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Finding Off-Campus Housing

Evaluating Off-Campus Housing

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a home:

1. Consider the Cost

First, determine if you can afford the cost of living.

To do so, you will need to consider the following expenses:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Renters Insurance - A Must!
  • Food
  • Books
  • Parking
  • Other living expenses (toiletries, clothes, supplies, etc.) 

You should utilize a budget to keep track of your money. When renting a property, utility costs are often not included in the rent cost. Utilities can vary a great deal based on the type of unit you are renting, the age of the building and many other factors. When living with roommates, Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services suggests budgeting an additional $150-$200/month per person for electric, gas, cable, internet and water. If you’re living alone, utility costs will most likely be higher.

2. Property Location

You should never live where you feel unsafe simply to save money.

  • Visit the property during the day, at night and on weekends to see if there is a major difference in the environment.  If there is a difference, make sure you are comfortable with this.
  • Talk to the current tenants and neighbors to see what their experience has been with the landlord and with the area.
  • Check out crime statistics for a particular area by visiting https://communitycrimemap.com/.
  • Talk to your friends if they live in the area. Often, they can be your best resource when trying to find a suitable off-campus property.
3. Landlord Reputation

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) publishes an annual Renter's Guide which contains a compilation of ratings from students renting from many local area landlords. If you want to find out more about landlord habits, talk to current tenants to find out what their experience has been with the landlord and ask questions such as:

  • Was the place ready to move in at the start of the lease term?
  • Does the landlord make repairs in a timely fashion?
  • Does the landlord provide 24-hours’ notice prior to entering the premises?
  • Is the landlord respectful and easy to work with?
  • Would you rent from this landlord again?        
  • Does the landlord participate in the Off-Campus Housing Excellence Program? Visit Safety to learn more.

For more information on the USG Renter's Guide, visit “USG Renter's Guide”.

4. Getting Renters Insurance

Protect your belongings from fire, flood and theft by purchasing renters insurance.  Your landlord's insurance does not cover your personal property in the event it is damaged in a fire or stolen. Check with your auto insurance company or other insurance companies for a price quote. You can also ask your parents to see if their homeowner's insurance covers your property.

Also ask Student Legal Services to review your renters insurance policy (or any potential policy) to ensure that the policy covers your acts of negligence.  Some insurance policies will exclude your acts of negligence from coverage. For example, if an accidental fire occurs that leads to damaged personal property, you want to make sure you're covered. 

5. Subleasing

Need someone to take over your lease? You can advertise your property on our Off-Campus Housing Search after you are certain your landlord permits subletting! Our office defines a sublet as a completely vacant unit.

If you would like to advertise your sublet on our housing search, visit Sublet Your Apartment!

Keep in mind that you may still be held responsible for the rent and/or potential property damage when subleasing your rental unit to someone else. To understand the implications of subleasing, talk to Student Legal Services at 614-247-5853. 

Online Housing Search

Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services has a comprehensive housing search of properties available to use. Our housing search contains thousands of rental listings and landlord contact information. Please keep in mind that landlords and properties displayed on this online housing search are not university endorsed or approved. Most of the properties listed are located either in the University District – the neighborhood surrounding campus, within walking distance to campus – or in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Use our Housing Search for University District housing off-campus!

How to Inspect a Property

Before signing a lease thoroughly inspect the entire property. Below is a checklist to guide you with your inspection:

  • Turn on all faucets/showerheads to make sure the hot/cold water works.
  • Confirm that there is at least one smoke detector per floor, especially in or near each bedroom.
  • Check the thermostat and make sure the heat and air conditioning work properly.
  • Make sure there is a sufficient amount of outdoor lighting for your safety.
  • Open windows to check the condition of their hardware and to make sure they are not painted shut. Bedroom windows should be large enough to escape through in case of a fire.
  • Inspect the walls, floors and carpet for moisture damage or mold.
  • Make sure all exterior doors have functioning locks.
  • Check all appliances to be certain that they work.
  • Talk to the current tenants to see if they have had any problems or issues.

If you see any issues and/or needed upgrades, discuss each item with the landlord. If they agree to your requests, be sure to put each item in writing in the lease.

After inspecting the property, if you and your roommates are still interested in renting the property, request a sample lease from the landlord. Take the sample lease to Student Legal Services where staff will provide you with a lease review.

What to Expect When Signing a Lease

  • Although not all landlords have the same policies, renting requirements in the Columbus area are typically consistent.
  • Everyone on the lease may be asked to fill out an application which is usually associated with a $30-$75 fee per person. The landlord may also check your credit report at this time.
  • Most campus-area landlords require a tenant under the age of 23 to have a cosigner, often a parent/guardian.
  • Make sure all tenants and cosigners sign the lease and submit it together at one time.
  • Student Legal Services offers free lease reviews to students. This provides a great opportunity to learn everything about your lease. It is imperative that you understand a lease is negotiable, yet legally binding contract.

Once all documents have been signed, make sure each roommate keeps a copy. Save your own copy; do not depend on a roommate to retain these important documents for you.

A security deposit is refundable within 30 days after your lease ends, as long as:

  • You are up to date on rent
  • The property is returned in the same condition as it was received
  • You have provided a forwarding address to have the security deposit mailed to

You can protect your security deposit by:

  • Taking pictures and videos of the entire property prior to moving in
  • Documenting everything from floor to ceiling
  • Making a list of all repairs in writing and keep a copy for your record

Identifying Rental Scams

Use caution when you create roommate and sublet ads online. Sometimes scammers may try to contact you about your roommate or sublet ad in an attempt to steal your money and commit fraud.

Warning Signs

  • The individual is eager to send money to you directly for the apartment/room without seeing it, talking to your roommates or talking to your landlord
  • You receive a certified check or money order for more than the amount that you agreed upon with the subtenant
  • You are asked to wire funds or send money orders to the subtenant
  • The subtenant is not willing to provide basic identifying information
  • The subtenant asks you to handle the sublease without informing your landlord; this is typically done to sidestep the background check process

How to Protect Yourself

  • When possible, meet the person face-to-face in a public setting
  • Don’t wire funds and avoid cashier’s checks; any mention of money, money orders, cashier’s checks, wire transfers or bank accounts in the first email is very suspicious
  • Check the individual's references including past landlords or employers; search online for the person's name and email to identify past scams if any
  • Ask the individual for their phone number, full name and employer verification; if the individual becomes angry or won't give you information, it's probably a scam so stop communicating with the individual
  • Refuse to accept overpayment
  • Do not share your personal information unless you’ve confirmed the individual’s name and personal information

For more information about common rental scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page or contact Student Legal Services.