Apartment searching can be both fun and exciting, but it is also an important decision. Entering into a rental agreement is a serious commitment to which you are legally bound. The following are some topics and issues you may want to consider as you begin you apartment search.
How to Find an Apartment
Many resources are available to help you find an apartment. One option is to work with a realtor. Realtors have experience in the Boston housing market and will be able to show you several apartments to help you find one that suits your needs. Some realtors may charge a broker’s fee, though, so be sure to be aware of what fees you may be charged. There are also many ways to find an apartment on your own. You may consider searching websites, community and neighborhood bulletin boards, and local newspapers. It can also be helpful to ask around to friends, colleagues and neighbors to see if someone may know of an apartment that is available.
The Student Activities Center hosts information in the discussions section of our NEC Off-Campus Housing Facebook Group to help NEC students connect with other students and local community members looking for or offering housing. This page is meant as a service to students. The Student Activities Center does not closely monitor this page and does not endorse any individuals or listings.
Rental cost for apartments in Boston can be expensive. With very few exceptions, there is no limit to how much rent a landlord can charge for an apartment. Monthly rent is one of the largest expenses to consider when living off-campus, but there are many others, such as up-front fees, utilities, furnishings and commuting costs, that factor into the overall cost.
Landlords may charge several upfront fees: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, lock fee to cover the expense of replacing the previous tenant’s lock and key, and an inspection fee to cover 50% of the cost to have the apartment inspected to make sure it meets the standards of the State Sanitary Code.
It is illegal for a landlord to charge any other upfront fees including a deposit to hold the apartment for a prospective tenant, a damage deposit or fee to allow pets, or a finder’s fee, unless he is a licensed realtor.
If you are using a realtor to find an apartment, you may be required to pay a broker’s fee equivalent to one month’s rent.
A large determining factor in utility cost is what utilities the landlord will pay and what utilities the tenant will pay. It should be clearly stated in the lease who is responsible for which utilities.
Most tenants do not have to pay for water usage. However if the landlord has installed sub-meters to measure the actual water usage and has installed low-flow fixtures, the tenant may be required to pay for water.
Some apartments may include heat and hot water. In apartments that are heated by the landlord, the heat must be on from September 15th through June 15th. The temperature must not be less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 7:00 a.m. and 10 p.m. and 64 degrees Fahrenheit between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. There is a maximum allowable temperature of 78 degrees.
If the apartment is separately metered for heat the tenant may be responsible for heating costs. Be sure to ask the heating costs from the previous year. In addition to usage, factors such as what floor the apartment is on and how well the building is insulated can impact the total heating cost.
Most apartments will require you to pay for electricity usage.
Once you have found your apartment, you’ll still need stuff to put in it! Beds, furniture, kitchenware, and home electronics all can add up pretty quickly. Consider what items you already own and what items you will need to furnish your apartment.
Another possibility is renting furnitures. Check out www.cort.com/Student/?sc_cid=ds_NECOF for more details.
The landlord is required to provide a working stove, oven and screens for each window up to and including the fourth floor. The landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator, window blinds, shades, window safety bars, or laundry facilities.
If you plan to live further away from NEC, you may want to consider how you plan to commute to school. If you plan on using the MBTA be sure to budget for your monthly fares or passes. The Student Activities Center offers an 11% discount to students who order semester MBTA passes.
Each neighborhood has its own distinct character and history. To view a list of Boston’s neighborhoods, visit our Boston Neighborhoods page.
Location will also dictate other factors. When apartment searching, consider how far you are willing to commute to reach NEC and search within that range. Also consider the apartment’s proximity to public transportation. It may be helpful to test the commute a few times to get an idea of the actual time it will take to walk to the T, wait, travel, and walk to NEC.
Determine what amenities you would like close by and which you are willing to travel for. Be sure you find a location that satisfies these needs as well.
The landlord must provide a working lock on every window as well as on the entry and exit doors, smoke detectors in each apartment and common areas, and for buildings which contain fossil fuel burning equipment, carbon monoxide detectors. Additional safety features you may want to consider are internal and external lighting of the building, a peephole on the door, a doorbell or intercom and an alarm system or on-site security personnel.
You possessions are probably more valuable than you realize. Clothes, electronics, furniture, jewelry – they all add up pretty quickly. You may want to consider purchasing renter’s insurance. In most cases, a landlord’s property insurance will not cover damages to a tenant’s property. Renter’s insurance will typically cover damages due to fire, natural occurrences, burst pipes, and theft. Additionally, dated receipts, photographs and videos are excellent ways to document personal possessions.
Parking in Boston is limited. If you plan to own a car while you are at NEC, decide how you are going to park your car. If off-street parking is not included in your lease, be sure to observe the on-street parking regulations near your apartment. Many neighborhoods include a mix of resident and non-resident parking. For more information on resident parking permits see http://www.cityofboston.gov/parking/residentparking/students.asp. For information about the Mass Motor Vehicle Law, please see this link.
There are many benefits to living with roommates. In addition to the providing a comfortable social environment at home, roommates share many of the expenses and responsibilities associated with living off-campus, which can often save a lot of money. Before deciding to live together, though, potential roommates should discuss some guidelines to establish their expectations of each other. It can also be helpful to create a written roommate agreement to avoid conflict in the future. The following are some important topics to discuss with a potential roommate.
Use of the apartment
- Who will occupy which areas of the apartment?
- What areas in the apartment or items in the apartment can be shared and which are personal?
- What furniture do you already own? What needs to be purchased?
- What is your typical daily schedule?
- What activities do you like to do at home?
- Will practicing be allowed in the apartment? If so, what guidelines will you have for practicing?
- How will you share responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the apartment?
- Will use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs be allowed in the apartment?
- What method of communication do you prefer?
- How will conflicts be discussed and resolved?
- Who will be on the lease or will all roommates?
- How financially stable are you? What income sources do you have to pay for rent and other expense?
- Under whose name will the utilities be billed?
- Will food and other items be shared or paid for separately?
- What payment schedule should you follow for shared expenses?
Most leases contain a rent responsibility clause. Usually it will state that each tenant is “jointly and severally liable” for the rent. This means that if one or more roommates fail to pay their share of the rent payment the remaining roommates are responsible for the entire payment.
Household Size Limits for Students
Effective March 13, 2008, the Boston Zoning Code does not permit more than four full-time undergraduate college students to live in the same apartment. Even if not all the names are listed on the lease, occupancy by more than four full-time undergraduate students is a violation and could result in a landlord being required to reduce tenancy to four or less undergraduate students.
Please note: the information on this page was adapted from the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the City of Boston Rental Housing Resource Center websites. For more information, please refer to those websites.