Guide to Living Off-Campus
Are you thinking about living off-campus?
- Do you want more independence?
- Are you ready for different financial responsibilities?
- Do you know how to cook?
- Are you able to communicate with neighbors, roommates, etc., without resident hall assistants (RAs) intervening in interactions?
- Do you know how and where to spend time between classes if it’s not convenient to go home?
- Are you able to return to campus for events, activities or study?
When living on campus, some of the concerns above are handled for you. The Office for Residential Life and Housing provides rooms that are already equipped with furniture and utilities. The food you eat is prepared for you. If there is a problem with your room or with a student neighbor, you simply contact your Resident Assistant (RA). During your free time, you can just go back to your room. If you are going to live off campus, these responsibilities will, in most cases, be your own, but we are here to help guide you through the process. Using this guide and having the experience of living off campus in college will better prepare you for your future post-college.
Consider the following topics when evaluating if off-campus living is right for you.
If you are going to live on your own, then the type of rental unit is up to you and other influencers in your life; however, when considering roommates, this becomes a more involved group discussion. There are many options to consider: apartment complexes, apartments in private homes given that they are legal, rooms in private homes, full houses and more. While most students may think that living in a full house with fellow students is an appealing option, you should understand that this option comes with more responsibility.
Do you want a private bedroom or do you prefer to share a room to cut costs, build relationships, etc.? If you are going to share a property, how many people do you want to share with? What person-to-bathroom ratio are you comfortable with? Evaluate all schedules and figure out what could work. Bathrooms and kitchens are the rooms in a household that are most susceptible to becoming a mess but also most important to keep clean. In most cases, more people means more mess.
If you will not be living on your own, then choose your roommates carefully. Eventually, you may need to sign a legal document with these people, so make sure they can cover their portion of the rent. Discuss how the group will handle dividing the rent and utilities. There are several ways to divide the rent, such as to divide it evenly per person or cost per bedroom according to size (square footage). Other matters to discuss include: cleaning responsibilities, household trash removal, bathroom use, kitchen use, common household supplies, food, guest policy, pet policy, shared appliances and furniture, noise levels and when quiet hours should be. In general, it is most important to clean up after yourself and respect the shared/common areas. Use a Roommate Agreement to outline each tenant’s responsibilities to one another under the lease agreement and general household conduct. The Office of Residential Life and Housing can assist with roommate mediation if all students involved are willing to work together in reaching a solution.
If you would like to keep your budget low and commit to a place individually, then a shared rental may work for you. A shared rental is a living situation where you would rent an individual bedroom and then share the common areas with others you may have never met before.
Whether you are paying the bills yourself or getting assistance from family, friends or others, evaluate what you can and cannot afford in order to set a budget for your search. One-bedroom apartments tend to be most expensive. Know that some areas may be more expensive than others in general. Don’t forget about utilities—understand that rentals usually do not include all utilities. You can ask property owners or managers what the estimated monthly cost would be or check with utility companies. You may also want to factor in the security deposit, transportation and grocery costs, and renters insurance.
Evaluate your needs and discover what areas might best meet your needs. Then research those areas and check out the neighborhoods of interest. Make sure the property is close to shops, grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and other retail services. If you are unfamiliar with your options, use your favorite mapping app to consider distance and commute times to addresses you frequently visit. If you do not rely on a car for transportation, then map out and see if public transportation is available or if walking or biking might be an option. To view the schedule for the Adelphi shuttle from major public transit locations, visit the Department of Public Safety and Transportation website. If you are going to have your private vehicle at your residence, be sure to understand where you can and cannot park in order to respect your community and to avoid tickets or getting towed.
Searching for home or apartment options can be difficult, so be sure to give yourself ample time. The general rule in real estate is to start looking a month or two months prior to your desired move-in date as units become available.
You should have your unit preference, roommate situation, budget and location sorted out before your search. Following graduation, many students will move as they find work opportunities away from their campus neighborhood, and the number of vacancies will likely spike. This could be a great opportunity to secure a place for the year to come, especially if you plan to live and work near the university during the summer.
