In this section, you'll find a variety of useful information and advice on finding an apartment, looking for roommates, and other common renting topics.
Off-campus Housing Frequently Asked Questions
How long is a typical lease in Boston?
Leases on apartments in Boston typically last for 12 months with very few exceptions. Many landlords require that their leases start September 1st and go through August 31st.
When should I start looking for an apartment in Boston?
January 1st, June 1st, and September 1st are the three biggest turnover dates for apartments in Boston with the majority of apartments turning over on September 1st. These apartments typically go on the market 3-6 months in advance of the lease start date. Apartments that are available during off-peak months typically come onto the market 30-45 days in advance of the lease start date and are typically due to a lease break. It is not uncommon for a landlord to require tenants to commit to another 12 month lease or give notice 3-6 months in advance of the end of the lease.
What fees will I be required to pay when signing a lease?
When renting an apartment through a real estate agency, there is typically a fee of one month's rent that is charged to the tenant as a "finder's fee". Sometimes, the landlord is willing to pay a portion of this fee and you should always ask if this is negotiable. Many landlords also require that the tenant put down a deposit for the first month's rent and last month's rent or a 1 month security deposit. Some landlords require that the tenant put down a deposit equal to three month's rent (first, last, and security).
If I am not working full-time, how can I prove that I can pay my rent every month?
You may be required to have a co-signer that is willing to sign the lease with you. This is to ensure that rent will be received every month in a timely manner even if you, as a student who is not working full-time, fail to pay your rent. Each landlord has different requirements of the co-signer. Some require that they live in the U.S., others require that they live in Massachusetts, and some will allow you to show a savings account with enough money in it to cover 6+ months of rent. The important thing is that you check with the real estate agent or landlord before putting any money down on an apartment so you ensure that you can meet the requirements.
Where can I search for apartments in Boston?
Simmons manages an off-campus housing webpage that allows members of the community and greater Boston to post apartments and rooms they have for rent. These people do not need to be part of the Simmons community to submit a listing and we do not screen or endorse them. It is simply a message board that many of our students use.
Many people in Boston also use Craigslist to find an apartment: boston.craigslist.org ß Craigslist is also used by many people to find used furniture to furnish their apartments.
Please use caution when dealing with anyone online to rent or view an apartment. As stated above, anyone can post on these message boards and, unfortunately, there are scams that take place.
What neighborhoods are easily accessible from Simmons?
Simmons College is located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. It is easily accessible by public transportation from many different neighborhoods in and around Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. You may find it helpful to use the MBTA website (www.mbta.com) to determine how far an apartment is from public transportation and Simmons College. Put the address of the apartment into the "Plan a trip" box under rider tools and put the address of Simmons in as well (300 Fenway, Boston, MA 02115).
What is included in my monthly rent?
The utilities included in each apartment can vary from building to building. Heat can be expensive in Boston during the winter months and heating bills can really add to the cost of an apartment. You may want to ask the current tenants in the apartment what their utilities cost them during the winter and summer. You may also work with your real estate agent (if you are using one) to contact the utility companies that service the apartment building. They will provide you with the average cost of the utilities throughout the year. Typically, an assigned parking space, internet, and cable are not included in monthly rent.
What questions are helpful to ask the landlord prior to signing my lease?
- What utilities are included with the rent? As discussed above, this can vary from building to building. If the heat is included in the rent it often means there is only one thermostat for the building and you may not be able to control the temperature of your apartment. It will be helpful to understand what temperature the landlord keeps the building at during the winter months.
- Is there laundry in the unit/building? It is not a given that your apartment or building will have a washer and dryer available for your use. Many neighborhoods have Laundromats and wash/dry/fold services that will pick-up and drop-off your laundry for you.
- Is there an after-hours contact for emergencies? You should understand who you should call after normal business hours. This may be your landlord's home number, a property manager, a maintenance person, or an answering service.
- What cleaning, painting, and/or renovations (if any) will be done prior to my move-in and will this affect my move-in date? If the landlord has agreed to make any improvements to the apartment, make sure to get the agreement in writing. The September 1st turnover often means that the landlord only has a couple hours between the former tenants moving out and the new tenants moving in. You may need to consider moving in after the 1st of the month should the apartment need to be painted or renovated.
- Is there additional storage available? It is not comman to find storage areas/lockers in Boston apartments. If you own a bike, you should ask if there is a common area that you may store your bike in. Some landlords do not allow bicycles in common areas or to be parked in front of the building.
- Have there been any rodent/bug problems in the building? It is not uncommon for buildings to have rodents in Boston. It is important to understand if there is an exterminator who regularly checks the building and/or is available to come to the building should a problem arise.
- What is your pet policy? If you own a pet or are planning to get one, it is necessary to understand the landlord's pet policy and have it in writing. Do not assume that pets are allowed just because you see one in the apartment or building when you see it. You do not want to be put in the position of having to move-out or get rid of your pet because the landlord does not approve.
- Why are the current tenants leaving? With many colleges and universities, Boston is a transient city and tenants move for a variety of reasons. However, having a conversation with the current tenants can be very helpful in understanding if there are any misrepresentations about the building or apartment.
- Where to Start
- When to Begin Your Search
- Looking for a Roommate
- Where to Live
- Types of Tenancy
- Renter's Insurance
- Commonly Used Abbreviations
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