Frequently Asked Questions
off-campus student living
Begin your search early; up to three months in advance if possible. This “head start” will allow you to: (1) Research the local rental housing market and familiarize yourself with areas where you do and do not want to live. (2) Seek out and interview potential roommates (be certain to exchange information on living preferences and expectations before moving in together). (3) Explore Boston College’s online listings of properties posted by local landlords and real estate agents. (4) Conduct a thorough apartment hunt, find trusted real estate agents, and connect with potential roommates.
Yes. Off-Campus Student Living hosts several off-campus information sessions in September to educate students about the process of moving off-campus. Off-Campus Student Living also hosts off-campus housing fairs in the fall and spring semesters (typically October and February) to help connect students with local rental agents and staff from the Office of Residential Life. BC also hosts a fair in the summer (June) for students in graduate or professional programs.
There are lots of things to look for when viewing an apartment. Some are seen and other unseen. Plumbing: Is there pressure in all the taps? Can you get a decent shower? Do you notice any water marks? Noise: How noisy is the floor? Appliances: Do they all work? Heat: Can you regulate the thermostat control or does the landlord? Is there adequate insulation? Others: How adequate are the locks on the doors and windows? Where will you park your car? Of what quality are the furnishings (if any)? Does the building have smoke detectors and sprinklers?
No, it is not necessary to use a rental agent to rent an apartment. Leases can be signed directly with landlords without using a third party. Searching for apartments without the aid of a rental agent can sometimes be more stressful and time consuming. Keep in mind that if you view an apartment with a rental agent and decide to rent that apartment, you must use the rental agent and cannot rent directly with the landlord. Most agents will charge a commission fee of one month's rent.
You can expect a willingness to patiently explore all housing options for your group and answer any and all questions prior to your appointment. Your rental agent should provide well-organized and coordinated appointments to view all options in a timely and efficient manner, including pick-up and drop-off at your home/campus. You should receive an honest appraisal of demand and competition for the apartment or house you choose, including the “exclusivity” of the listing. Rental agents should provide a diligent effort to collect all required application materials for presentation to the landlord. They should give accurate and timely responses provided regarding your application status. Once you are approved for housing, they should prepare the lease and circulate it to parents for review and co-signature and be available to parents to answer any and all questions. They should provide efficient billing and funds collection of all landlord deposit monies and realtor fee.
If used responsibly, Craigslist can be a valuable tool. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using Craigslist: (1) Never exchange money before viewing the apartment in person. (2) Always make payments in a trackable form (i.e. checks , get a receipt for any cash payments). (3) Never visit an apartment or meet someone from Craigslist alone. Always bring a friend and tell others where you are going. Arrange all meetings during daylight hours and in an area you are familiar with.
The City of Boston has a zoning ordinance that prohibits more than four undergraduate students from living together in a house or apartment. We strongly urge our students to follow this ordinance, as failure to do so can create unsafe living conditions and be the source of large social gatherings, which invariably draw the attention of the Boston Police. While some rental agents and property owners have encouraged students to by-pass this ordinance by putting only four names on a lease, we discourage students from participating in this practice because it is not in compliance with the zoning ordinance, and is not in the best interest of our students. For more information about this zoning ordinance click here.
In order to place an apartment “on hold” your group will need to complete a rental application and present a deposit check(s) equal to one month’s rent. This deposit should not be released to the landlord until after you have been approved for the apartment.
All students seeking an additional semester or year of housing must submit a housing appeal through the Agora Portal. Appeals are reviewed on a rolling basis by a committee of professional staff members from the Office of Financial Aid, Health Services, Disability Services, and Residential Life. Please note that demand for university housing far exceeds availability, and as a result Residential Life’s ability to grant additional semesters/years of housing is extremely restricted. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions regarding your appeal.
The majority of students receive three years of university housing, with the year off-campus to be taken in their junior year. If students with three years of housing decide to live off their sophomore year, they must also live off their junior year (i.e. the junior year off is non-transferable). The housing guarantee for students can be found in their admissions letters, but you can also call Students Services at 617-552-3300 or 800-294-0294 if you are unsure.
Most undergraduates have their off-campus housing arrangements settled about three months prior to their scheduled move-in date. However, every situation is different and many students find housing in the months and weeks leading up to the start of the academic year.
Despite the rush of many undergraduate students to sign leases very early in September, it is not necessary. Housing becomes available on a rolling basis throughout the year. Students that rush to sign leases a year in advance often miss great opportunities that become available later in the academic year. All students should take plenty of time to learn about the apartment search process and attend an off-campus information session.