Resources for searching include online listing services, local newspapers, word of mouth, etc. Some landlords might only post property with a physical “For Rent” sign on the unit, so, if you are very interested in a particular area, it might be advisable to patrol that area for signs. When you see a property of interest for rent, prepare to contact the landlord or manager immediately. In your email or voicemail, include the necessary details such as your name, unit description, contact information, etc. Speak clearly if leaving a voicemail. You will never be the only person inquiring about a given property and availability can change daily so do not be discouraged when hearing a property is no longer available.
Adelphi University has partnered with Off Campus Partners, LLC, to provide you with its Off-Campus Housing Listing Service,* an independent online listing resource through which property owners or managers with units in close proximity to the University can advertise listings. Students can search, save and compare favorites, view their search history, find roommates, get tips for living off campus and more. You can find this listing service at offcampushousing.adelphi.edu.
*The listing of rental units on this site is a service to local rental property owners and Adelphi University students, faculty, and staff. Rental property owners are responsible for reporting information fairly and accurately, and Adelphi University and Off Campus Partners cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of such information. Inclusion of any property or rental unit on this website does not constitute, and shall not be construed or reported as (1) an endorsement or approval by Adelphi University or Off Campus Partners of the landlord, its properties, or its business practices, or (2) a warranty or representation by Adelphi University or Off Campus Partners as to the quality, safety or other features of such property and/or its owners or management agent(s). Adelphi University and Off Campus Partners expressly disclaim any and all responsibility for any problems that may arise with regard to such property or rental units or with regard to disputes between landlords and tenants concerning such property or rental units. All prospective tenants are encouraged to exercise their own good judgment when evaluating a prospective rental unit or landlord.
Beware of rental scams, especially if you are an inexperienced renter. Criminals will try to steal funds through fraudulently collected security deposits and rent, or they may try to steal your identity with information gathered from fake applications. Please see this public service announcement from the FBI concerning rental and real estate scams.
Things to look out for:
- The price is too good to be true.
- There are high upfront fees.
- The rental unit cannot be shown
- Money is requested before you see the apartment.
- There is no professional online presence or physical addresses.
- Listing has a lot of errors, including grammatical errors.
- Check that neighbors feel the neighborhood or complex is safe.
Tips to avoid scams:
- Research the person or company posting the listing.
- Look for tenant reviews and information about the property.
- Never give any funds or sign a lease without seeing the property.
- Never pay cash and avoid wire transfers. Always pay with a method that would leave a paper trail.
Photos online can be deceiving, so visit your favorite listings and see if the property is a good fit. Your first visit should be during the day; be sure to be punctual, act professionally and dress appropriately. As a safety precaution, tell a friend where you are going, bring your cell phone, trust your instincts and have someone accompany you if possible. When you walk through the property, make sure to check the following:
- Look for safety features: doors visible from the road, doors have deadbolts, locks work, well lit at night, grounds maintained, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Check all appliances to make sure they are in good working condition.
- Check the plumbing in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas, etc., and pay attention to water pressure or any pipe leakage.
- Make sure your belongings will fit through doorways, stairways and in the rooms in which you plan to place them. Check closet and storage space options.
Questions you should ask are;
- Is this a legal dwelling?
- Are any utilities included in the rent? What does a typical utility bill look like each month? Can I see example bills?
- Can I see a copy of the lease?
- Can I decorate the space, such as by painting or hanging pictures and, if permitted, how?
- Where can I park a car or cars? Is there a fee?
- Where is the nearest public transportation stop?
- Is there a washer and a dryer? Is there a charge to use them?
- Is there a maintenance person on call? Is there an emergency phone number?
- What is the refund policy for security deposits?
- Is there a secure area for mail and incoming packages?
- What types of customizations can I make to a property (paint, nails for hanging pictures, etc)? Which ones are prohibited?
- Will facilities staff conduct inspections, and how much notice do they need to give?
- Are there any safety or health concerns associated with the property (mold, lead paint, etc)?
- When are quiet hours?
- Are there guest restrictions?
- Are there any fees associated with the rental that we haven’t discussed?
