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Tips & Useful Information for Successful Off-Campus Living

What to Know Before You Begin Your Search

Regardless of when you will be looking for an apartment, there are many things to consider in advance of your trip to Boston. Try to get a map of Boston and begin to familiarize yourself with the sections of the city. There are a number of websites that can help you such as: 

You can also get a map from The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (617) 227-4500, The Greater Boston Visitor's Bureau (800) 888-5515, or perhaps the Automobile Association of America.

Before you begin your search, think about the following questions

  • Do you want to be within walking distance from The Boston Conservatory?
  • Are you willing to commute by public transportation?
  • How much of a commute is acceptable?
  • Do you hope to find a place of your own (an expensive proposition) or are you willing to share an apartment?
  • Do you want a bedroom to yourself?
  • How much are you willing (or able) to spend on rent?
  • Are you interested in trying to find someone who already has a place and needs a roommate?

Many students don't try to find their own apartment. They prefer to look for someone who already has a place and needs a roommate. The best way to do that, of course, is if you have a friend who already lives in Boston. Perhaps you know someone from your area or country who is studying in Boston. Or maybe you have a friend or relative who lives in the Boston area. Any connection(s) you may have can be helpful.

What to Ask During Your Search

The following are questions and items to keep in mind as you look at apartments

  • Is the apartment near a supermarket, bank, laundromat, public transportation, or place of worship?
  • Can I do without a car? (recommended!) Is parking available on the premises or on the street? Will on premise parking cost extra?
  • What type of security measures exist (is there a peep hole, dead-bolt locks on door, lock on the entryway into building)?
  • Does the doorbell or callbox work?  Will I have to come to the door to let in guests?
  • Does the apartment need painting? If so, will the landlord pay for it? Will he/she provide labor and materials or just materials? What is the maintenance procedure in common areas?
  • Are there signs of bugs or rodents? (Check under sinks and kitchen cabinets)
  • Is there sufficient storage or closet space?
  • Are the appliances in good working order?
  • Are radiators or heat vents in good condition?
  • Are pets allowed?  Is there a fee for having a pet in the unit?
  • Is the water pressure from the sink and shower adequate?
  • What is the neighborhood like?
  • What is the procedure for reporting problems? Can I get help 24 hours?
  • Walk along the street at night. Are there enough street lights? Do you feel comfortable?

Making Financial Arrangements

Arranging the finances for an apartment you've found can be a little complicated. It is legal for a landlord to require you to pay your first month's rent, last month's rent, a realtor fee, and a security deposit (both up to a month's rent) in advance. Your payment will have to be done in some readily negotiable form. A personal check, particularly one from a bank outside this area, probably will not be accepted.

It is a good idea to set up a bank account in Boston in advance with your funds deposited in such a way as to be negotiable right away (i.e., without having to wait days for checks from home area banks to clear). Depositing your money by traveler's check, money order, bank wire, or some similar method will allow you to get the money (in the form of a check from a local bank) out of your account as soon as you need it.

The closest banks in the area with ATM accessibility are Bank of America and Sovereign Bank.

About Your Lease

There are five types of tenancy: 

TENANCY-AT-WILL - A tenant-at-will occupies a unit on a month to month basis, with or without a written agreement. Termination of tenancy may be undertaken by the landowner or tenant without reason, at any time. To terminate tenancy, written notice must be given 30 days or one full rental period under tenancy-at-will.

LEASES (most common) - A lease is a written agreement between a landowner and a tenant that allows the tenant to reside in an apartment at a set rent and under certain conditions for a specified period of time. A lease is legally binding for both tenant and landlord and cannot be easily broken.*

SUBLEASING - A tenant who sublets for any portion of time covered in the lease usually needs permission of the landlord. Under a sublease agreement the subtenant has the use of the premises, but the original tenant remains ultimately responsible for the rent and the condition of the apartment.

ASSIGNING - A tenant who wants to vacate an apartment without intending to return before the end of the lease may assign the lease to another person, with the assent of the landlord. The original tenant can still be liable for the apartment unless the landlord and the original tenant reach an agreement releasing responsibility.

TENANCY-AT-SUFFERANCE - When a person resides in a premise against the wishes of the landlord and without lawful right, the occupancy is a tenancy-at-sufferance. This is a temporary situation. The landlord will now proceed against the tenant for eviction. The tenant still has the obligation to pay rent.

READ YOUR LEASE! Remember that leases are written to protect the landlord more than to protect you, so read everything carefully before signing! If there is anything you do not understand, or if you find clauses confusing, ask questions. Most landlords use standard rental provisions. Make sure these provisions are clear. If there are any clauses you don't agree with, ask the landlord to delete that section, and both of you should initial the change. Any agreed additions to the lease should be written in and initialed by both parties. Put everything in writing and be sure to get a copy of the lease.

* Please note: As a student, you will be required to have a co-signer (such as a parent), who guarantees payment of the rent.

What to Do Before Signing the Lease

  • Check to make sure your lease includes the following information: 
  • Renewal terms, vacancy notice, and subletting rules.
  • Statement of who pays for electricity, gas, oil, and hot water.
  • Whether a parking space is included and if there is a fee (it should be written in the lease).
  • Make sure all agreed upon repairs are written into the lease before you sign it.
  • Explanation of landlord's right of entry.
  • Specific information on security deposit.
  • Exact due date for your rent, whether or not there is a grace period before it is officially considered late and whether you must pay any late fees when your check is late.

Moving Tips

Before Moving In

  • Be certain you are given a receipt for any money paid to the landlord and that this receipt states specifically what the payment was for.
  • Call utility companies and arrange for gas, cable/internet, and electricity. Don’t expect your landlord to do this if he/she is not paying for gas and electricity. A deposit is sometimes required.
  • Call your landlord to find out what phone company you need to go through and arrange for phone service. A deposit is usually required.
  • Obtain names and telephone number(s) of person(s) immediately responsible for the maintenance of the premises.
  • Arrange for the protection of your property in case of theft. If your property is not covered by your parents' home owners/renters insurance, you may want to obtain a "personal articles floater policy" to cover your valuable possessions.

After Moving In

  • Be courteous, always greet your neighbors when you see them in the hallway of your building or on the street, never pretend like you don’t see them.
  • Do your neighbor favors. Offer to carry groceries, hold doors, water plants or feed pets while they are away.
  • Inform your neighbors when you are having a big party, and break it up before two in the morning. Do not have more than two big parties a year. Keep parties inside the house or apartment.
  • Be a model musician. Some noises that may be commonplace to you, may be annoying to your neighbors. For example, most people can be understanding, but hours and hours of scales can tax on others’ nerves.
  • Hold your neighbor to the same high standards. If you have a neighbor who is noisy or otherwise difficult to live with, let your concerns be known. Politely ask the person to turn the music down if it bothers you. If your neighbor is extremely disruptive, consider informing the building management, the block association, or the police.


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