In Boston, a minimum lease period of one year (September 1 to August 31) is typically required. Please note that undergraduate classes begin before September 1. Fall 2018 classes begin on Monday, August 27. Therefore we encourage students to discuss or negotiate an early move-in date with landlords, property managers or real estate agents prior to signing a lease. If you plan on subletting, check your lease to make sure it is allowed.
A guarantor is someone who signs the lease with you and takes on your financial obligations under the lease. If the rent is not paid on time the landlord can come after the guarantor for the money. The guarantor doesn't actually become a tenant or live in the apartment with you. Often a renter's parent acts as a guarantor, assuming the parent has good credit and is in a sound financial situation. Landlords and brokers often use the terms "co-signer" and "guarantor" interchangeably.
If you do not have a regular source of income that can provide you with the means to pay your rent or do not have a good credit history, it is likely that you will need a co-signer or guarantor. Most apartments rented to undergraduate students require a co-signer or guarantor for these reasons.
Many student tenants go abroad for a semester or go home for the summer but cannot break their lease agreement. In these situations tenants often sub-lease their living space to another person for a certain period of time. This sublettor then typically pays the original tenant who then pays the landlord. Sometimes the sub-tenant pays the landlord directly. Most leases and written agreements prohibit subletting without the landlord’s permission. This means a tenant cannot add or replace roommates without the landlord’s prior approval.
Yes, within 30 days after the lease is signed, the landlord is required to provide you with a copy for your records. If they do not give you a copy within 30 days, they can be fined up to $300, which you can collect.
Yes. Although the most common lease run for a full year and begin on September 1st, it is possible to negotiate a short term lease. Keep in mind, the cost of rent is often higher for short term rentals. Other options include subletting for one semester or renting a room in a private home where the landlord may be more flexible with move in and out dates.
Finally, an option of increasing popularity is pairing up with a friend that will be living off-campus for the full year. In this arrangement, the friends can share a bedroom for one semester and when the short-term roommate moves out the other stays and can continue to afford the rent without needing to find a direct roommate. Often the short-term roommate offers to pay more than their fair share for the few months that they share the bedroom.
As with any contract the tenant can break the lease. However, the tenant will be responsible for the landlord’s damages (unpaid rent). A landlord must reduce the damages by trying to rent out the place as soon as possible. If you must break your lease, try to find someone else to move in your place. If you do, the landlord will have no damages, and then cannot sue you.
Try not to sublease the place but have the new person sign a new lease. If you must sublet, do so with the landlord’s written permission but realize you are still responsible under the lease. This means that you have to pay the rent if the new persons does not. If you rent on a month-to-month basis, you can move out after you give a written notice 30 days in advance to your landlord. The landlord can also give you a 30 day notice to move for no reason if you are on a month-to-month lease.
The cost of utilities varies widely depending on the type of heat and what is included in the lease. If you are in a multi-unit, radiator-based building, there will almost certainly be no extra charge for heat, however if you rent out an entire home, you may be responsible for paying it. Oil can be quite expensive and vary based on the quality of insulation, and the efficiency of the heating mechanism. One good way to find out is simply to ask the landlord or previous tenant, since each building will be different in its utility costs. In general, expect to spend on utilities an amount equal to about 20% of your monthly rent if you live alone, or about 10% of your monthly rent if your live with roommates.
On average, students in shared (with housemates) off-campus living situations are spending between $750 and $950 each per month for rent. This typically does not include utilities. Living off-campus enables students to find a wide range of housing options with greater financial flexibility than living on-campus. The average on-campus cost for returning students for 2017-2018 is $14,783 for room and board for the nine month academic year ($1,643/month) and $14,142 ($1,571/month) for incoming first-year students. For a rental cost comparision based on location and accomodaiton type, click here.
Most landlords will require the following: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit of equal to one month’s rent. Each landlord requires his/her funds at varied intervals, but generally these payments must be completed prior to departing at the end of the academic year. If you use a rental agent, then a there is an additional realtor’s fee, typically equal to one month’s rent, that is collected by the rental agency.
Most landlords renting to undergraduates require a security deposit. These funds are held in a separate interest-bearing account and are used by the landlord to cover the cost of damages to the unit or unpaid rent at the end of the lease term. The cost of repairs attributable to normal wear and tear is not deducted from the security deposit. The return of your security deposit will include any interest earned on the funds during your tenancy.