- Who is responsible for trash removal and recycling?
- Who is responsible for maintaining the outside of the property—watering grass, snow removal, etc.? If I am responsible, what is the cost for service?
- Do all bedrooms have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? If a visit goes well, follow up by going to the area at different times to see what the neighborhood is like at night and over the weekend. It is also wise to check crime statistics online. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the property again. Remember to know your budget and be prepared to move forward if you are confident about the property.
If a visit goes well, follow up by going to the area at different times to see what the neighborhood is like at night and over the weekend. It is also wise to check crime statistics online. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the property again. Remember to know your budget and be prepared to move forward if you are confident about the property.
Use the following list to determine the security of a prospective unit:
- Building and grounds are well maintained.
- Entryway, sidewalks and parking areas well lit.
- Parking is available close to the entrance of the building.
- Residents’ names (first and last) are not on mailboxes.
- Mailboxes are locked and in good condition.
- There is security at the front entrance.
- Entryways and windows are easily visible and not obscured by bushes.
- Curtains/shades/blinds are provided.
- Doors/windows are equipped with working and sturdy locks.
- Laundry rooms are well lit and secure.
- Apartment complexes provide security personnel and cameras.
- Be aware of roommates and their security habits (for example, locking the door).
- Turnover rate of residents is relatively low. (High turnover may indicate security problems.)
Most students will be unfamiliar with the terms of a lease. Both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities toward each other. A lease is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant which contains the terms and conditions of the rental. It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree in writing. Both parties need to agree (sign) to those terms prior to move-in. It is not wise to enter into any housing agreement without a lease. If possible, have a lawyer or another trustworthy qualified person review it before you sign.
The following are some local agencies to further educate you on legal processes:
- The New York State Attorney General – Tenants’ Rights Guide
- Metropolitan Council on Housing – Statutory Rights of Residential Tenants in New York
- New York Rental Lease Agreement Forms and Templates
- New York City Housing Preservation & Development
- New York City Rent Guidelines Board
In most cases, apartment complexes require new tenants to apply for housing so they can judge a tenant’s financial reliability in making monthly payments on time. This includes the landlord or manager asking for a credit report, rental history, identification, pay stubs or bank statements to demonstrate income, a co-signer references and criminal history.
A credit report is a document that lists a person’s debts and history of borrowing and repayment. Because many students do not have any credit accounts (for example, credit cards, mortgages, loans), they do not yet have a credit history to report. For this reason, a landlord or manager may ask you to generate more information as to where your funds are coming from or ask for another party to co-sign your lease on your behalf (Gaurantor). For more information on credit reports and how to get your first credit report free, visit the Federal Trade Commission or you can use a company like SmartMove to make sure you protect your personal information and your credit score. If you do not have a local party to act as your Guarantor then you can pay a company to do so. Insurent, the first and most trusted rental guarantor/co sign service, allows leases to quickly and easily close to the benefit of both renters and landlords. The Guarantors helps students, internationals and others get approved to rent an apartment.
If you have rented previously then a reference letter from your previous landlord(s) or property manager(s) will help. If you lived on campus prior to moving off campus you could request a reference letter from Residential Life and Housing.
Be certain you want the place and that you can afford it.
Carefully check out the property again. Look for any signs of water damage or mold. Make sure everything works properly, including appliances, toilets, showers, sinks, doors, windows, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, etc. Confirm the address and amenities offered are accurate. Be mindful of the security deposit. You are going to want to get this back after your lease has ended. A security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities of the lease performed (e.g., paying for damage caused by the tenant). Take photos that include time stamps and mutually agree with the landlord as to the condition of the premises prior to move-in or you may consider doing a walk-through video with the landlord. You may utilize the Rental Condition Checklist, that both parties—landlord and tenant—are to sign. Everything needs to be documented so make sure the deposit is not made in cash.
Things to file moving forward are: your original copy of the lease, receipts for rent payments and security deposit, and receipts and contracts from utility companies (some companies enable you to view these online).
Also get in writing any repairs that will be completed on the dwelling before you move in. This should include you asking the landlord to change the locks.
