Steps to Finding a Place to Live

There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a place to rent off campus. Here are some of the most important ones.

1. Determine your budget. What is the total amount you are willing to spend per month?

Remember that utilities, food, parking, and other factors will affect your monthly totals, beyond rent.

2. Determine how many roommates you would like to have. Are you willing to share bedrooms, or will you want your own? How many bathrooms do you want to have?

  • Remember that Pennsylvania law prohibits more than 3 unrelated people living in one unit. If you have more than 3 people in your rental home, there will be people who are not on the lease. This is a risk to all of you, as those not on the lease are unprotected and those who are take all legal responsibility if anything were to go wrong. If a roommate who is not on the lease decides not to pay rent, those who are on the lease have no choice but to pay that extra portion.
  • There are other things to consider when living with multiple people, like space in common areas such as the kitchen, number of parking spaces available, and more.

3. Determine what locations you are willing to live in. Do you want to be able to walk to campus? What bus lines are nearby? Do you want to live in a more residential area or around more restaurants and things to do?

4. Decide when you would like to move in.

Some students want to move in right before class starts, while others might want to spend a few weeks in Pittsburgh before class. Most rental companies and properties that are typically rented to students have leases that follow a school year schedule. Most leases also start near the beginning of a month, watch out for those that might start later than you expect. If you are moving from one renal to another, you might have a gap in your leases. Will you have a place to stay during that gap? What will you do with your things? Make sure you are checking any listing you look at to make sure that it will be available when you are ready to move in.

5. Start browsing online to find available properties.

A good place to start is College Pads, a company that works with the University of Pittsburgh and local property managers. This site also has roommate and sublease portals, which require logging in with your Pitt account for security. If you choose to use another source, such as Facebook, keep an eye out for scams. Ensure that you can find the unit listed elsewhere and that the pictures and contact information is up to date.

6. Reach out to the properties you are interested in to request tours.

Be sure that you are able to tour the specific unit that you would be renting so that you can see the actual space. Use this time to ask the rental agent or landlord all of your questions and take notes so that you can go back later to compare.

7. As you continue to tour homes and consider your options, don’t hesitate to reach back out to landlords if you have more questions. You don’t want to sign a lease with lots of unknowns.

8. Many properties will require an application to rent. Once you have chosen where you want to live, ask for an application.

  • Some applications come with fees – these are usually around $25, but can be higher or lower.
  • Applications generally include a background check and verification of income
    • If you do not meet the income requirement for the place you would like to rent, you will need a cosigner. This is a person who agrees to be responsible for missed rent if you miss a payment. Most students ask their parents or guardians to be their cosigners. Your cosigners will likely also have to submit an application.
      • In order to prove your income, you will need paystubs, tax documents, or an offer letter – or another proof of your consistent income.
      • This process will likely include a credit check.

9. Once you and all your roommates have completed their applications and have been approved, you should be sent a lease for review. Be sure to read over it thoroughly before signing.

  • Remember that this is a legally binding document that you are signing. Once all parties have signed, it is binding.
  • As you read over your lease, it is okay to suggest changes. If there are things you would like to alter about the lease, you can mark those changes and send it back for review. Just like you don’t have to accept everything in the lease, neither does your landlord. They may not be willing to change the things you want, so watch out for things that might be dealbreakers for you.
  • Check out our Lease Essentials list to see some common red flags in leases that you should watch out for. You don’t want to sign something that is technically not legal or will be very difficult for you to uphold.

10. Once you have signed the lease, you will probably be asked to pay a security deposit.

This is a sum of money that will be held until you move out and used to cover any damages you may inflict upon the property. Check for clauses in the lease that mention where the deposit will be kept and what damages you will be responsible for. Your security deposit can vary in amount, but common options are:

  • 1.5x rent
  • 1 month’s rent

11. Make sure you keep a copy of your signed lease to refer back to later.

Stay in communication with your landlord until it’s time for you to move in. You may want to ask for things like floorplans to plan furniture and other things you will want to bring with you.

12. Renters insurance is something important to consider getting when you move off campus.

Renters insurance protects you and your possessions from unexpected incidents like theft and fire. This is important because your landlord is not responsible for any damages to your belongings not caused by them. If an incident were to occur, your renters' insurance will cover a certain amount of money to replace or repair. Consider how much your belongings are worth in order to choose what sort of coverage you will want.

  • There are a variety of companies that provide rental insurance in the area. Compare prices and plans online and choose the option that works best for you.
  • Most basic level plans cost less than $10 per month and can be upgraded for coverage up to a greater amount.
  • Some rental companies may work with a specific renters insurance and it may be provided automatically
  • Some leases require that you obtain renters insurance