Finding a Place to Live

I have just arrived in the United States.What types of housing are available?

Students in America have several options. If possible, try to plan your accommodations at least three months in advance. Options include:

Dormitories (residence halls)
Dormitories are usually located on or very near the campus, making it easy for you to walk to classes. Meals and sometimes cleaning and linen services are provided. The large number of people living in the dormitories and frequent planned activities make it easy to meet new friends. However, dormitories tend to be crowded and noisy, making it difficult to study and find privacy.

Family housing
Some campuses provide housing for married students and their families at a low cost.

Fraternity/Sorority houses
Some fraternities and sororities own large houses where many of their members live together. You must be a member of the fraternity or sorority to live there.

Apartments may be located in another person's home or together in a series of similar rental units. Some large apartment complexes (groups of apartment buildings) have features such as laundry machines, parking, tennis courts, group meeting areas, and swimming pools.

Apartments often have one, two, or three bedrooms and one or two bathrooms, in addition to a kitchen and living room.

"Efficiency" or "studio" apartments provide an inexpensive alternative if you want to live by yourself. They are usually small, with living and sleeping areas combined into one room.

Apartments located near campus tend to cost more to rent than apartments farther from campus. Apartment management will limit the number of people permitted to live in each apartment.

Houses are usually expensive to rent unless you share expenses with three or four other people. Also, the cost of utilities (heat, electricity, water, and garbage removal) will usually be higher in a house, and you may be expected to care for the lawn or yard as well. As with apartments, houses closer to campus cost more, and the number of people permitted to live in them may be limited.

How do I find housing?

For information on dormitories and family housing, contact the international student office or campus housing agency.

For information on fraternity and sorority houses, contact the fraternity or sorority in which you are interested or the campus Hellenic (Greek) office, which will have information on all fraternities and sororities.

You may want to find a roommate with whom you can share expenses in an apartment or house, or you may be interested in renting a room from a family. If so, check bulletin or "notice" boards, or check your school and city newspapers under the "Roommates" or "Rooms for Rent" sections of the classified ads.

If you are looking for an apartment or house, you might consider the following:

What issues should I discuss with a potential roommate?

Before you move in with a friend, another student, or a family, you should discuss the following:

Where can I get furniture?

If you rent a "furnished" apartment, basic furniture, such as bed, couch, table, and chairs, will be provided. The rent will probably be slightly higher, but renting a furnished apartment may be worth the extra money if you plan to be in the United States only for a short time.

If you prefer to buy your own furniture, you may wish to check second-hand (used) or thrift (Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and so forth) stores, garage and yard sales, flea markets, bulletin boards on campus, and the newspaper classified ads section.

Another option, especially if you are living in the United States for a short time, is renting furniture. (For a listing of businesses that rent furniture, look under "Furniture Renting & Leasing" in the yellow pages of the phone book.)

What is a deposit?

A deposit is a sum of money paid by individuals living in a rented apartment or house to guarantee against damage to the building. If there is no damage and you clean the apartment or house thoroughly before you move out, your landlord or apartment manager should return most or all of the deposit. Most states require the landlord to return your deposit money to you within 30 days after you move.

What is a lease?

A lease is a written agreement, or contract, between the tenant(s) and the landlord. A lease usually states the following:

The rent amount per month.
When the rent is due every month. Unlike landlords in some countries, those in the United States ordinarily do not go around collecting rent payments. You are expected to take the rent to your landlord on or before the day it is due, or mail it early enough so it arrives by the day it is due.
The deposit amount.
How long you are required to stay (for example, six months, 12 months).
What utilities you are expected to pay.
How many day's notice you must give before moving out.
Rules you must follow (such as no pets).
Services the landlord agrees to perform (such as yard work or repairs).
Other conditions you and the landlord agree to follow.

Your lease is a legal, binding contract-make sure you read it carefully before signing it.

Do all apartments require you to stay for a certain amount of time?

Few landlords rent by the month. Most require you to stay for six months, one year, or for the school term. Often the landlord will require you to pay the first and last month's rent in advance. If you move out before the date agreed upon in the lease, you may lose the money you paid for the last month, or you may be required to pay rent for the entire time of the lease, even though you won't be living there.

It may be possible to have someone else live in the apartment under your lease (this is known as "subleasing"), but you will still be responsible to pay for any damage. Before subleasing your apartment, check your lease contract to see if you are allowed to do so.

What if my landlord isn't being fair?

In such a case, you can seek help from the student legal service or attorney at your school or from the Community Legal Aid Society.

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