Be careful when moving in your furniture and other items. Do not damage the walls, door jams, carpets, etc. This also applies when moving out.
Renters insurance covers your possessions against losses from vandalism, theft and other damages. It may cover temporary living expenses if your rental is damaged. Renters insurance also covers liability if someone is injured on your property. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has information to help you choose an insurer in your state and learn more at Insurance Quotes for Renters Insurance. Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, insurance companies, online insurance quote services and consumer ratings. Shop around.
The Office of Residential Life and Housing strongly recommends that you purchase renters insurance.
Usually, landlords are responsible to supply tenants with heat and hot water, while the tenant is responsible to source the other utilities. Be savvy and conserve—you do not want the bills to get out of control. Here are some links for common utility needs:
Electric and gas
Internet, TV and phone providers
There are plenty of inexpensive retail stores nearby, such as Ikea, Walmart, Target, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Costco, Best Buy, and more, that offer what you need without breaking the bank. Shop around and look for deals. Purchasing secondhand furniture and appliances from private owners is popular today but it is important to look out for scams, your safety, bedbugs, etc.
If driving to campus, you must register your vehicle with the Department of Public Safety and Transportation, located in Levermore Hall, Suite 113.
Commuter Meal Plans are available for the time you spend on campus.
You are now living off campus and your neighbors will not all be college students. Make contact with your new neighbors and provide your information so they can contact you with concerns. Watch your noise levels! This is the biggest complaint and it is important to be mindful of this so neighbors do not contact the authorities. If you are going to have guests, keep in mind that you are responsible for them and their actions. Long-term guests will likely place you in violation of your lease; it is also not fair to any roommates you may have. They are paying to live with you, not you and your guest. Keep the property clean, including managing the trash removal and shoveling the snow. Be mindful that, although you are living off campus, you must still adhere to Adelphi University’s Code of Conduct.
There are some organizations that can assist you off campus with any conflicts that may arise. The Long Island Dispute Resolution Centers (LIDRC) provides conflict resolution interventions that help individuals, families, businesses and the community at large to resolve a wide range of disputes including neighbor disputes. Your local police precinct can also be a good resource.
You are now a commuter student and the University offers resources specifically for you. Visit Commuter Student Services or visit the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) in the University Center, Room 110 for more information.
- Call 911 for emergencies, when appropriate.
- Know which police precinct you are in and call it to report unusual behavior.
- Remember to always lock your house doors and windows, cars, etc.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Always identify visitors through the use of a peephole and never open the door for strangers.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicles (e.g., money or a GPS system).
- Insist on ample lighting surrounding your home or building.
- Make sure smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are installed throughout your home or apartment building.
- Ensure that there are proper padlocks and deadbolts on your doors.
Again, be sure the unit has functioning smoke detectors. Understand where fire alarm pull stations, fire extinguishers and exits are. Common fire hazards include improper use of extension cords, excessive items that may block paths, excessive combustibles, improper use of space heaters and going over capacity, so be sure to be mindful of those hazards. In case of a fire do the following:
- Get Out – Take all fire alarms seriously and get out.
- Don’t Stop – If you become aware of a fire or hear a fire alarm, leave the building immediately. Do Not Stop.
- Feel It – Feel door handles. If they are warm, do not open them. Find another way out of your room. If you can’t get out, signal for help. Phone for help. Go to a window and wave a white piece of cloth to attract attention.
- Take Your Key – While making your exit, take your room key in case you are forced to reenter the room due to impassable heat, smoke or fire.
- Close It – Close your room door behind you to prevent unnecessary smoke damage to your room.
- Stay Low and Go – Stay low in smoke, near the floor, where the cleaner and cooler air is found.
- Find the Door – Always use the closest exit or stairway as an exit route; never use elevators.
- Pull It – Activate the alarm pull station if you should pass it on your way out of the building.
- Don’t Go Back – Once Outside, don’t go back inside! Call 911.
- Stop-Drop-Roll – If your clothes are on fire, stop, drop and roll.
- Cool It – Cool burns with cool water and seek medical attention.