/or senior years, be sure to apply for housing so that you are entered in our list for students who will be assigned a lottery or waitlist number. Students who receive a lottery number are guaranteed a space on campus; students who receive a waitlist number will need to see how occupancy looks around room selection time. Check out more information about the application and lottery process.
What if I want/need to get out of my lease?
A lease is a legally binding contract - if you break your lease, you are in breach of contract and your landlord could take you to court and sue you for the balance of rent owed. If you don't have a strong case/reason as to why you are looking to break your lease, or if your landlord hasn't agreed to let you out of your agreement, you could leave yourself susceptible to lawsuits and damaging repercussions to your rental history, your or your co-signers credit, and more.
Before considering breaking your lease, you could opt to see if your landlord/roommates are open to a sublet situation. This could prove an effort of good faith to the landlord that you are not trying to skip out on your obligations. However, there are also times when tenants have run into difficulties with their landlords and have sought out the option of breaking their lease.
Most leases will include a clause about Breach by Lessee, it may say something to the effect of
"failure to comply with the provisions set forth in this document may result in a 7- or 14-day notice to the Lessee to vacate said leased premises..."
These notices are dependent on the provisions breached and more than likely only cover early termination in the event the Lessee (Tenant) fails to meet a provision of the lease. However, it's important to know what your options are in the event your landlord fails to fulfill their part of the lease. Below is some general information about getting maintenance work done and early termination options.
Your landlord is required to provide certain maintenance work within a certain period of time after being notified about the issue. Review the Housing Code Checklist if you have maintenance items that have not been repaired within a certain period of time by your landlord. If your landlord has not resolved issues within your apartment, the law allows you to end your lease and move out. There are certain steps that you have to take before doing this, so be sure to do your research, try other options first, and consult professionals as needed.
Some General Tips
- Call your town's Inspectional Services Department - they can check your space for issues and help put a bit of pressure on the landlord to have the issues resolved in a timely fashion. They will also provide you with a report for your records. Locate information on our Resource page, under "Useful Community Resources." Be sure to document everything.
- If the issue hasn't been resolved, contact the Board of Health. If the landlord hasn't resolved the issue by this time, you can request a new inspection to be done. You can also start to consider whether or not to withhold rent*, have the repairs made on your own and deduct the costs from your monthly rent, break your lease, or take your landlord to court to have the issue resolved. Make sure that you do the proper research before taking these actions.
- Read this chapter via Mass Legal Help for more information on breaking your lease or withholding rent: Chapter 8: Getting Repairs Made.
Still interested in leaving? Talk to your landlord and see if they will agree to an earlier move out date. It's best that this is done in writing so that you have documented responses if something turns up later on about the situation. Sometimes, a landlord may ask for an early termination fee – it could be a cancellation fee, forfeiture of your deposit, etc. Talk more with your landlord to determine what terms may affect you if this is the case.
Important Terms to Know
Apartment / Unit
The full breakdown of space that you, and any roommates, are renting. This includes bedroom(s), kitchen, bathroom, living area, etc. If your apartment or unit is missing a bathroom or kitchen, it is likely not an approved unit.
Assigning your lease is a different process than subletting. Assigning your lease is turning over your responsibility within the lease to another person. This has to be approved through the landlord prior to making this movement.
The professional person assisting you or the landlord/property manager with finding an apartment or tenants for a given apartment. Broker's do a lot of work to help find suitable spaces or people for a given location. As a result of working with a broker, you may be responsible for covering the costs of the broker's fee, usually no more than one month's rent (i.e. if your monthly rent is $1,000/month, your broker's fee may likely be a flat $1,000. This cost varies based on rent prices).
The process by which a landlord, property manager, or broker will check your credit history to be able to tell if you are a worthy risk to rent to. People who have bad or little credit history may be required to seek a co-signer, or may be denied for the item for which they are applying.
A co-signer is a separate person who may be able to vouch or stand in place for a person who may have bad or little/no credit history. A co-signer is someone who will take responsibility for the cost of your debt should you fail to keep up with payments. Many times, a landlord or property manager will request that a co-signer also complete an application so that a credit check can be completed for them as well.
A deposit is a payment that a tenant places to both hold the unit, as well as cover any damages caused by the tenant during their tenancy. A security deposit must be placed in an interest-bearing bank account prior to occupancy. This information should be shared by the landlord to the tenant at the start of their tenancy. A security deposit cannot be used to cover unpaid rents, or to cover the cost of general wear-and-tear on items in the unit/apartment. A security deposit must be returned to the tenant at the end of their tenancy in addition to any accrued interest on the account.
Tenants who fail to abide by certain stipulations laid out within their lease run the risk of being removed from their unit. This process is called an eviction. The eviction process takes time and must be implemented by certain legal paperwork before it takes effect; however, if you are facing a potential eviction, you should seek professional legal advice regarding next steps or options.
Landlord / Property Manager
The person who owns or manages the space which you are occupying. This person may be the person you sign your lease with, who you pay your rent to, or who you contact in case of a maintenance issue.
Your actual contract held with your landlord or property manager. This document will contact information about the particular stipulations spelled out in your lease: the term of the lease, the price associated with living in the space, what the landlord is responsible for, what you as a tenant are responsible for, etc. This lease should contain certain information that is specific to tenancy laws in the state of Massachusetts, however, it may also contain an Addendum which would cover any additional stipulations that the landlord has requested of people living in their unit. This addendum must also follow Massachusetts law, however, is particular to your particular unit and landlord.
Most leases are 12-month leases, meaning that a tenant is approved and given permission to live in a given unit/apartment for that period of time. Sublets usually occur when that tenant is looking to not live in the given unit/apartment for a period of time during their lease (i.e. study abroad, summer, etc). In these situations, the tenant will need approval from the landlord, and potentially any housemates, to have a subtenant (subletter/sublessee) live in the space for that proposed period of time. Likely, a contract will need to occur between the tenant originally listed on the lease and the subtenant. This is different from an assignment as the original tenant is ultimately responsible for any charges/damages in the event that the subtenant does not carry out the terms of their lease.
Tenant and Tenants Rights
A tenant is a person who has signed a lease with a landlord or property manager and has been given approval to live in a given apartment or unit for a specified amount of time. The lease is something put in place to protect the rights of the landlord as well as the rights of the tenancy should either party default in their responsibilities regarding the unit/apartment. There are certain things that a landlord and tenant are separately responsible for while occupying a space - should there be any issues in the management or living agreement within a space, certain rights and laws are in place to help mitigate the process.
Particular cities or towns have different regulations regarding the amount of people living in a given space. For example, in the town of Medford, no more than 3-non related persons may live in a given unit. In Somerville, the next town over, no more than 4-non related persons may live in a given unit. These regulations are put in place for safety reasons and to protect those living in these areas.