If a landlord or agent takes a security deposit, he/she must give you a signed, separate statement of the present condition of the apartment, including a comprehensive list of any existing damage. The landlord or agent must provide you with this statement upon receipt of the deposit or within 10 days after the tenancy begins, whichever is later. More more details regarding security deposits, click here.
This fee is paid to the rental agency by you and your roommates. The fee represents the total compensation received by the agency for locating your apartment, negotiating and gaining the landlord’s approval, preparing and circulating lease documentation and coordinating your move-in. The fee is typically one month’s rent, but may be only ½ months rent, depending on the market.
Paying the last month’s rent upfront protects the landlord from a tenant leaving without paying rent for the last month of their tenancy. You should not expect to get this money back when you move out, but you also should not pay rent for the last month that you live in your apartment, as it has already been paid.
Unlike the security deposit, your last month’s rent does not have to be put into a separate account, but you are supposed to receive the interest it earns (up to 5%) from the account where your landlord placed it. You should also receive a written receipt from your landlord documenting the payment.
Tenants are the same lease are usually “jointly and severally liable” for the unit. What this basically means is that everyone on the lease is treated as if they are one entity. All tenants on the lease are equally liable and equally protected. What is also means is that if one roommate is unable to come up with their portion of the rent, the other roommates are responsible for making the full rent payment. For more information on joint and several liability, click here.
Security deposits should be returned within 30 days of the termination of tenancy. If the landlord does not return the security deposit within 30 days of the end of the tenancy (or the tenant disputes any deductions that the landlord made), the tenant should send a demand letter asking for the immediate return of the amount in dispute. The tenant should make three copies of the letter: (1) One for the tenant’s own records. (2) Another to be mailed to the landlord by first class mail. (3) A third to be sent to the landlord by certified mail (return receipt requested). In this manner, delivery and notice to the landlord can be confirmed.
If no payment is received after the tenant sends the demand letter, the tenant can proceed to court. The tenant may seek three times the disputed amount in damages (plus interest, court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees). The tenant may also seek triple damages if the landlord fails to hold the security deposit in a separate bank account or fails to transfer the security deposit to a successor in interest, such as a new owner of the building. For more information on security deposits, click here.
Parking and Transportation:
Parking regulations vary from town to town and from summer to winter. Most of the area around Boston College is "resident parking restricted." You can request a resident sticker through the City of Boston's website. Keep in mind, not only do you need a lease in the Boston, but your car must also be registered in your name and be insured in Massachusetts. The resident parking sticker fee is free, compared to a possible $20.00 parking ticket. Keep in mind, some towns do not allow any overnight parking. For more informaiton aobut parking, click here.
There are two main BC Shuttle routes to facilitate transportation around and between campuses. You can see the route and bus location using Transloc. The B Line of the MBTA's Green Line also makes its final stop at the foot of the Boston College's main (Chestnut Hill) campus.
Please visit our roommate and apartment database to create a profile and search for roommates using the "roommates" tab. We also recommend utilizing your social networks for additional help in connecting with other students.
Roommate conflicts are a common occurrence for student and non-student tenants alike. It is a good idea to come up with a roommate agreement in writing at the start of your time living together. The agreement can outline cleaning duties, paying bills, guests policies, noise, and use of the common space. Putting responsibilities in writing may help to avoid problems later.
Other remedies include having a friend mediate a resolution to the conflict or seeking out the Office of Residential Life or the Office of the Dean of Students for assistance with a roommate who may need additional support that you are unable to provide.
Off-Campus Student Living hosts many events throughout the year specifically for off-campus students. Our goal is to help promote a community feeling for students living in the neighborhoods and help inform students about events happening in Boston and on-campus. Students are encouraged to visit our events calendar to find our off-campus events or follow Off-Campus on twitter @BC_OffCampus to stay informed.
In an effort to improve the efficiency of city agencies and protect the health, safety, and welfare of students, neighborhood residents, and property, Boston requires all universities to submit the local addresses, statuses (undergraduate or graduate), and expected years of graduation of all students residing off-campus (student names will be omitted when submitted to the city). At the start of each semester our office emails students living off-campus to quest that they log into their Agora Portal and follow the prompts to submit their local (off-campus) address. Failure to submit accurate off-campus addresses result in a holds being placed on student accounts and hinder the university’s ability to locate students or their roommates in the case of an emergency.