The basics
Study abroad : Student Accommodation

Tips when renting off-campus accommodation

When renting off campus properties, there are a few terms and agreements that you should be aware of. Check out what you should be expecting and what to look out for here...

Student moving into new place

Finding an apartment that suits you can take weeks or months (and after you finally find your apartment, you won’t be able to move in right away). You can expect quite a lot of hurdles, from when you are viewing properties until when you move in.




Before renting a new place, you should inspect it carefully. Take notes about what you like or did not like about it – perhaps take some pictures on your phone to remind you of what the place looked like.

Here are some things to look for and inquire about: lighting; location of outlets and how many; locks on doors and windows; the water pressure; the condition of the appliances; and if there are maintenance staff on hand. It’s very important to know if the rent includes heating, water, electricity, TV package or internet connection; but more important is to know what are the average utility bills in the building. Also, drive or walk around the neighbourhood to see if it feels safe and survey the noise level.



Filling Out the Application

The first step, of course, is filling out the rental application. In more urban areas, it’s usually a good idea to do this as soon as possible after finding your desired apartment, since landlords will continue showing the property until someone has officially applied. On the application you should expect to include all of your personal information, including either a social security or driver’s license number, along with employment information and references. Some landlords will also ask for an application fee once you have started or completed your application.


Proof of Income

Most landlords include an area on the application for your monthly income, and they will almost always require you to provide proof. It’s a good idea to bring two or three recent pay stubs along when looking at or applying for apartments so you have that proof on hand.


Credit Check

When applying for the apartment, you’ll also have to give the landlord permission to check your credit. The credit check is pretty valuable to landlords because it gives them an idea of how financially responsible you are. If you don’t have credit or have really new credit, it’s a lot harder for them to get a feel for your dependability, so it’s a good idea to talk to them about it at the time of application. They may ask you to provide a co-signer or depend solely on your roommate’s credit.



A guarantor is a third party, such as a parent or close relative, who agrees to pay your rent if you don’t pay it. Your landlord can ultimately take legal action to recover any unpaid rent from your guarantor. Your landlord may want to check that your guarantor is able to pay the rent in the same way that they’ve checked your ability to pay. For example, by carrying out a credit check. There is a legal requirement for a guarantee agreement to be in writing. The agreement sets out the guarantor’s legal obligation. Most landlords will prefer a guarantor in the country that you are residing in because it is easier for them to take legal action when both parties are in the same country. However, if you cannot provide a guarantor, some landlords will ask you to pay more rent in advance. Otherwise the option to apply for a guarantor loan in the country where you will be residing is also an option.



Security Deposits

Most landlords require a security deposit to cover the cost of unpaid rent charges and repair of tenant-caused damages. At the end of you tenancy the landlord is required to refund your security deposit or submit a written itemized accounting of the money that is withheld. The landlord is required to return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the time that the tenant gives up occupancy and terminates the rental agreement.




A lease is a basic agreement between you and the property owner. This agreement can be made in writing or orally. Whether it is written or oral, a lease is a legally binding document which is enforceable through the legal system. If you move out before the end of the lease period, depending on the landlord, you may be legally responsible to pay for the remainder of the lease, even though you do not live there any longer.



It is very important to thoroughly read all of the documents throughout the rental process to ensure that you know what to expect when the monthly billings come about. Always ask your landlord first when it comes to utility problems or accidents, and make sure to take pictures of the apartment when you move in to make sure you are not charged for anything that you are not responsible for. 

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About Author

Student moving into new place

Alyson Blech recently graduated with degrees in Public Relations and Media Studies, along with minors in Journalism and Art History from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Alyson has lived in Iowa her entire life, but decided to cross the pond to gain internship experience in London, England. In her spare time she obsesses over dogs, pizza and zumba.